10-Year-Old Girl Lands Once-In-A-Lifetime Muskie While Ice Fishing In Minnesota

massive muskie
Jamie Saffert

If you catch a “fish of a lifetime” at the age of 10-years-old, where do you go from there?

Do you keep fishing? Do you never fish again? Those are questions that will have to be answered at some point, but for now, Wisconsin native Leah Saffert is focusing on soaking in her big catch that took place on the first day of 2024.

Leah and her father Jamie were ice fishing at a spot on Lake of the Woods’ Zippel Bay in Minnesota, one of the premiere northern fisheries of North America. The area is known as “The Walleye Capital of the World,” but also for producing large northern pike. That’s what they were going after when they set up for the day, and even though they didn’t reel one in, what they did hook through the ice was arguably better.

Jamie told the Grand Forks Herald:

“We were kind of fishing in shallow water (where) the walleye fishing isn’t very good during the day, so we decided to set some tip-ups out, in hopes of catching a big pike.”

As they used tip-ups (flags that signal something has taken the bait under the ice), the Safferts were fishing with sucker minnows with water depth of 13 feet. Shortly before 10 in the morning, one of the tip-ups were triggered, and Leah and her dad started to reel whatever had taken the bait in.

Jamie said:

“Leah set the hook and was pulling it in, and it felt really heavy. It was like she was dragging in a log almost. And it swam past the hole, and I’m like, ‘Holy smokes, that’s a big fish!'”

When the fish had made its way up near the 10-inch hole that was cut in the ice, Jamie knew that they were dealing with a monster fish.

The fisherman still figured it was a large northern pike, until the color didn’t look right through the ice. Finally, the fish lined up with their opening in the water, and they pulled it out and discovered they had caught a muskie. The elusive, toothy beast knows as the “fish of 10,000 casts.”

Jamie said that Leah never wavered during the process, and stayed strong reeling in the rare fish (for the area they were in):

“Nobody catches muskies on the south shore ever – or very seldom. And it came back in the hole, the head popped in, and Leah put up a heck of a fight.”

Eventually, the Safferts got the fish measured and weighed, which confirmed it was a once-in-a-lifetime catch. The muskie measured 50 inches and weighed just short of 35 pounds.

Jamie posted the picture of himself and his daughter with the big muskie on Facebook, saying:

“Well, Leah managed to finish her year off with a bang and a fish of a lifetime. Congrats girl. I’m a proud dad.”

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