HINCKLEY – For Duane Landmeier, it’s an ironic twist of fate.
When the Hinckley man was growing up in Sandwich, his father and uncles would take him fishing, as would his sister, Denise Spooner, and his brother-in-law, Tim Alfredson – usually for muskie, a large kind of pike.
“Muskies used to scare me when I was a kid,” Landmeier said, laughing as he admitted he’d often pull his lure out of the water to avoid them. “You can’t see them until right before they come up to the boat. They look mean, like an alligator.”
Today, Landmeier is a professional muskie fisherman and a state-certified muskie guide. In September, he and his partner, Bob Taylor, took third in the Professional Musky Tournament Trail’s Top Gun competition for team of the year.
“It was a very rewarding experience that we are both proud of,” Landmeier said. “It was a lot of hard work. Muskies are not the easiest fish to catch. In a tournament, you have to catch fish in whatever condition that is given to you that given day.”
Taylor said he and Landmeier planned how they would fish each of the trail’s three qualifying tournaments, but executing those plans sometimes proved difficult.
“At each qualifier, the conditions on the first day were never the same as conditions the second day, so having to adapt to ever-changing weather patterns and fishing patterns was the norm,” he said.
For the year, the men caught muskies that were 43, 39, 36 and 34 inches long. The biggest muskie Landmeier has ever caught was 52 inches long and weighed 44 pounds.
“They are the top of the food chain,” Landmeier said. “Not many things chase them. They are like a cat; they’ll follow your lure, but won’t hit.”
When they do bite, Landmeier said they can put up a “pretty good fight.”
“It’s a heavy fish,” he said. “Sometimes you reel in your bait, with a figure 8; it makes the fish follow your lure. Sometimes, the muskie will bite right at the rod; the water just goes nuts and you’re shaking.”
Although most fishermen compete in teams of two, Landmeier fished the championship alone last year; his partner died just before the tournament. He caught two fish and finished second, his highest place ever. One more and he would have won the grand prize, a $45,000 boat.
“I can never get over the hump,” he said,
This year, Landmeier partnered with Taylor, an old friend and competitor he had met on the tournament trail.
“Sometimes I would beat him and sometimes he would beat me,” Landmeier said. “He’s a pretty good fisherman, so I just called him up and asked him to be my partner.”
Taylor said he and Landmeier learned a lot from one another, and they will compete together again next year.
“Fishing with Duane is always a great experience and something I look forward to doing again both competitively as well as on any given weekend,” he said.
When he isn’t fishing, Landmeier drives a ready-mix truck and is a part-time muskie guide. He hopes to become a full-time guide when he retires. He said his wife, Dana, is supportive of his hobby.
“She just caught her first muskie at Shabbona Lake this year,” he said proudly. “She still doesn’t care if she goes or not, but I’m glad she lets me go. ...Over the years, I’ve probably made $60,000. That’s pretty good in muskie fishing. But if you add up all I’ve made and spent on fishing, it doesn’t add up.”