On July 25, Kim Driver, an avid angler and camper from Winnipeg, was standing in chest-deep water near Minaki, Ont., 50 kilometres north of Kenora, when she felt something brush past her. Thinking it was a weed, she ignored it.
Then she felt an excruciating pain in her right leg. Looking down through the water, she saw what looked like an alligator head clamped onto her calf. But this was no alligator. It was a metre-long muskie.
“Once it bit me, it started flailing me through the water and then took me under,” Driver told Global News. “I started kicking, and I guess obviously punching it because I have cuts on my hands, and then it let go and I came back up screaming that I needed help.”
Driver’s husband, Terry, was close by. He, along with some friends, managed to haul Driver from the water. Blood poured down the back of her leg, and rescuers covered her head with a towel so that she couldn’t see the damage. The cut measured 18 centimetres wide.
Driver was taken to the hospital and is now waiting at home for the wounds to heal before undergoing plastic surgery. It may be a while before she steps back into the water, she told Global News.
Brad Oien, a fishing guide who operates in the Kenora area, says this shouldn’t deter others from enjoying the water, as a muskie attack is very rare. Throughout his lifetime, he can only remember one other incident, which occurred several years ago at the Kenora Bass International, a fishing tournament.
“One guy was sitting on the bow of his boat and had his feet dangling over the edge in the water, and a muskie came up and bit his foot,” Oien says.
Muskie are common in the area; the big ones, a prized catch for any angler, grow up to 1.5 metres long. But he says it’s uncommon for them to be in shallow water at this time of year. “In the spring, they’re going to be in shallow water because they’re spawning,” he says. “When they finish spawning, they move out to deeper water off rocks and points.”
When attacked, Driver had been standing near a cluster of weeds. He says it’s possible the muskie mistook her for food or she invaded its space. “They’re very territorial,” he adds.
While muskie should be respected and taken seriously, they’re not a threat, Oien says. Certainly not enough of a threat to prevent you from enjoying the water. “It’s very, very rare to get bitten by one.”