CTF name: Zach S.
Real name: Zachary Sanders
Age: 21 (with 10 years experience)
Current City: Waterbury, CT
Hometown: White Bear Lake, MN
Family members: Parents- Richard and Janice, sister- Nicolle, brothers- Mitch and Scott
Occupation: Sr. Engineering Aide in a fuel processing laboratory

1. How did you get into targeting muskie? What is your biggest muskie?

My family is originally from Wisconsin (even though I was born in Minnesota). During my early years, my family would go on vacation in a lake region of northwestern Wisconsin, north of Eau Claire (In fact it is the same area I will be camping at for July 4th this week). There is a lot of folklore and mystery surrounding the muskie in Wisconsin - it is the state fish, and truly is the king of freshwater game fish up in that part of the country. So anyway, we would go to "the lake" on vacations/long weekends and stay at my Grandmother's trailer, and I can remember hearing magnificent and bewildering stories about muskies attacking ducks, biting kids extremities, and attacking the crappie on your line when you weren't paying attention, etc. I never did happen to see one in person, which perhaps made them even more mysterious and fascinating to me. The closest I came to one was the mount on the wall at the local tavern (children are allowed in taverns up there!)

One of my very earliest memories as a child was standing next to my brother Mitch (he was 13, I was 3 at the time) on the dock while he was casting. Suddenly he tied into a monster, which surely was a muskie or a tiger- He yelled at me to go get the net (which was about twice my size!)- by the time I got the net and turned around, I remember seeing the massive fish bust through the water, and then snap his line-Devastation! And a familiar tale, but just one of many from my older brothers, uncles, and cousins growing up. And my Dad, to this day, still says, "a man can go fishing his whole life and never actually catch a muskie…". But I decided one day about 6 years ago that I was going to figure how to catch muskies- it was some kind of life goal that I wanted to accomplish. To date, my biggest is a 53" fish from the Ottawa River back in 2002. It was a couple pounds shy of 40 for sure. I've caught many dozens of muskies over the last 5 years, and there is a great story to go along with every single fish I've tied into. (best discussed over cold beverages!)

53-inch muskie.

2. What's been one of your favorite kinds of fishing found here in the east that you didn't have back home? What kind of fishing do you miss from back home?
Honestly it is probably the native brook trout fishing around CT. The Native brookie really is a treasure that not everyone knows about around here- and if we had wild or native fish back in the streams of Wisconsin and Minnesota, I never knew about them. I never targeted trout until I moved out here. What a gorgeous fish and what a great outdoor experience targeting them. (not easy to photograph though!).

If you asked me 15 years ago what I missed most about fishing back in Wisconsin, I would have definitely said walleyes. My, how things have changed! (the walleye fishery out here is far superior to back home!)

3. You're a young, single homeowner in CT. Congrats. What advice to you have for other young people trying to buy a home in CT?
It definitely wasn't easy- I would say, number one- be disciplined- live within your means (even though it is very important to enjoy life). But study some finance, accounting and economics- learn the difference between an expense and expenditure. Learn how to build up a personal balance sheet and get a good understanding of cash flow. Don't build up a lot of high interest debt early- I didn't own a credit card until I was 30. Start putting money in a 401k NOW - you can use it is borrowing leverage later. Remember money spent on education is money in the bank, and an investment into your personal equity. Lastly, learn skills and specialties at your job that are particularly important to your organization. And if they are responsibilities that other people don't want to be bothered with - EVEN BETTER. I treat my financial life as if it is a business - and I constantly monitor my cash flow and balance sheet to make sure my personal net value trends up over the long term

4. What is your dream fishing trip?
I have so many - salmon fishing in Alaska, fly-in pike and laker trips in Saskatchewan, muskie fishing on Lake of the Woods or Eagle Lake in Ontario. But I guess my top pick would be a Marlin Charter in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I spent a vacation out there 10 years back or so, and I would love to go back and give the marlin a shot. Also- one of my life goals is to go deep-water tuna or mackerel fishing, and to have fresh sashimi on the boat-ride back home. Yummy

5. Name your top favorite bands:
1. Van Halen with David Lee Roth
2. Tower of Power
3. Mighty Mighty Bosstones
4. Artie Shaw Orchestra
5. Tool

6. Do you have a fish-that-got-away story that still haunts you?
I think my best fish-that-got-away story actually happened to my brother Mitch while I was fishing alongside him- it was our first guided muskie trip to the Chippewa Flowage, WI back in 2001. It was the first eve of our trip- and our first time truly targeting muskies. Well my brother had a ~40 inch muskie follow his topwater lure all the way back to the boat- and I sat and watched this fish bite at his lure AT LEAST 6 or 7 times and the fish just could not get the lure in its mouth. Even though it wasn't my fish, I still have nightmares of that fish at boat-side biting and missing over and over…. It was a curse for my brother, because he still hasn't gotten his first 40-

7. Are there any differences to targeting pike vs. muskie?
They are in the same family, and a lot of their behaviors are very similar. I could talk about the differences all day long, but there are already plenty of long-winded responses here! The biggest difference I would say is that the "reaction strike" (which is my bread and butter) is much easier to get out of a pike. The window for a reaction strike out of a muskie is much much smaller. I would say around 80% of the time, if a pike is up in a feeding zone, and you dart a flashy bright colorful erratic lure past it's nose, it will strike. A muskie is much more particular. They just aren't in the feeding zones as often (because they aren't as prevalent). They are very light sensitive, color sensitive, speed sensitive, etc - and you can still do all the right things at the right time with muskies and they will still stick their nose in the sand at any given time. But if you do the right things at the right times long enough, you will eventually catch the window - and it is usually frenetic. It makes it all the long hours with sore casting arms worthwhile!

8. Out of all of your fishing rods, reels and gear, which item holds the most sentimental value for you?
I'm more sentimental about my muskie lures more than anything else. I probably have a grand or so invested, and every one is a soldier. When I lose a soldier in battle, it is a sad and solemn moment. I'm very close to my lures, and we have pep talks before they go into battle. Many of my lures have had some pretty amazing histories and unbelievable moments! (Also best reminisced over a cold beverage or 2). It is my dream to one day own a house big enough so that each lure has it's own room in the off-season-

9. How are east coast girls different from girls from the mid-west?
Hmm- that is question sure to get me in trouble-I guess the difference, in general, could be explained better using an example

Say for instance, I was dating an eastern girl, and I told her, "honey, I can't see you this weekend, it's the opening of deer season and I am planning to hunt all weekend".

An eastern girl would reply- "WHAT? You are shooting a gun? And you are going to kill an innocent beautiful animal? Didn't you ever see Bambi? What did that poor animal do to you!?! That's it, we're not speaking…"

The same situation posed to mid-western girl would be greeted with a reply like- "WHAT? You just go off hunting all weekend and don't bother to invite me? Do you think I am too effeminate to shoot a deer? My deer would kick your deer's ass, and you know it! Fine just go off by yourself, but we're not speaking!

The morale of the story is, in the end, women are pretty much the same no matter where you go

10. The Howard Stern Show. Like it, hate it, or don't care about it?
I honestly have to plead indifferent. I admit I used to surf channels late at night and stumble upon his TV show, and inevitably there would be some large breasted leggy stripper being interviewed- that would always get my attention. But I was never much interested in the content of the interviews, persay. BUT I am all for quality entertainment, sleazy entertainment and everything in between. But as far as talk radio, I find myself listening to AM radio news or public radio mostly. I usually say I am too opinionated to listen to someone else's opinion for too long.

11. Besides fishing, what do you enjoy doing outdoors?
I'd say most of my outdoor activities revolve around water and fishing in some way. I definitely like scenery, and will hike or canoe just for some good photography on occasion. Nothing beats a beach day in mid-summer, either.

I'd really like to try out hunting sometime in the future. A lot of the threads in the hunting forum on CTF are inspiring and get me fired up, but my current budget doesn't allow for another pricey hobby. It sounds like an awesome way to get outside and enjoy the outdoors- especially in autumn and early winter.

12. You're put in charge of the CT DEP, what five things do you do to start?
1. First would be developing a legitimate muskie/tiger muskie fishery in Lake Lillinonah
2. ensure quality public access on ALL CT waters (that are not private or water supply reservoirs) - including Waramaug, Bantam, etc and improve launch facilities on lakes all around the state.
3. I would do a comprehensive study of all lakes receiving trout stocking, and any lakes that cannot sustain a fishable population of holdover trout would be the next trial walleye lakes (If they had a feasible habitat to support walleye).
4. A saltwater license, with the money only going to fund DEP projects and functions
5. I would establish lower creel limits for a lot of game fish - especially crappie, perch, holdover browns, Largemouth and Smallmouth bass - and especially more stringent limits and minimum sizes during the ice season

13. You're an old-school CTF member (since 1/02). You've seen members come and go, been to the winter banquets, winter fishing shows, outings, etc. What real-life experience off the website with a CTF member or members is the most memorable or meaningful for you?
This is a tough one - every event I have been to has been so enjoyable! Piketoberfest is definitely my favorite and the biggest CTF tradition for me. But I would have to say the most memorable moment was Fluke Fest a few years back- a good friend of mine from work was going through a divorce and was having a really tough time. Fuzzy offered to take us out to fish aboard his boat. My friend ended up landing some of the biggest fish of his life, including a big fluke and a 5 pound sea bass. That day was a highlight of his entire life, and he still talks about it to this day. That is what it's all about…

14. What fishing technique would you like to improve on?
Definitely my hookset skills. I have more muskies spit the hooks on me because I cannot get a decent hookset after a strike. It is a real challenge of muskie fishing in general, because there are inevitably hours upon hours of casting with no action. And then suddenly- BAM there's a fish on the line. It is hard to remain focused at every moment, especially when conditions are less than ideal. But many a fish (including 3 back in May) have made me learn the lesson the hard way. Again….

15. What fishing item you have purchased in the last 10 years has made the greatest impact on your fishing success?
Decent rain gear and decent winter gear. Honestly, the harshest conditions for the angler are often the most ideal conditions for the fish. And being able to get out when it is cold, windy, rainy or snowy has really paid off. Having gear that keeps me warm and dry keeps the morale up, and turns uncomfortable conditions into a challenge. I would take a windy rainy day over a bluebird sunny day any day. Get gear that keeps you comfy in harsh weather, and your fishing success will improve, guaranteed

16. What are your thoughts on the private
I think it is going really well honestly. I love all the new features, and I definitely appreciate the attempt to get the board back to it's roots - For me, the sacred parts of the site will always be the group outings and reports with photos. Nothing beats logging in on a tired morning when I am first waking up at my desk, and seeing photos of someone's trip. It just gets me fired up every time. I like the new direction

17. Your message board signature is: "Fishing is way too important to take so seriously." Describe what fishing means to you.
It is close to 1AM- I am supposed to be up for 4AM to make my flight to Chicago tomorrow morning- this is a great time to be philosophical about life!

Alright I admit this quote is a morphed quote from David Lee Roth. His quote was "Rock and Roll is way too important to take so seriously"-To me, I am very passionate about fishing, and when I am out on the water, life is just good and I am on vacation, no matter where I am or what time of year it is. But the sarcasm is, of course I take fishing seriously, because I want to catch fish! Out on the water, I am fiercely competitive, and intensely focused on the moment, but at the same time, there is nothing I would rather be doing. When I have a rod and reel in my hand, my state-of-mind is pure enjoyment and happiness. And that serious, business-like stuff is best left at the office-

18. You've been known to whip up a nice meal while ice-fishing. Do you enjoy cooking at home?
Yeah - I have developed an affinity for cooking since I got my own place. I try to cook something fancy, unique or gourmet at least once a week. It is definitely a fun way to spice up (no pun intended) a normally plain mundane evening. I honestly get most of my recipes from -- you'd be amazed at some of the awesome dishes on that site. And when I go fishing or camping, or am at a CTF outing- I DON'T MESS AROUND - I always go first class when it comes to the eating! I made an elk roast on a rotisserie for the game dinner last winter- mouth-watering!

19. Back in the early days of CTF, you were the #1 target for some good natured ball busting from other site members. You always kept a good attitude about it. What advice would you give to the guy who gets genuinely angry or worked up about a post made in a discussion on the site?
It really is all about your perspective and attitude- and it goes back to the quote in my sig. Fishing and the outdoors are a blessing and something that should just totally be enjoyed. And if isn't just pure enjoyment and fun in the end, then you are taking it too seriously. Step back and remember that we are all here because we share common passions and common interests. There are plenty of other people in this World to have differences with, so lets keep it fun-spirited in general, and when differences come up, stay professional and civilized.

20. When looking at everything in your life, what is the most important thing to you?
One of my favorite movies of all-time is Grumpy Old Men- it is a tradition in my house to watch it on Christmas Eve every year-There is a scene where John Gustoffsen is talking to his Pop about Ariel (the beautiful woman who had just moved in across the street). Pop is encouraging his son to go talk to her, and he says something along the lines of -all you have in the end is the experiences, and there is nothing else-(he then goes on to say - you mount the woman-or else, send her over to me!)

But I am definitely most thankful for all the experiences I've had- the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between. I cherish my experiences and I am CONSTANTLY pursuing the next great time and the next great memory


Tight lines all... (and remember to take a picture!)

Winchester Lake