By Dale Bowman
Olivia Vondrak with her trophy from the IMTT for champion Youth Honor Roll honors. Credit: For the Sun-Times
Olivia Vondrak remembered this about her first muskie:
‘‘I’m pretty sure I was about 10 or 11 [so probably 2012 or 2013] when I caught my first muskie,’’ she recounted. ‘‘It was about two years after my [and my sister’s] first year in Canada, Lake of the Woods. My sister [Jenna] caught her first muskie on a spot we call Picnic Table. Then a day later, I caught my first muskie on a yellow- and black-spotted Suick that I still have to this day.’’
Vondrak has come a long way.
On Jan. 6, Vondrak, a 14-year-old freshman at Marian Catholic, earned champion honors on the Illinois Muskie Tournament Trail’s Youth Honor Roll in 2017 with six muskies totaling 222 inches. She received the trophy before the Illini Muskies Alliance meeting at the Chicago Muskie Expo.
‘‘2017 was my best year for muskie fishing,’’ Vondrak responded in an email interview.
She caught all six muskies — 36, 40.5, 30, 39, 42 and 41.5 inches — on the annual trip to Lake of the Woods in Ontario.
‘‘I thought that my 2015 fishing year was my best, but then 2017 came,’’ she noted. ‘‘In 2015, I caught my biggest muskie — 43 inches — then didn’t catch any for 2016. In one week, I managed to keep my sanity and catch six fish.’’
Her first two came on Figure 8s. She also had her first two-fish days — two of them.
‘‘It was an amazing week,’’ she emailed. ‘‘I am glad that I was in Canada for it.’’
She loves Lake of the Woods for the scenic views and the variety.
‘‘Heck, two years ago, in the middle of my four-year rough patch, my dad, sister and I were crappie fishing off the dock, and I caught a catfish,’’ she emailed. ‘‘In my dad’s 25+ years of going to Lake of the Woods, he’d never seen a catfish caught there, so that just goes to show how vast everything is there and how things can still surprise you even after 25+ years.’’
Tom Vondrak is her dad.
‘‘It’s kind of hard to explain, but they [my dad and my uncles] have been muskie fishing for 25+ years, all because of a ‘field trip’ to Canada with some kids from his high school,’’ Vondrak emailed. ‘‘My grandpa was a chaperone, and ever since that experience, my dad, grandpa and, like, five of the original people who went on the first go-around still go up to this day. So then my dad made the decision that my sister and I would go up with him.’’
They are fisherwomen. Jenna, a senior, and Olivia even tried to start a bass-fishing team at Marian.
Vondrak, who also plays volleyball, basketball and softball, is a straight-A student with an interest in biology.
‘‘I’ve loved biology since the day my dad brought home a blue science book about space and earth science and a red science book about mechanics and physics when I was, like, 5 or 6 [my dad is an eighth-grade science teacher],’’ she emailed. ‘‘It always fascinated me how bones and muscles and tendons work together to make us.’’
She figures she will end up a veterinarian or a marine biologist. Sounds right.
More about the IMTT Youth Honor Roll is at www.illmuskie.com/youth-honor-roll-awards.
© Chicago Sun Times