With a gleam in his eye, Rotarian Al Louis deftly set the hook on Musky #7; minutes later, he and his friend A.J. hauled it from the cold waters of Minnesota’s Lake Vermilion into their boat. This musky was special, not only because it takes, on average, 10,000 casts to land just one musky, but because this musky—all 41½” and 22 lbs. of it—represented more than $41,000 raised for five nonprofits in Al’s hometown, La Crosse, Wisconsin.
It wasn’t easy.
Al battled the elements, a lake crowded with 85 bass boats thanks to a two-day bass tournament, tedious hours without a strike, muskies that tracked the lure to the boat only to break away at the last second, the fog of a bizarre insect hatch, and a sinking boat (yes, really). Not to mention, raising money during a pandemic is ... challenging, to say the least.
What makes the story even more magical is how that money was raised. It came from Cubs fans in Chicago that wanted to see Al (a staunch Milwaukee Brewers fan) pose musky in hand for a photo in a Cubs jersey. It came from members of The Rotary Club of La Crosse, the London Bridge Rotary Club of Lake Havasu City, AZ and the Iron Range Rotary Club of Virginia, MN. Al is a member of all three clubs (two as an honorary member). Contributions came from business associates, friends and family, and even strangers.

Many of these kind-hearted souls had pledged to donate contributions based on the actual number of muskies Al would catch during those 10 days of musky fishing action. Some pledged $10 per fish. Some pledged $200. Many contributed an amount regardless of his eventual catch.
One night, Al wore his Rotary polo to honor Jennifer Jones and all the women of Rotary. Jennifer is a member of the Rotary Club of Windsor-Roseland, Ontario, Canada, and she had just been nominated to become Rotary International’s president for 2022-23. This will make her the first woman to hold that office in the organization’s 115-year history!
Well, Musky Challenge history was made that night with what was to be Al’s fourth career 50” musky, the landmark length some call the “holy grail of muskies.” And, this one wasn’t just 50” long; this musky had a girth of almost 27” and would weigh in at an estimated 48¼ lbs. Following its release, Musky #3 became known as “The Rotary Musky,” dedicated to the first woman to soon become our Rotary International President and with her, all the women of Rotary worldwide!

The first year Al ran this fundraiser, he raised $4,000 for a local nonprofit’s Diaper Bank to supply diapers to families who needed them. This year—the year of COVID—crucial funds went to support a women’s shelter, the Boy Scouts, a public education foundation that supports innovation in classrooms, Mobile Meals, and an organization dedicated to supporting families and children. Next year, Al is already aiming higher, with bigger financial goals and a grander plan to involve community members in a fishing tournament for kids.
Says Al, "COVID-19 forced many nonprofits to either cancel or delay their annual fundraising events. I'm thrilled we were able to exceed our goal of raising $20,000 to help support these five important non-profits that play a vital role in serving the La Crosse community. Thanks a 'boatload' to all the Rotarians, family, friends, sponsors and donors (many whom I’ve never met) that supported the Challenge. A special thank you goes out to the “home team” in La Crosse. Without these dedicated Rotarians promoting, recording, and reporting, this event would never have been as successful." 

This fishing story is no tall tale—it's real magic happening because of the power of Rotary.