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Northern zone musky season opens May 23

Regional Fishing, United States Fishing Articles, Wisconsin Fishing Articles |

It may be hard to top last year’s record haul of trophy muskies, but anglers wanting to try should target some of Wisconsin’s largest musky waters in 2009.

Last year’s parade of monsters reaffirms that if you want to catch a big fish, you should fish big waters, says Tim Simonson, the fish biologist who leads the Department of Natural Resources’ musky team.

“We know that the ultimate size of fish – how big they grow – is higher in larger lakes,” Simonson says.

Anglers who chose to register their 2008 catch with Muskies, Inc. reported catching a record-high 89 fish 48 inches or greater from Wisconsin waters, with 29 of them 50 inches or larger. That’s up from 58 total fish 48 inches or greater registered in the previous year.

Nearly one third of the 2008 fish reported to the Musky Inc. registry came from the big waters Green Bay, the Fox River, or Lake Michigan. Another big water, the Chippewa River, in 2008 produced a new world fly rod record for a released fish on a 36-pound tippet for the 51.25-inch musky Hayward resident Brad Bohen caught Oct. 16, 2008. The Chippewa Flowage, an unnamed Vilas County lake, the Wisconsin River, the Holcombe Flowage in Chippewa County and Green Bay rank among the top 50 waters in the number of 50 inch and greater fish registered with Muskie Inc. since 1970.

Greg Matzke displays the 50.7 inch musky

Lake size explains nearly 70 percent of the observed variability in the ultimate length musky reach, Simonson says. This relationship predicts that lakes larger than 2,000 acres typically support populations more likely to produce fish that will, on average, reach or exceed 50 inches, he says.

This relationship also predicts that lakes down to 100 acres (and lower) are capable, biologically, of producing 40 inch or larger fish, Simonson says. They may give up trophy fish on rare occasions, as DNR fish crews found earlier this month when they captured a 50.7-inch fish on Sherman Lake, a 123-acre walk in-access only lake in Iron County.

Scientists don’t fully understand yet why musky grow to a larger size in larger waters, Simonson says, but it’s likely related to the type and availability of forage in the big waters.

It’s also likely related to the fact that it’s easier for musky to elude capture in a bigger water. “When a fish lives 15 to 20 years, the chance of it being caught several times are pretty good, particularly in smaller waters,” he says. “Every time it’s caught, there’s a chance it could be injured during handling even if it’s released.”

Lists of musky lakes and rivers in Wisconsin, including their size and classification as trophy waters or action waters, can be found on the DNR Web site.

Seasons open May 23 in northern zone and Lake Michigan including Green Bay

The musky season opens May 23 in Wisconsin north of U.S. Highway 10, excluding Wisconsin Michigan boundary waters, and runs through Nov. 30. The daily bag limit is one and the minimum length limit is 34 inches is most waters. Check the 2009-2010 fishing regulations for special regulations on some waters.

Wisconsin-Michigan boundary waters open for musky fishing on May 15.

Lake Michigan waters north of Waldo Boulevard in Manitowoc open for musky fishing May 23. Included in this season are the Bay of Green Bay, the Fox River upstream to the DePere dam, Sturgeon Bay and other bays to Lake Michigan and Green Bay. The daily limit is one, the minimum length limit is 50 inches, and the season closes Nov. 30.

The Lake Michigan season for musky south of Waldo Boulevard in Manitowoc is already open. It runs May 2 through Dec. 31 and the daily limit is one. There is a minimum length limit of (**Correction**) 34 inches.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tim Simonson (608) 266-5222;

Wisconsin Muskellunge Fast Facts

A world-class fishery…

* Wisconsin lawmakers named the muskellunge the official state fish in 1955.
* More world records have been landed in Wisconsin than anywhere else.
* The state and world record is a 69 lbs, 11 oz. fish taken from the Chippewa Flowage. Also credited to Wisconsin is the world record hybrid musky, 51 lbs, 3 oz. from Lac Vieux Desert.

Found in most parts of the state…

* Fishable populations of musky are found in 711 lakes and 83 streams in 48 counties. The heaviest concentration of lakes with musky is found in the head water regions of the Chippewa, Flambeau, and Wisconsin rivers.
* Roughly half of Wisconsin’s musky waters are Class A waters, which support good muskellunge populations and provide the best fishing. About 77 percent of the musky waters in Wisconsin are sustained through natural reproduction. Some stocking is carried out in about 180 of Wisconsin’s musky waters.
* Musky densities are very low, even in the best waters, because muskies are large top predators that tend to choose vulnerable spawning sites. Good musky waters average one adult fish for three surface acres, compared to up to 20 adults per three surface acres in good walleye lakes.

With more anglers catching more fish and bigger fish faster…

* Musky fishing continues to grow in popularity. The number of participants has more than quadrupled over the last 50 years.
* An estimated 456,000 anglers pursued muskellunge in Wisconsin in 2001, the latest year for which survey results are available.
* Catch-and-release, protective regulations and DNR’s stocking program have helped turn the famed fighter from the “fish of 10,000 casts” into the fish of “3,000 casts” in Wisconsin. It used to take two guys in a boat 25 hours to catch a fish. Now it is closer to 12 hours and 3,000 casts each.
* In the latest year for which survey results are available, anglers in 2006 reported catching 223,101 musky and keeping 12,493, for a 95 percent release rate.
* More anglers are landing trophy fish than a generation ago, based on reports from Muskies Inc. members. In 2008, members reported catching 89 fish 48 inches and greater. That’s up from the average over the past decade of about 29 fish over 48 inches.

More information on muskies and musky fishing in Wisconsin is available on the musky page of the DNR Web site.

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