Musky America Magazine October 2023 Edition Thank you for visiting Musky America Magazine! The days are getting shorter, the water is cooling down and the Musky are getting ready to “put on the feed bag”. In this issue I have included articles about weather, lure selection and tactics. Did you have a 2022/23 Musky adventure? Share that adventure and write an article! Each day of the Musky season, anglers experience encounters on the water that can provide insights for all of us Musky anglers. We are offering $10.00 for your article. For information about submitting articles for inclusion in Musky America Magazine, please CLICK HERE! Craig Sandell Owner and Fellow Musky Angler The Icons shown here are at the bottom of the Magazine pages. All Rights Reserved © 2023
Musky Fun In The Fall By Craig Sandell © 2007 It was 4:30 in the morning and my good friend Rob Meusec and I were rattling around my trailer at Indian Trail Resort as we prepared to hit the water on this rainy overcast September day. September is a great month for Musky fishing. The summer heat becomes a memory, the water temperature begins to plummet, and the heavier clothes come out of storage as the trees sport their colorful apparel. Rob and I were entered in the Lake Chippewa Flowage Musky Tournament, and this was the second day of the event. Day one was a “skunk” day for us, but it was good to be on the water doing what Musky anglers do. As we drank our coffee and donned our rain gear, we discussed where a Musky might grace us with a little action. The day before, I had a dance card for us that covered productive water with minimal scooting around. I told Rob that I had good confidence in yesterday’s dance card even though we did not have any action and I suggested that we give those locations another try. Rob agreed, and with a plan in hand we set off for the boat so we could be on our first spot at the start of the tournament day at 6:00 am. As we crept up on our first spot, the light of day was beginning to break. We were early so we took the time to double check our lines, re-tie as needed, and make our lure selections. We were poised on a large bar that ranged in depth from 11 feet to 2 feet,
so we had lots of options for lure selection. The overcast, rainy and relatively calm wind conditions made surface baits, bucktails and twitching crank baits all good choices. As 6:00 am rolled around, we began our slow troll from the 11 foot edge up toward the shallower areas of the bar where weeds were in evidence. Even though the water on the Chippewa Flowage was down about 24 inches, we could still fish over the top of the weeds on this particular bar. Rob elected to toss a small black Skimmer with a green blade, and I put on a black and yellow Best American Topper. As we fished our way into the shallows, the persistent drizzle was almost refreshing in the mid-60 degree temperature. I commented to Rob that I had had success on this bar in these conditions throwing a yellow surface lure and that I felt good about our chances to produce a fish. Rob chided me with a friendly comment: “I have heard that before.” We were now about 50 minutes into working over this spot and Rob began to bulge his Skimmer over the weeds that populated the shallower water. I tossed my topper toward the edge of the weed line and began my retrieve when I felt a slight resistance on the lure. It could have been a weed or the characteristic nip of a small mouth bass…I just kept the lure coming at the slow methodical pace that is encouraged by so many good Chippewa Flowage fishermen. A couple more cranks of the reel and a Musky was all over the lure. I set the hook and the water foamed as the Musky sought to make his getaway.
The Musky went down as it charged the boat and it was all I could do to keep the line tight. Rob’s line was in and he had the net at the ready, being careful not to get in the middle of the tussle. The boat was moving toward deeper water, which was just fine with me, when I got my first good look at this fish. He had a lot of beef to him with nice big shoulders. I could see him under the surface violently shaking his head from side to side in an attempt to break loose from the 3/0 Owner Stinger treble hooks. The Musky was still pretty fresh as he came to the surface with head thrashing and gills flared. I pushed my rod tip down into the water in an effort to keep him from rocketing skyward. He stripped line from my reel as he led me around the boat a couple of times. All this time, Rob was at the ready with the net waiting for the opportune moment to scoop up this scrapping Musky. I finally got some control over the fish and led him into the waiting arms of my fishing partner…there is no substitute for a good net man. Rob calmly put the net in the water and in an instant the fight was over. As I started working to free the hooks from the Musky, Rob got on the radio and called for the judge boat because there wasn’t
another boat anywhere that could witness the fish for the tournament paperwork. When the Judge boat arrived, the fish was ready to come out of the net for a measurement and some photos. The Musky was 40½ inches and I was hopeful that it would be enough to place in the top 10. (As it turned out I placed 9th.) With the measurements, photos and paperwork completed, it was over the side for my Musky friend. It took a while to get him to swim off on his own, but he eventually wagged his tail as he moved off into deeper water. Rob and I put the boat back in order and prepared to move to the next spot on the dance card…One heck of an adventure.
Musky On The Spot By Craig Sandell © 2014 When the water temperature falls to the low 60’s during the fall, pre-turnover tactics come into play. For the fish, there is no advantage to being suspended in deep water or up on the bars or on sprawling food shelves. The surface water temperature is pretty homogeneous, and conditions tend to spread the fish out. After some high temperatures in the first week of September 2007, the climate took a nosedive. The water temperature dropped from the mid-70’s to the low 60’s in less than a week and fishing became very difficult. The beauty of regularly fishing the same body of water is that, over time, you get the opportunity to catch fish in many different weather conditions. If you are diligent and keep a good diary of these catches, you can use that diary to provide a “clue” as to where to fish when weather conditions change drastically. So, when my fishing partner, Rob Meusec, suggested that we fish an evening location that he and I had never fished, I checked my diary for some insight and the Flowage map that I have been marking up since 1989. I came up with a sub-surface rock hump that topped out at 2.5 feet from a depth of 24 feet. Even though I told Rob where we were going to fish, when we actually got to the spot, Rob said: “Where the heck are we.” His confusion was amplified as he saw me throw a single marker off the back of the boat.
Note: I am a real advocate of open water single marker fishing. That is to say that when you are fishing a piece of sub-surface structure that is 500 yards from any shoreline structure, you need a reference point. I told Rob that at the marker there was 2.5 feet of water. Rob was fishing from the front of the boat and was amazed that no more than 20 feet from the marker in one direction, we were in 24 feet of water. Rob and I began to make concentric circles around the marker and were fishing a weedless rock pile with varying depths from super shallow to very deep. For this type of spot, all lures are in play. Rob put a glide bait on his rod, and I elected to try a black and white Best American Topper. As we fished our circular pattern, we were covering every type of depth. After about 45 minutes of fishing this spot the sun was beginning to tickle the tree tops. I was getting ready to change lures when I felt a tug on my line. I pulled back on the rod and announced to Rob that I had a fish on. The Musky hit about 5 feet from the boat and immediately made a bee line for deeper water. I hit the thumb bar on my reel and thumbed out line so as to keep the fish in play with firm pressure while not “horsing” the fish to the boat. After about 5 minutes, the fish was under control and ready for the net. I led him to the net that Rob had it at the ready and with a single scoop, the battle was over.
I cut the tips from the Owner 3/0 Stinger treble hooks and got prepared to pull the fish from the net of a measurement and a quick couple of photos. Rob was ready with the camera and had already placed the ruler in a convenient location for a quick measurement of the fish. This beefy guy measured in at 38.5 inches…A respectable fish in anyone’s book. A couple of photos later, I had the fish back in the water waiting for him to regain his senses and move off on his own…The cooler water helped to facilitate a quick recovery and with a wag of his tail he was off to Muskyland. Lessons Learned: • When the weather changes, tactics must change. • Your fishing partner’s perspective is important. • A fishing diary can be a valuable tool. • Single marker fishing in open water is productive. Tight lines
Using Markers Can Make A Difference Craig Sandell © 2010 This September day in 1999 started with the promise of a productive Muskie hunt. The overcast was thick, the West wind had the water just choppy enough and the water temperature had the Muskies prowling the bars in predictable patterns. The early evening light set the fall colors of the trees aglow as my fishing partner, John Dettloff, and I slid quietly onto an extensive bar. The bar was heavily populated with stumps and had water ranging in depth from 7 feet, at the edge of the channel drop-off, to 4 feet in the center of the bar. The deep water on three sides of the bar made this particular piece of structure prime Muskie water. The Muskie had been hitting on surface baits in the evening, so we outfitted our rigs with a globe and a wobbler and proceeded to work the bar. The weight of our lures stripped the 40 pound test white micron line from our reels resulting in long casts into the center of the bar. We were covering a lot of water with our long casts and our expectations were high that we would produce a Muskie. We were not disappointed. About 20 feet from the boat a Muskie rose, snapping at John's wobbler and churning the water into a
foam as he rolled in the light chop. The Muskie hit short however and didn't feel a hook. In an almost automatic action, a marker made its way over the side of the boat to mark the general area of the sighting. We continued to work our way along the edge of the bar toward the deep water drop-off. Ten minutes later it happened again. A Muskie followed my globe arching his dorsal fin out of the water as he lunged for my lure. This Muskie turned out to have the same failing coordination as the previous fish. As with the other Muskie, this fish didn't feel a hook either. Another marker was dispatched over the side to mark this sighting as well. We continued to work the edge of the bar toward the deep channel drop-off. After covering the deep water edge, we turned our attention back to the edge of the bar we had just covered. Our markers, bobbing up and down in the chop, clearly marked our pervious line of assault. The markers provided a visible reference for our return casting attack. We started a slow troll back toward our markers casting over, what was then, used water. Using overlapping casting patterns, we cross-hatched our way back down the edge of the bar. As twilight set in, the September sky ignited in a palette of fall colors. We were the only boat on the immediate structure. The serenity of the evening, along with the singing of our reels, was almost hypnotic. We were about 15 feet away from one of our markers when an irregular bulge appeared behind the globe I was retrieving. I resisted the urge to slow down my retrieve as I anxiously watched the bulge behind my lure get closer. In an instant, all of my Muskie hunt preparations passed before my mind's eye. If I'd had more time, I probably would have worried about it but, thankfully, there wasn't. There was only time now to react to the Muskie that raised its head out of the water and lunged at the "defenseless" globe.
Lady luck was on my side this September evening. As I felt the Muskie strike I set the hook and the game was afoot. The initial excitement of a Muskie on my line turned into a feeling of dread. This Muskie was not coming out of the water. He was heading for the bottom, and I could imagine the crafty devil searching for a stump to wrap my line around and thereby accomplish his escape. With my rod tip held high I coaxed the Muskie toward the boat. The net was at the ready waiting to embrace him. With the exception of a swirl or two, we still hadn't seen this Muskie. As he approached the boat, he decided to do a tour of the area. Luckily, I had found time to loosen my drag causing the line to be grudgingly freed from my reel. As he got close to the boat again, he decided to inspect the bottom of the boat, causing me to follow him with my rod tip. Finally, my Muskie opponent made his appearance at the side of the boat. With the low light conditions, I couldn't tell how big he was, but I knew that he was "respectable". John netted the Muskie without further incident. As I released the tension on the line, the hooks came free from the Musky's jaw. Keeping him and the net in the water, we prepared to measure and release this Muskie to fight another day. He measured in at 38 ½ inches. We took a picture and sent him back to the safety of the stained water. The key to this Muskie catch was the use of markers. Without markers we would not have been able to accurately retrace our path back to the proximity of our Muskie sightings. Many Muskie hunters say that they don't like using markers for fear that markers will disclose an area of high Muskie potential to the general fishing public. Perhaps that fear is well founded,
however, using markers in the manner described in this article can increase your chances of hooking up with a reluctant Muskie that would otherwise have been a sighting story rather than a catch. Using markers wisely can increase your productivity and provide you with the ability to stalk a Muskie rather than to just fish for him.
QuickStrike Rigs... Good For Anglers & Better For Musky By John Myhre © 2011 For many years the use of live baits such as very large suckers has been an accepted method for fall Musky. Along with this tradition came the idea that Muskies caught with live bait should be killed, since they were most often "gut hooked". The catch and release concept has made a real improvement in our Musky fisheries over the past few decades, and the technology in quickstrike (QS) rigging live-bait is totally compatible with this line of thinking. Quickstrike rigs allow for an immediate hook set with near 100% hookups. Most live-baiting for Muskies is done in the cold water periods of the year when a Musky's metabolism is slowed way down. Since Muskies are almost always mouth hooked on a QS rig they are able to be released. Live bait fishing with QS rigs can add a whole new dimension to your Musky angling, especially during the cold water periods when fishing gets extra tough. Sucker harnesses and other types of live bait rigs have been around for many years. QS rigs, a generic name, are the new generation of these live bait rigs. Things like finer wire, smaller hooks, and perfect hook placement in the bait make these rigs very productive.
MATCH THE HOOKS TO THE BAIT SIZE For many years the consensus was that one should use as large a hook as possible for Muskies, but in actual fact the bigger the hook, the harder it is to drive home into a Musky's bony jaw. Smaller hooks set much easier. When rigging, use treble hooks that are just big enough to have exposed hook points after being rigged on a sucker minnow. Here is a list of treble hook sizes for corresponding bait lengths. BAIT SIZE Hook SIZE 8" - 10" #l or #2 11" - 15" #1/O or #2/0 16" - 18" #3/O or #4/0 My personal preference is for 12" to 14" size suckers. The huge size, 18" and over suckers usually don't work very well with quick strike rigs because their body is too thick to get good hook exposure and they are so strong that they often tear the hooks out of themselves. When using the smaller sized hooks I always use heavy duty models to prevent straightening or crushing. Remember needle-sharp hooks are a must, so always sharpen them.
RIGGING FOR 100% HOOKUP Hook placement in the bait will make the difference in hooking percentages. I have found that a sucker hooked through the nose with one hook, the traditional method, will get 50% of the fish that strike. The other 50% wind up getting no hooks and just letting go of your sucker. In order to get good hookups, the hooks must be positioned properly and move in the Musky's mouth to penetrate. Hooks just don't tear out of a sucker's nose that easily. When I started hooking the front hook through the soft flesh on the cheek of the sucker so the hook could easily tear free, my hookup percentages jumped incredibly. The best placement for the rear hook seems to be low on the side just behind the dorsal fin. This usually puts the hook in a good position to nail 'em. QUICKSTRIKE RIG CONSTRUCTION The basic rig construction consists of a 24-inch length of uncoated bronze stranded wire, 20 to 50 lb. test, a heavy duty rear treble hook, and a smaller front treble or optional single front hook. The front hook should contain shrinkable tubing around the shank so it will slide on the wire making it adjustable. A strong black swivel should be attached on the opposite end of the whole
rig. An optional small spinner blade should be added in front of the front hook making it legal for use in states where a multiple hook rig is illegal. The whole thing can be assembled by using either crimp-on sleeves or twisting the wire to make a good connection. You can easily make your own rigs or they can be purchased from most Musky tackle outlets. PRESENTATION TIPS When fishing with quickstrike rigs it is often better to freeline the suckers instead of using bobbers. Use a 1/2 to 1 ounce sinker on the line just ahead of the swivel. The additional weight will keep the bait in the productive zone nearly all of the time. In the fall, work your suckers over the deeper areas that have stumps, logs, cribs, and or rocks. When fishing on clear natural lakes, concentrate on bars and areas of shoreline that have sharp breaks into deep water with cover and bait-fish present. When a Musky picks up your sucker, try to get directly over it right away and set the hook very hard. So, there you have it. Some new twists to an old idea that may help you to boat a few more fish. The next time you're going to fish live bait for Muskies, try a quick strike rig. They're the answer to many problems associated with live bait angling, and most importantly, they rarely damage the Musky.
They’re Everywhere… They’re Everywhere By: Craig Sandell © 2012 The changing color of the trees heralds the impending end of Muskie season and the start of the long wait for next year. I was able to steal a long weekend on the Chippewa Flowage from the 24th to the 28th of September. I had every expectation of seeing a Muskie or two even though the time was short because of the time of year. As we who fish for Muskie know, the Muskie tend to put on the feed bag late in the season just after the water turns over; but it is always a good idea to revisit the mechanics of this phenomena. If you have read my article on understanding turnover, you know that turnover is the homogenization of the water into a single temperature up and down the water column. When this happens, the dissolved oxygen is also evenly distributed. What this means to fish movement is not always obvious, so it bears elaboration. As we know from the recent study participated in by my good friend John Dettloff, Muskie, at least on the Chippewa Flowage, tends to spend most of their time in deep water and, only occasionally move shallow. Once the water turns over, the reason for fish to stay in deep water, assuming it is temperature and/or forage related, disappears. Now, Muskie could be anywhere and probably are solely focused on location based
upon available forage. More so than any other time of the year, forage will dictate the presence of Muskie. With that in mind, and after verifying that the lake had turned over, the hunt for this little 3 day excursion took on a new tactical approach. The location and concentration of the forage fish became extremely important. Combined with the turnover, was the gradual dropping of the water level on the Chippewa Flowage. This accelerated the mild current that moves the ‘flotsam and jettison’ upon which forage fish feed through the ‘neck down’ areas. It soon became obvious that this was the key to an emerging pattern of Muskie location. Along with John Dettloff, we consulted our maps of the water to determine the likely areas that would be ‘high percentage’ given this fall pattern. On Saturday evening, John and I set off for one of these spots and put our attack plan into action. With a pattern like this, one never knows where the fish are likely to reside on a piece of structure, so the method of area coverage also became very important. Our approach was, given the structure we were fishing, to accomplish multiple drifts of the area in overlapping patterns. We reasoned that this would allow us to cover the area efficiently and fish it clean. Lure selection was another variable to the Muskie equation. We looked at the recent catches and recognized that early evening success was vested in the use of jerkbaits. John and I loaded our rods with a Bobbie and Striker, respectively, and began to systematically execute the plan of attack.
The evening shadows announced the setting of the sun as we made our 3rd drift of the area. As John and I discussed the events of the day and the ‘general meaning of life’ (the way most Muskie anglers do when fishing methodically), a Muskie came up behind my Striker and timidly embraced the rear treble hook in his mouth. To be honest, I wasn’t even aware of him until I executed the next Jerk of my lure. The Muskie swirled on the water, and feeling the hook began to run in an attempt to free himself. I was busy fighting the fish and only got a glimpse of the fish’s head and neck area; however, John saw the whole animal and, recognizing that it was in the 25 pound class, encouraged me to go to free spool and thumb the line. About that time, this beast rose by the side of the boat, turned his head away from the boat and straightened the treble hook. Surely, I was disappointed that this fine Muskie won the fight, but the action did confirm the soundness of the attack plan. We set up another drift and began to work the area again. This was the 4th drift of the area and about three quarters of the way through, John’s Bobbie was struck by a small Muskie. Recognizing that it was undersized, John shook the rod and executed a "fish friendly" release. That was the end of our adventure for that evening. We did another couple of drifts to no avail. On Sunday, I got a late start on the water. It was already past sunset when I arrived on our spot for the evening. Once again, lure selection was an important part of the Muskie equation. Even though the water had turned over, surface lures were still effective after sunset. I loaded my rod with a creeper and began a drifting pattern over a shallow shelf area. On our first drift, a Muskie swirled up behind the lure, reinforcing my confidence in the attack plan. I finished up the first drift and set up for our second drift. This drift did not yield anything, however, still
confident in the approach and in the area, I set up for the third drift. Just as transitioning from 6 feet onto a 3 foot stump shelf, my creeper abruptly stopped plopping its way through the water as the result of an aggressive clobbering from a Muskie. I pulled back on the rod to set the hook and began to reel in to keep a tight line. As the fish came close to the boat, it was illuminated by my head lamp and I could see that it was a very respectable fish. He tugged at the line in an attempt to shake the hook, but without success. I lead him around the front of the boat and finally positioned him toward the waiting net. Bit-aBing, Bit-a Bang, Bit-a-Boom, he was in the net and the growl of success vibrated the vocal outburst of a very excited angler. The work was accomplished to free the Muskie from the lure. Muskie in hand, it measured 38 inches. A picture or two and the Muskie was back in the 61 degree water and on his way. I did a couple more drifts of the area, but the adventure was over for the evening. I returned to Indian Trail Resort to register the fish and institute a ritual celebration of buying the bar a round of root beer Schnapps. This was, for me, my last Muskie adventure on the Chippewa Flowage for the season. It was certainly a pleasure to share it with friends and confirm a few new variables to the equation that is Muskie fishing. No matter how much you fish for Muskie, there is always something more to learn.
Catch And Release - Time For Some Straight Talk by Craig Sandell © 2013 This article is going to make a lot of people angry but it's time for some straight talk about catch and release and the negative effect that it is having on the Musky fisheries in Wisconsin. As most of you know who follow the Musky issues in Wisconsin, there is a philosophy being put forward by the Wisconsin DNR to have a universal size limit of 50 inches for musky on all Wisconsin Musky lakes. That is just plain stupid…actually a 50 inch size limit is stupid. You would think that people educated in fishery biology would have a better grasp of what it takes to have a healthy and productive Musky fishery. The short sighted fishery policy being put forward by Wisconsin fishery management people seems to support a belief that "age and education are no guarantee of competency or intelligence". Every Musky Lake in Wisconsin has a limited forage base that can only support a limited number of Musky...That is what is commonly called "Carrying Capacity". The application of what amounts to a 100% release policy has resulted in the population
of Musky being unchecked and thereby overloading the carry capacity of many of the Northern Wisconsin Musky fisheries. It doesn't take a degree in biology, just a little common sense, to recognize that too many Musky chasing too little forage will result in Musky that will never reach their growth potential. If you truly value our Musky fisheries, get your head out of your butt and deal with that reality. Certainly, there was a time back in 1969 when our musky fisheries needed drastic measures to save them from complete collapse. With the establishment of Muskies Inc., a voice for the policy of catch and release became a reality. In today's reality however, blind allegiance to catch and release has become the mantra of the fanatic. Catch and release now has the potential to destroy our fisheries for Musky and Walleye and Bass as well. High Size Limits Do Not A Trophy Musky Fishery Make!!! There is a dramatic decline in the forage base across Northern Wisconsin Musky fisheries. The Wisconsin DNR has not done a forage base assessment based upon boom shocking on these lakes for years. The guides who service these lakes are seeing Musky lakes, once considered a trophy lake, degrade to action lakes. The populations of perch, cisco and other forage fish on these lakes are no longer abundant enough to feed the predator species. Muskies have to eat so if forage is not available, they will turn to Walleye and Bass to fill their belly. The Wisconsin DNR, which is charged with stewardship of Wisconsin’s fisheries, continues to ignore its responsibility to inject informed fact into the discussions that happen at the Conservation Congresses that happen each year. The panel of
DNR representatives at these Congresses sits quietly in front of each gathering offering no counterpoint to an audience stacked with folks who have been duped into believing that larger size limits are the only approach to creating trophy fisheries. Then the DNR pronounces that "the will of the people" has dictated the need for higher Musky size limits while offering no informed biological assessment of the impact of such size limits upon the long term health of the fishery. It's not like the DNR doesn't appreciate the importance of the forage base to a healthy Musky fishery. In a recent article from
the WDNR penned by Tim Simonson, he included a chart of the belly contents from kept and mounted Musky. The chart he included is from 1994. The chart shows the importance of the forage base to a healthy Musky fishery. Unfortunately, due to the higher size limits resulting in 100% release of Musky, there is no current information on what Musky are eating but it is unlikely that dietary preferences have changed very much. So, if the forage base is this important to the health of a Musky fishery, why isn't the WDNR doing forage base assessments on Wisconsin Musky fisheries on a regular basis? The WDNR will most likely try to blame a shrinking budget but that is just another copout to avoid the development of good science. They seem to have the money to pay for useless creel surveys and uncertified Musky telephone surveys. As an example, let’s look at Northeastern Wisconsin. As you can see from the illustration, this area has a good population of water that is considered to be Musky fisheries. Many of these lakes were once considered "big fish" waters; among them Star Lake and Preque Isle Lake. They had that reputation because there was a robust forage base supporting a nominal Musky population. Today, that is not the case.
The higher Musky size limits and stocking practices have resulted in extreme pressure being placed upon the forage base. The result, according to local guides who have been fishing these waters for years, is that there are too many Musky chasing too little food. These lakes are now considered action lakes rather than trophy lakes. That was not the published goal of the WDNR when they increased the size limit on these lakes. The published WDNR goal was to enhance the trophy potential of these lakes through higher size limits. Of course, the WDNR station at Boulder Junction has no perspective or comment on the decline of these lakes. The reason for this lack of WDNR knowledge is the direct result of two major factors; 1.) The absence of a Musky population assessment prior to the imposition of higher Musky size limits and 2.) The disregard for the effect that higher Musky size limits would have on the forage base. So, what is it that I am suggesting to address the emerging decline of Wisconsin's Musky fisheries? Well, I am NOT suggesting that the WDNR needs to change...that is a lost cause. The WDNR has evolved into to a self-serving, selfpropagating bureaucratic wasteland. • If Wisconsin's Musky fisheries are to be prevented from further decline and eventual collapse, the change has to come at our insistence. • We need to insist that the WDNR start a regular program of forage base assessments and, where indicated, start re-
stocking the forage base to balance the fisheries rather than to continue the stocking of Muskies. • We need to petition for the reduction of the size limits for Musky down to 44 inches so that pressure on the forage base can be reduced. • We need to discourage the policy of blind fanaticism promoted by Muskies, Inc. to catch and release and encourage a sensible holistic approach to enhancing our Musky fisheries. I am sure that there will be resistance to common sense taking the control of Wisconsin's Musky fishery policy away from commercial publications like Musky Hunter Magazine whose focus is on making a buck rather than the long term health of our fisheries...After all, common sense is not necessarily a productive marketing approach. That is the other element to the problem that needs to be addressed. We have got to stop letting a small group of money motivated self-involved cult enthusiasts assert control over long term Musky fishery policies.
HAS CATCH AND RELEASE CREATED FANATICS? By Ron Heidenreich © 2011 While attending our chapter's September1999 Muskie Inc. monthly meeting, a topic that has bothered me for quite some time got me thinking once again. At that moment, quite honestly, I was ashamed to be a member of the club knowing there were guests in attendance. We went through our normal business, and then our contest Chairperson gave her report. She usually reads off some of the larger catches or reports of unusual interest. Because of time constraints they all can't be read. During the presentation she read an affidavit which was accompanied by a letter explaining this members trip of a lifetime. The member and his partner each caught tremendous fish, 52" and 54" respectively. The letter went on to say that they chose to harvest each trophy. Before the letter was completed SNICKERS and SNIDE REMARKS were being uttered by our own M. I. members in the background. They apparently felt these fishermen shouldn't have kept their fish, and let it be known. I was only thankful that the member wasn't there to hear this. Was this jealousy or just plain fanaticism? My guess is both. Some of these very people probably haven't caught a Muskie near the size of these two. Further, NO MUSKIE FISHERMAN has the right to determine what is or is not a trophy for others.
Having said that, it brings me to the next segment of this writing. Only a few weeks later I found myself in the same position as the previously mentioned members. But first I must give you a short history of myself, if only to lend some credibility to my point of view. I have been seriously fishing for Muskies since 1971. I have fished my way through the years when every 30" Muskie was killed, through early stages of catch-and-release, and continuing to where we are today. My last kept Muskie was a 30-pound fish I caught in November of 1979. It's possible I may have killed more, who knows. I do truly believe in catch-and-release providing common sense is applied. On October 24, 1999, I used a sucker to catch a 46 1/2 " 29pound 7-ounce Muskie. Even though my partner and I made an extensive effort to release her, she died, nonetheless. I suppose I could have given her a little shove, watched her glide away, and come in at the end of the day and thumped my chest. After all, I had just released a 30-pound class muskie. But I didn't. Now I have an affidavit for a muskie I caught and kept a trophy in every sense of the word, and I felt compelled not to turn it in to my chapter for fear of being ridiculed and embarrassed by my fellow members. No one should have to feel like this. I went to our monthly board meeting in November and this topic was discussed at length. Many board members were aware of the comments made and they were disappointed at what had happened during the September general membership meeting. I eventually did submit the affidavit. Two months later I noticed in the 'Lunge Log that my Muskie was the smallest fish in the Men's Kept Division for the year. I find it hard to believe that a thirty-pound class fish was the smallest fish
killed in ALL of Muskies Inc. in 1999. Maybe other members aren't comfortable admitting they kept or killed one! Think about this: When was the last time someone admitted releasing an unreleasable fish? Due to the peer pressure, we've put on ourselves, it's probably happening more often than we want to believe. Has this peer pressure turned us into complete FANATICS? Just maybe we need to take a really hard look in the mirror. This kind of thinking that every muskie must be released is not healthy. At the last count in the 1999 Muskies Inc. Members Only Contest, we registered 9,208 fish. Who knows how many more weren't registered? Only fifteen of them were kept. Does anyone truly believe we released 9,193 live and VIABLE muskies? I wonder. All those anglers, warm water, cold water, trolling, casting, suckers, landing nets, hand landing, and last but not least photos! To how many fish did we give a little shove, then come in and thump our chests and say that we released them, when in reality we ultimately made turtle food out of them? Why would muskie anglers do that? Because we've been taught that every muskie MUST be released to fight another day. Right? Or are we afraid to ADMIT to keeping one? I 'd bet the latter occurs a lot more than we want to believe. If you don't believe the intensity of this "you must let 'em go" mentality, check out how Muskie anglers sign-off on the website message boards on Muskie Inc. and Musky Hunter Magazine (ie. let 'em go, let 'em grow, or let 'em live, etc.). Every speaker at every seminar concludes his presentation by hammering home the catch-and-release philosophy. That mindset is deeply rooted, although the basic philosophy is not entirely bad. Muskies Inc. has done its job promoting catch-and-release, and I don't mean it sarcastically. We should release Muskies, but it
shouldn't be considered the end of the world if we harvest one. The bass and walleye clubs that I'm familiar with are very committed to catch-and-release. Those fisheries are also susceptible to over harvest, but their membership isn't subjected to the high level of peer pressure we put on ourselves. I think our various boards within Muskies Inc. and all other Muskie clubs in the country should examine this. We need to educate our current members and the future Muskie anglers that releasing fish is great and should be done whenever possible, but don't ridicule and scorn those who choose to harvest one. We don't always know the circumstances of every fish caught, and the fact that what is a trophy to one person may not be a trophy to another. You never know, you might be the next person to be in this unenviable spot If we don't examine this issue we will all soon be looked upon as true FANATICS, in every sense of the word, and that isn't very glamorous. FANATIC (fa nat 'ik) noun, a person inspired with excessive and bigoted enthusiasm.
Some local guides still practice Set-Line Slaughter An Editorial: By Craig K Sandell It was reported that a 52-inch musky weighing more than 40 pounds was found washed up dead on an island on the northeast end of the Chippewa Flowage on June I by three anglers from Illinois...certainly a disheartening site for someone who has traveled all that way to fish the Chippewa Flowage. The dead musky apparently expired this spring after ingesting a single-hook sucker rig last fall, according to local musky guide Scott Allen, who examined the fish on June 2. A swallow-hook rig was found coming out of its mouth. According to Allen and a number of other anglers and guides, the fish is another example of the waste of a natural resource caused by some anglers who fish from shore with sucker-baited set-line rigs each October and November. The set-line fishermen may or may not get to a rod when there is a bite. They cut the wire leader and release many of the fish, thinking they will live. But the fish end up dying, Allen said. Allen stated that "The (52-inch) musky may have broken the line while battling an angler or wrapped the line around a stump or log and broke it before the set-liners got around to checking their fishing rods. "Last year in the Hayward area, there was only one 40-pound-plus musky that was known to have been caught,"
Allen added. The practice of set-lining is "a big problem”, especially on the Chippewa Flowage. We have to stop it, and stop anglers from using swallow-type hooks," he said. "This is hurting our fishing, and it is having a negative impact on Sawyer County businesses, especially in the fall when tourist dollars are needed the most," Allen said. Betty Greene, co-owner of D & B Bait and Tackle on the Chippewa Flowage, agrees that "this practice has hurt everyone in this business, and it's got to stop. Something has to be done. Fall business is going to heck. I sure wish some tourist would have had that (52-inch fish) on his line and had the thrill of his life," she said. A long-time musky' fisherman and former trapper on the Flowage, Rick Marks, said that "in 13 years of trapping every day during the fall, I found numerous muskies floating in the stumpy back bays, reeds and weed edges. Invariably, all of them had a sucker harness wire sticking out of their mouth. I really feel that one of the biggest reasons we're not seeing the 50-inch-plus fish with consistency despite catching and releasing all these 46-, 47- , and 49-inch fish is because we’re killing a great many of them using sucker rigs," Marks said. "Many times, when set lines are used, by the time the fish is done fighting and is landed, it has done serious damage to its intestinal area," Marks added. If it is released, "it's no different than a deer that has been gut-shot. It will run away and die." Marks added that he is "not against sucker fishing if you’re going to keep the fish or use a quick-strike rig to hook it in the jaw and then release it.. But I'm against sucker fishing (with a gut-hook rig). I've seen too many of them that have been gut-hooked that have died."
Shoreline problem Marks added that another problem with set-lining is that it is hard for other anglers to find a place to drift along a shoreline, because there are rods placed on the shore every 50 to 75 yards by the set-liners. "I've talked to a lot of people who have come to the Flowage to fish, and they're really disgusted with it," Marks said. "They say it's very hard for them to fish. "Maybe we should go to one rod (allowed) per angler, like in Minnesota," Marks said. The limit is three rods per person in Wisconsin. Guide problem Allen said he is aware of only two guides who are using set-lines in the fall on the Big Chip. "The problem is that they are teaching their clients that set lining is an acceptable method. It is not acceptable," he said. "We have to put a stop to this before it totally decimates our musky fishing," Allen said. He and others have seen groups of anglers having parties on islands in the late fall while having 30 to 40 baited rods set out on shorelines up to half a mile away. Allen said that set-liners often attach a jug to their fishing rod with a light rope. That way, if the rod is pulled into the water by a musky, the set-liner can retrieve the gear and the fish. This is "both illegal and unethical," he said. Studies Conducted. Guide John Dettloff said that several studies conducted of the effects of single-hook sucker rigs (and circle-hook rigs) have had "very similar results," showing that the majority of muskies which ingest these hooks die later. In a DNR study, 14 muskies which were gut-hooked in October and November 13 of 14 died* by the following mid-July, Dettloff said. Half of the fish lived through the winter.
* The original story in the Sawyer County Record misquoted John Dettloff saying that all 14 Muskies in the WDNR Study died (13 of 14 dead Muskies is a 92.8% mortality rate). Terry Margenau, a Department of Natural Resources Northern Region musky expert, spoke recently to the Hayward Lakes Chapter of Muskies Inc. about musky management issues, angler perceptions and ongoing research. He said that "It's difficult to say anything conclusive" about the results of a study of muskies now in its second year because of the small number of fish involved. Margenau indicated that "It's not unusual for some mortality to occur after muskies spawn, especially in older, larger fish which have been beat up in the spawning process." People need to make their own decisions after reading about the results of the studies, Margenau said. "I can't see a DNR regulation that you can't use a single hook. We don't want to limit (anglers) more than we have to." The DNR Problem At the heart of the problem is the WDNR...it sure doesn't take a degree is fishery biology to conclude that if you puncture the stomach of a Muskie with a larger hook while reefing back on your fishing rod, it is more likely to die than live. The WDNR has persistently abrogated its responsibility to take action that is in the best interest of the fishery citing that 'they just do the will of the people' and it is not their place [the WDNR] to act. I submit that this type of 'head in the sand' attitude on the part of the WDNR is no better than the disregard for the fishery health displayed by the Guides and anglers that put out set-lines during October and November.
The WDNR says that they don't want to "limit anglers more that they have to." Well, it sure looks to me as though the WDNR has to put some limitations on methods that are contributing to negatively impact the health of the fisheries the WDNR is supposed to be managing. It wouldn't take very much to seriously curtail the set-line problem...Eliminating shoreline sucker fishing on Class A Muskie water in Wisconsin would go a long way toward protecting the Class A Fishery and it wouldn't cost the WDNR one red cent. Class B and Class C fisheries would still allow the practice for those anglers who feel that they just can't catch a Muskie any other way.
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The Titanium Myth By Craig Sandell © 2020 There has been a buzz in the Musky community for a few years about the indestructibility of Titanium leaders... Nothing is indestructible! The failure of a Titanium leader came up during a recent discussion with a Musky angler at the Wausau Musky Expo. He commented that he thought that the darn things were indestructible and that he would not have to buy leaders again until his leader broke. He went on to say that the leader did not show any sign of cracking until it just broke in the middle (a solid wire Titanium leader). He asked me if I could explain what happened…I couldn’t, but I told him that I would research the matter to see if I could discover a reason. I got a hold of a couple of metallurgical engineers that I know from my Aerospace days when I was a director of Quality Assurance to see if they could shed some immediate perspective on the matter of Titanium metal fatigue. My question to them opened a flood gate of information about Titanium and its characteristic assets and short comings. I could have written a doctoral dissertation with all of the information that I received. Distilled down, the information stacks up this way: The greater the mass of the Titanium metal product, the slower the rate of metal fatigue…that is to say that a solid sheet of Titanium used as skin for an aircraft will fatigue at a slower rate
than a single strand of Titanium wire that is .018 - .025 of an inch in diameter. The reason for that is related to the exaggerated bending and twisting associated with the wire. The matter boils down to a question of confidence. When you use a traditional steel leader, you can tell when it is time to replace the leader based upon evidence of bending and the stress of use. Unlike the steel leader, the Titanium leader does not display any indication that a problem exists regarding the fatigue of the metal. The illustration shown here demonstrates that metal fatigue can exist in the sub-surface of the metal without any external indication of failure. All of a sudden, the leader fails, and you are left to wonder what in the heck happened. So, what can be done? Well, you cannot change the basic characteristic of metal to fatigue. Certainly, leaders get one heck of a workout during a Musky season and there is no formula that one could apply that would forecast a threshold for replacement. Another area of concern with Titanium leaders, and any other leader that uses a mechanical crimp to close the leader loops, is related to pull strength. There have been problems reported with leader crimps pulling out at less than the rated strength of the leader. Before you buy a leader using crimps, you might want to ask if each leader is "pull tested" to verify its rating. As a general rule of thumb, you can replace your Titanium leaders at the end of each Musky season. Of course, that can be costly but the possibility of losing a Musky to a failed leader far outweighs the cost associated with leader replacement or you
can return to using less expensive steel leaders where you can better assess the need to replace the leader…you will have to be the judge. What about stranded Titanium leaders? The bottom line is that bending and twisting of metal creates fatigue…stranded wire is no exception. Tight lines
Taxidermy…An Imperfect Art By Craig Sandell © 2020 It is a useless exercise to try to obtain accurate measurements from a non-replica mount. The only accurate measurements are those taken, recorded and witnessed when the fish was caught. No doubt that many of you have been assaulted by yet another round of vendetta inspired Musky show presentations, press releases and conjured reports from Larry Ramsell and the obscure organization with which he is associated, regarding the Cal Johnson World Record Musky. It is truly sad that Larry has chosen to squander his reputation on these transparent attempts to bring into doubt the quality catches of someone of the stature of Cal Johnson. Recently, Larry has used his presentation regarding the recent 57" Muskie catch by another Muskie angler as a platform for his unsubstantiated and vitriolic ranting, thereby cheapening what could have been an entertaining account of a great Muskie adventure. It is certainly easy to attack the dead...they cannot defend themselves. A significant weight is assigned by Larry to his analysis of the 57 year old mount of Cal's World Record. Larry will tell you that he has done taxidermy and then tries to use his brief excursion in taxidermy as a credential to make his pronouncements and unfounded allegations seem credible...As a taxidermist, Larry is an excellent Musky angler. For any of you who have had a fish mounted (not a replica), you may have noticed that the fish didn’t look exactly like the picture
you took. This should not be unexpected even in this modern day of more hi-tech methods of taxidermy. I thought a brief review of taxidermy might provide an interesting perspective upon which to evaluate some of the comments from Larry and others. What is Taxidermy? Taxidermy is a general term describing the many methods of reproducing a "life-like three-dimensional representation" of an animal for permanent display. In some cases, the actual skin (including the fur, feathers or scales) of the specimen is preserved and mounted over an artificial armature. In other cases, the specimen is reproduced completely with man-made materials. A Matter of Art Among professionals, it is generally agreed that the most difficult branch of taxidermy is fish mounting. Creating a technically accurate fish mount can be a real challenge. The top awardwinning fish taxidermists are almost all outstanding flat artists as well. The ability to draw, paint, mix colors, and sculpt are shared among most of the world's best fish taxidermists. It is significant to note that 'world class' taxidermy and taxidermists in the 1930's, 40's and 50's were not generally found in small rural communities such as Hayward, WI and the surrounding area. Mounting a fish not only requires the ability to accurately recreate the anatomy of the subject, but to restore all of the colorations as well. When a fish skin dries, most of the color goes away, leaving only brownish patterns on the skin and scales. Fish taxidermy is the one area of wildlife art where the