Musky America Magazine December 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. Craig Sandell Owner and Fellow Musky Angler The Icons shown here are at the bottom of the Magazine pages. All Rights Reserved © 2024
Creating A Musky Factory... THE CHIPPEWA FLOWAGE By: John Dettloff © 1995 Some one hundred centuries ago, after the retreat of the glaciers signaled the end of the Ice Age, after our region's landscape was finally free of its seemingly eternal, thick layer of ice - nature finally made amends by leaving us thousands of little glacial lakes scattered throughout our north country. Eleven of these sparkling blue jewels (Crane, Chief, Tyner, Rice, Scott, Two Boys, Pokegama, Desire, Pakwawang and Cranberry Lake) were left to us in close proximity to the valley of the Chief River and the West Fork of the Chippewa River, about 20 miles southeast of Hayward Wisconsin. It must have been during the late 1700's, when these waters first served as home to the Ojibwa (or Anishinaabeg, as they called themselves). Wanting to establish a settlement beyond the Lac Coutereille village, they chose the area near the big bend of the West Fork of the Chippewa River in which to establish the village of Pah-qua-uah-wong.
Abundant with water and wild rice beds, this prime ancient campsite was most likely used by earlier Native American peoples - for instance the Sioux, who occupied this region before the Ojibwa. Shortly after the Civil War, Thad Thayer established a trading post here and this remote Indian village soon became a substantial settlement. The logging boom of the late 1800's brought many people into the area and, shortly after World War I, the need for cheap electrical power increased. If a dam was built just below the confluence of the West and East Forks of the Chippewa River, the basin of the Chippewa headwaters would make an excellent holding reservoir from which large amounts of electricity could be generated. So, in 1914, the Wisconsin/Minnesota Light and Power Company began the buying up of people's lands that were to be flooded and began construction of the Winter Dam early in 1922. On March15, 1923, the gates of the newly completed dam were closed and by July, the new Chippewa Flowage was formed. Much of the land that was flooded had been logged off, but there still was much standing timber serving as remnants of the forest that once existed there. The people of the trading post had to literally move their settlement, establishing their "New Post" about a mile and half to the southwest.
At first, this huge holding pond (the Chippewa Flowage) was not thought of for its fishing possibilities; but a few individuals soon discovered the hidden potential of this unique place. Many old timers credit Harry Isessard for discovering that this new flowage was hot for Musky. After making one of the first known Musky catches here, Harry, who intimately knew the area before it was flooded, soon had no trouble catching lots of average sized Musky which were coming in from the West Fork of the Chippewa River. Harry did so well fishing where the river emptied into the flowage that he soon began guiding and in 1925 his family built one of the flowage's earliest resorts - Lassard's Resort. Another person who took advantage of the flowage's angling potential was Chris Lee, one of the workers who, in 1922, helped build the new wooden bridge for the old road that crossed the Chief River. During the project, Lee noticed great numbers of people fishing off the old plank bridge that was soon to be dismantled. After the bridge was completed and the flowage was formed, Chris Lee appropriated a shack that was left there and began to rent out boats. Other area resorts soon left their own boats in Lee's care to be used either
for their own guests or for Lee to rent out. Lee's Boat Livery eventually built up a fleet of 26 boats, set anglers up with guides and sold pop and refreshments out of a huge piano crate which was converted into a shelter. Chris and Elsie (Slater) Lee eventually paid Northern States Power $10 a year to lease the land and built a permanent home and place of business there, a business which is now known as Herman's Landing. In time, a solid resort community became established on the Chippewa Flowage, which became noted for its excellent walleye fishing, slab crappies and one of the finest Musky fisheries in the country. Being known as a lake to produce good numbers of Musky during the 1920's, by 1938 the Chippewa Flowage had matured and began producing consistent catches of huge Musky over 35 lbs. The Winter Dam Fish Hatchery, active during the late 1930's and early 1940's, extensively stocked fry into the flowage and other area waters. After the war, fingerling Musky were stocked because of their much higher survival rates. The flowage quickly earned a reputation as the place to be for all serious Musky anglers, reaching its first peak in Musky production during the late 1940's and early 1950's. After that, big fish numbers dropped off a bit but the numbers of fish caught remained at a consistent level. The fishing was still very good and huge fish were still being caught on occasion, but the number of Musky caught in the 15 to 30 lb. range was comparatively low.
But, because of the concept of the voluntary catch and release program, which started to catch on during the late 1970's, an amazing momentum was soon to build, taking the concept perhaps further than anyone had ever dreamed. After seeing almost immediate improvements in the flowage's Musky fishery, anglers began to release even more and larger fish. By the 1990's, release percentages on the flowage had reached the 90% mark. Musky weighing 20 to 30 lbs. were commonly being released, and even some 50+ inchers were being released, something unheard of back in the 1970's! This release program has been a total success story for the Chippewa Flowage, bringing the status of this lake's Musky fishery up to its second peak. In fact, in 1994, more trophy Musky over the 30 lb. class were caught on the flowage than during any other year in the recorded history of the Chippewa Flowage! With over 90% of the estimated total annual catch of some 1,800 Musky now being released - the Chippewa Flowage will forever remain one of the country's premier Musky factories.
The WDNR Talks Through Its Butt…Again By Craig Sandell © 2024 The Wisconsin DNR recently sent out its annual self serving notice regarding the “Good News” about the increase in Musky angling in Wisconsin. The notice included a link to the “2012 Muskellunge Management Update” from Madison which is authored by Tim Simonson. I am sure that Mr. Simonson is a very nice person and he has penned an interesting information document…unfortunately it is long on estimates based upon opinions rather than on verifiable facts. His report claims that 480,000 people in Wisconsin are fishing for Musky…C’mon Man. How did he come up with that number?...Well, the number is based upon a survey of fishing license holders which asked if they fished for Musky. No distinction was made between the fisherman who is using Walleye or Bass tackle to fish for Musky and the dedicated Musky angler who, unlike the Walleye and Bass angler, will continue to fish for Musky regardless of the lack of action or success. A better evaluation method would have been to speak with the registered guides in Wisconsin and ask them how many of their clients retain them to guide solely for Musky.
An even better way would be to require a Musky tag on Wisconsin fishing licenses with the funds going directly to support the enhancement of Musky fisheries rather than into the general fund. Of course the WDNR doesn't want to do that...they would have to justify and account for how the money was actually used. The survey that was used had no qualifying criterion regarding what makes an angler a Musky angler. For example, an angler would be considered a dedicated Musky angler when; He has tackle, rods, reels, and lures that are specifically designed for Musky fishing. He is a member of Muskies, Inc. He subscribes to Musky Hunter Magazine. He owns a net that could hold a 6 year old child. He fishes exclusively for Musky at least 4 weeks of the Muskie season. Without some realistic method to determine who was and who wasn’t a dedicated Musky angler, the 480,000 angler number has absolutely no merit. There is an article on Musky America titled "How Many Musky Anglers Are there Really?" that puts the number of dedicated Musky anglers in a more factual perspective. Mr. Simonson also alludes to the use of creel surveys to support the outlandish angler number. Typically, the WDNR relies upon creel surveys as an indicator of fishing pressure. Creel surveys, however, are NOT a very accurate assessment of fishing pressure or angler numbers. There is an article on Musky
America regarding the flaw in the use of creel surveys titled “How Many Casts…How many Anglers?” which I encourage all of you to read. The bottom line is that creel surveys do not offer verifiable results when it comes to Musky, especially with the current low harvest rates…bar talk is a better assessment of Musky success on the water. Mr. Simonson also refers to information obtained from Muskies, Inc. regarding the definition of what constitutes a “Trophy” Musky. He is relying on the opinions of an organization that has encouraged its members to abandon the concept of a trophy Musky as an angler’s personal best and replace it with the unrealistic application of a 50” Musky as a trophy. His opinion paper goes on to indicate that a Musky that is 50” is at least 17 years old. Think about it…that musky has had to avoid predation by other Musky or Northern Pike, avoid injury through boating encounters, avoid water born disease, avoid capture and if captured, survive the release process. Regardless of the classification of a body of water as a trophy water, the likelihood of encountering a 50” musky by the average Musky angler is slim at best…especially when you consider that most Musky anglers have jobs and family responsibilities that limit their time on the water. The glaring flaw in the "Good News" in Mr. Simonson’s opinion paper concerns the apparent lack of concern for the health of the forage base when harvest rates are driven artificially low through the unrealistic size limits that have been advocated by the
lobbying of vocal minorities in the Musky community rather than by competent science. Another article on Musky America titled “Intelligent Harvest” addresses the near collapse of the bone lake fishery due to a lack of consideration for the forage base. Given the fact that fewer Musky are being harvested, there is obviously more pressure placed upon the forage base. Mr. Simonson includes the chart below to demonstrate the importance of prey to the health of a Musky fishery.
As can be seen from the chart, the assessment is 18 years old but even from this outdated data some conclusions can be gleaned. A very small number of game fish are represented as comprising the diet of a Musky. Since Musky have to eat to live, if the forage base is in decline, the Musky will target game fish. It is an unavoidable fact that with fewer Musky harvested there will be more pressure on the forage base and the game fish population. If the forage base is not allowed to recover through natural reproduction or by stocking, the size and health of the Musky population will begin to decline as will the other game fish. Ask the WDNR when they last boom shocked your favorite Musky lake to assess the health of the forage base. So what is the bottom line assessment of Mr. Simonson’s Musky management update? His assessment of the number of Musky anglers is an artificial estimate based upon opinion rather than fact. His characterization of what constitutes a trophy musky ignores the fact that most Musky anglers will never see a 50” Musky given their limited time on the water. His update ignores the increased pressure placed upon the forage base by the unscientific size limits for Musky. (Slot limits would be a better approach.) In my opinion this 2012 Musky Management Update is not worth the time or money it took to produce it. It is short on facts and long on opinions and estimates based on bad or
no science. If this is the best the WDNR can do with the funds it gets, our Musky fisheries are in real trouble. Tight Lines
Epitaph For Once Great Wisconsin Fisheries By Craig Sandell © 2024 There was a time when the lakes of Vilas and Oneida Counties were "The Destination" for Musky and Walleye fishermen. There was a time when there were many bait shops along Hwy 51 and the towns of Minocqua and Arbor Vitae were awash with tourists who pumped their vacation dollars into the local economy. There was a time when The Lac Du Flambeau tribe recognized that tourism dollars helped to feed tribal members, so they refrained from excessive spring and winter spearing. These things all used to be true, but no more. The Lac Du Flambeau, through their quest for vengeance against non-native peoples under the current tribal leadership, have been systematically depleting the lakes of Vilas and Oneida Counties of their once abundant Musky and Walleye populations under the guise of subsistence.
The result has been a substantial decrease in the tourism dollars that are so very important to the economy of the area. Sports shops are boarded up, resorts are being sold off for condos and even the Lake Of Torches Indian Casino has seen their patron numbers drop. Only intervention by the State of Wisconsin through the declaration of a "Natural Resource Emergency" can put a stop to the destruction of the Vilas and Oneida County fisheries. The problem is that the political leadership in Wisconsin lacks the will to take action to rescue these fisheries and the economy of Vilas and Oneida Counties; yet these same politicians expect you to vote for them in November while they sit on their hands and play patty fingers with their own ass. The Wisconsin legislature can take some positive steps to encourage the Lac Du Flambeau to curtail their transparent acts of vengeance against the people of Vials and Oneida Counties by refusing to consider awarding the Lac Du Flambeau grant money. We Are all In This Together
Rods & Reels & Other Stuff Craig Sandell © 2016 I have gotten some Email concerning the storage of Muskie equipment during the cold off season period. I have done a little research and offer the following for your consideration: RODS Technically speaking, the fiber glass and composite graphite material used for Muskie rods should not be affected by the cold. Having said that, however, you must consider that any material that is subjected to extremes in temperature is likely to be effected in some way. Consider also, that many Muskie anglers have rods with cork butts. Cork is likely to retain some moisture. When moisture is frozen, it tends to expand causing some displacement to adjacent areas. This can translate into shorter life for the butt material of your rod. I would recommend that you store your rods in an area where the temperature does not get below freezing. The basement, the den, a hall closet; all of these would be a good choice. REELS Throughout the season, your reels are constantly subjected to moisture. Regardless of what you do, some moisture will remain in your reels. In addition, the grease used as lubricant in your reels will, under extremely cold temperatures, freeze. When the grease thaws, it will become brittle because the moisture in the
grease will have separated. Your reel lubrication will no longer be effective. As with the Rods, store your reels some where in the home where the temperature will remain above freezing. LURES Lures, especially wooden lures, will be damaged by extremely cold temperatures. Keep your lures in the house where they are warm. You have invested a lot of money in those lures and you need to treat them accordingly. ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT Prolonged storage of electrical equipment such as, depth finders, flashers, GPS systems, etc. in temperatures under freezing may cause the seals in the LCD compartments to rupture. In all cases, follow the manufacturer's instructions for storage. If you are unsure, keep them in the house where it is warm. A PARTING WORD All Muskie equipment was designed to be most effective in the warmer periods of the year. Don't put your equipment anywhere where you would not want to spend the winter. There is nothing more disappointing than the discovery that your equipment is no longer up to the rigors of Muskie fishing.
The Duncan Loop..... Gives You 97% Line Strength Craig Sandell © 2024 The Duncan Loop has been around for many years and is similar to the clinch knot except for the doubling of the tag end and main line before making any wraps. It is a very strong knot and attains 97% of line strength: 7% more than the clinch knot. That extra 7% is why I suggest it over the clinch knot. It is, by the way, easy to tie even with wet or cold fingers. In Step #1, you insert the line through the leader leaving about 6 inches of tag end. Hold the tag end parallel to the main line for about 3 inches and make a loop with the tag end. Wrap the tag end 6 times around the parallel line of the inside loop as shown in Step #2. Now, pull on the tag end to tighten the turns while holding the leader securely and make sure that the turns tighten evenly. Once the turns are cinched up evenly, pull the main line and leader in opposite directions to tighten the knot securely, as shown in Step #3.
Many of us who use the Duncan Loop also take one additional step. We make an additional knot in the remainder of the tag that we refer to as an insurance knot. This prevents the possibility that the tag will pull through the knot when under stress. You may have to practice this knot a few times to get it right but once you master the knot, I believe that you will find it preferable to the clinch knot. Try it...You'll Like It.
On Muskie Genetics... DNR must accept blame By Kurt Krueger Vilas County News Review MANY PEOPLE believe the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is too stubborn or too all-knowing — or both — to admit that the agency has unintentionally damaged Muskie genetics toward small-strain fish. Using what Minnesota discovered about its Muskie genetics some 20 years ago and the results of their sweeping change in hatchery operations, a small team of Muskies Inc. members is calling for a major restoration effort in Wisconsin. The new research shows the DNR mixed large-growth and small-growth strains, causing a major decline in the number of trophy fish 50 inches and larger. It also alleges that for the sake of convenience, fisheries personnel have gathered muskellunge eggs mostly from fish with an average length of just 33½ inches, instead of taking them from longer fish that had proven largegrowth potential. Top DNR officials have both praised and discounted the new research. While they call more emphasis on Muskie brood-stock management a great idea, they say the team's proposed restoration plan is overly simplistic. The scribbler certainly doesn't have the answers, but I think the public would like to hear, just once, an admission from the DNR that they fell asleep at the fisheries biology wheel. Don't hold your breath. What we got a couple of weeks ago from Mike Staggs, director of the DNR's Bureau of Fisheries, was only that the new research has the department enthused about improving its work.
Stagg didn't even give us a hint of possible wrongdoing — even unintentional — but instead offered excuses about how they've been without a geneticist, low on funds and not pushed by the public to make the issue any sort of priority. That attitude, I'll tell you, more than anything else, is what bothers people about the DNR. When the public wants accountability, they hear excuses. As a concerned sportsperson, I pay attention to every idea the department comes up with for improving our fisheries, our hatcheries and our fishing regulations. When push comes to shove, I have always trusted the professionals, the so-called experts, to guide us down the right path. But not once in recent decades did I ever read where the DNR realized there was a problem with Muskie genetics — that many of our lakes are filled with slow-growing fish, many of which aren't genetically capable of hitting 40 inches, let alone 50 inches. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember them trying to convince us of the need for more funding for Muskie research, a geneticist, more technicians with which to safely strip eggs from trophy fish, or the purchase of forage minnows for hatchery operations. The truth is, the agency we entrust to keep pace with the best science and biology for fisheries enhancement had fallen asleep. None of this came up until a group of Muskie anglers said “Hey, you've damaged Muskie genetics and it's time to reverse it.” It's very hard to argue with the cold, hard facts. Minnesota noticed the genetics problem in 1982, and made sweeping changes in its hatchery operations. Data collected through the Muskies Inc. members' fishing contest shows that from 1986 to 1995, Wisconsin anglers reported taking 51 Muskies of 50 inches and larger, while Minnesota anglers caught just 38. But from 1996 to 2003, members reported catching 65 trophies in Wisconsin and a
whopping 438 trophy Muskies from Minnesota waters. And last year alone, club members in Wisconsin took 15 Muskies of 50 inches and larger, while Minnesota waters gave up 163 trophy fish. It is that disparity that prompted the latest push by Wisconsin anglers to begin a joint program with the DNR to immediately begin a restoration project “to isolate and reintroduce the larger Muskie that once inhabited the major riverdrainage waters.” What I hear most from the public is an absolute disbelief that fisheries personnel have been stripping eggs for hatchery brood stock from females that averaged a mere 331/2 inches. That is something they see as the most readily recognized agency goof up, and the one easiest to reverse. I've got a problem with the small-growing Muskie strain the department has purposely selected because of its high survival rate in the hatcheries. What we've ended up with in many lakes is an overpopulation of little Muskies — too many big predator fish that anglers just keep throwing back. It's just a theory, but too many moderate-sized Muskies puts a strain on available food supplies, which may prevent any of the fish from becoming true trophies. (Just look at the 10-year history of northern pike management in Butternut and Franklin lakes. A 32-inch size limit increased the number of moderate-sized pike but hurt other species and didn't produce any more trophy pike than under the previous rules with no size limit). While Muskies prefer to eat rough fish such as suckers and ciscoes, I'm not convinced this overpopulation of moderate-sized Muskies isn't taking quite a toll on walleyes, perch and crappies. As an angler who chases other species, I'd prefer a Muskie program where there are fewer, larger fish. It might be a simplistic viewpoint, but the scribbler shares the concerns of
Muskie guide George Langley and others who believe the DNR's stealing of forage food is hurting the fisheries in many lakes. Common sense says that taking 13,400 pounds of minnows from 30 lakes in one year is going to have an effect on the forage base and fishery growth rates. Ditto for stripping eggs from hundreds of suckers and returning no hatched fry to the lake. And when the agency steals that forage year after year, they are hurting our fisheries for the sake of saving some money to feed hatchery Muskies. It's got to stop. As several Muskie groups and individual anglers have suggested, it's time for a Muskie stamp that generates funds that are used specifically for improving management of Muskie brood stock. That is where the money should come from to purchase the fry and minnows needed to feed hatchery Muskies. There are people who criticize the DNR as an agency that won't adopt an idea that isn't their own. They say it took the department 10 years to implement slot size limits that had already been proven successful in other states. It sure seems they are reluctant to give any credit for the genetics enhancement made by Minnesota's DNR some 23 years ago. By calling the issue “more complicated,” it appears the Wisconsin DNR would prefer that they at least make it look like they reinvent the wheel. The DNR may never own up to it, but they've damaged Muskie genetics by things they've done, and by things they haven't done. I for one support the concept of improved Muskie genetics and also a push toward fewer, larger Muskies. Keeping the DNR away from natural forage bases is a no-brainer that will help more than just Muskies.
How Many Musky Anglers Are There Really? By Craig Sandell © 2024 While attending Muskie shows, one might think that there are Musky anglers everywhere...that is also the opinion of Muskies, Inc. and the Wisconsin DNR. Before you read on further, let me say that I have the greatest respect for the work that Muskies, Inc. has done and continues to do to promote the sport of Muskie angling and the hard work of many in the WDNR. That being said, I have to take exception to the pronouncement by Muskies, Inc. that there are over 400,000 Muskie anglers and by the WDNR citing 480,000 Musky anglers. The pronouncement from Muskies, Inc. was part of a letter sent out to the Muskies, Inc. membership and the WDNR pronouncement was included in a "Good News" paper from the WDNR. I do not know how Muskies, Inc. came up with that number and, if you ask them, they can provide no specifics regarding certified statistical polling. The WDNR provided no certified statistics to support their claim. Since there is no legitimate polling, the 400,000/480,000 numbers can only be an unsubstantiated estimate. Here is the estimate that I come up with: Musky Hunter Magazine claims a subscription list of around 12,000 (Not their distribution number) and Muskies, Inc has a membership of around 7,000...surely, many folks are duplicated on both magazine lists...but for the purpose of discussion lets
assume that there are no list duplicates and assign a number of 20,000 Musky anglers for the two publications. Recognizing that that cannot be everyone, lets say that there are another 10,000 Musky anglers that do not subscribe to either publication...that puts us at 30,000 Musky anglers. This number could be low...so lets bump the number by another 5,000 just to pick up those groups of closet hard core Musky anglers...that brings us to 35,000...that is a far cry from 400,000 or 480,000. I guess that if you wanted to consider the guy who goes fishing for some other species of fish and catches a Musky by accident, that would artificially bump the total number up but that is "reaching". Certainly, one would ask how a Musky angler is being identified. Muskies, Inc. or the WDNR did not include any definition in their estimate. For my estimate, I used the following: An angler is considered a Musky angler when; • He has tackle, rods, reels, and lures that are specifically designed for Musky fishing. • He is a member of Muskies, Inc. • He subscribes to Musky Hunter Magazine. • He owns a net that could hold a 6 year old child. • He fishes exclusively for Musky at least 4 weeks of the Muskie season. I know this is not scientific, but then neither was the Muskies, Inc. or the WDNR estimates. A further consideration is the amount of fishing tackle designed by manufacturers specifically for Musky fishing. Most every rod
manufacturer has a wide variety of rods in their product compliment that are not Musky rods. Most lure manufacturers design their lures to cross over the species boundary to bass and pike in order to sell profitable quantities of their lures. Even Suick has a downsized lure that is more suited to bass than to Musky. Indeed, when you consider that there are over 1 million bass fishermen, you get a pretty good picture of the limited market potential for Musky angling products and services. Take a look at the Spring fishing catalogs and you will not find a focus on the Musky angler with regard to lures. These catalogs enjoy a substantial distribution and would certainly include a focus on Musky lures if the profit incentive was there. You have to go to specialized print catalogs to find Musky lures and even those are very few in numbers. What I am trying to get at here is this; Musky fishing has always been a "cult" sport. We spend long hours on the water working hard to catch a fish that we do not usually keep. Our success rate is very low and the dollar investment per fish is high. Musky fishing is NOT for everyone and exaggerating the number of Musky anglers will not change that. Tight Lines
WDNR Forage Harvest A Musky Fisheries Tipping Point By Craig Sandell © 2013 I was alerted by Kurt Krueger, outdoor writer for the Vilas County News Review, to the practice of the Wisconsin DNR of harvesting forage to feed hatchery production. I had not heard of that practice, so I contacted Tim Simonson at the DNR in Madison. He referred me to Bruce Underwood at the Woodruff hatchery. In addition to sending me a spread sheet chronicling forage harvest on lakes in Vilas and Oneida Counties, Bruce indicated that forage harvesting was suspended in 2006 due to VHS concerns but did note that sucker eggs are still taken to support hatchery production. The spread sheet that Bruce sent me covers the years between 1998 and 2006 and shows the forage harvest in pounds for the lakes listed. The two tables shown below list the total pounds of forage taken from lakes and rivers in Vilas and Oneida Counties from 1998 to 2006 and are arranged by the highest poundage taken.
LAKE COUNTY Harvest In Pounds Lac Du Lune Vilas 13077 Trout Lake Vilas 10120 Big Arbor Vitae Vilas 4452 Anvil Vilas 2954 Big Vilas 2126 Clear (V) Vilas 1437 Laura Vilas 1252 Stevenson Creek Vilas 1117 White Sand Vilas 963 Big St Germain Vilas 906 Erickson Vilas 793 Big Muskellunge Vilas 762 Razorback Vilas 684 Rest Vilas 566 Trout River Vilas 535 Island Vilas 526
Lake. COUNTY Harvest In Pounds Lake Tomahawk Oneida 31228 Big Carr Oneida 10849 McNaughton Lake Oneida 7546 Squash Oneida 4081 Bird Oneida 3895 Buffalo Oneida 2262 Clear (O) Oneida 2000 Little Tomahawk Oneida 1565 Two Sisters Oneida 1472 Tomahawk River Oneida 1408 McNaughton Pond Oneida 1177 *Note This is a partial List of Lakes. There were 45 Vilas County and 22 Oneida County Lakes) In order to get a good perspective of just what this means, you need to consider two things: How many minnows make up a pound (minus the water)? What effect would removing forage have on the fishery when Musky are at a 100% release rate? As for how many minnows make up a pound, I have no exact number. If you have ever harvested minnows using a seine net, you could estimate that 20 or 30 might equal a pound. If we use 30 minnows equaling a pound, we see, for example, that 936,840 minnows were harvested from Lake Tomahawk in Oneida County from 1998 to 2006.
As for the effect on the health of the Musky fishery from removing 936,840 forage minnows when no Musky are being harvested, the negative impact is obvious. Now you have more Musky chasing a diminished food source. Without sufficient food no animal or human will achieve their genetic potential…in this case it’s the Musky achieving a trophy size. (Sort of makes increased size limits for Musky a joke, doesn’t it?) The problem gets even worse when you artificially increase the number of Musky through stocking which puts more pressure on the forage base. Given the amount of forage taken from these Musky lakes and the 100% release of Musky and the continued stocking of Musky, it is NOT hard to recognize that the health of the fishery will soon reach a tipping point that plunges the fishery into imbalance. Mr. Underwood also pointed out that because of VHS the DNR now buys its minnows from commercial outlets. This has had an impact on the ability of the DNR to continue hatchery operations. The current 2013-2015 DNR budget indicates that 3 hatcheries have already been closed and projects that more will have to be closed. I have only focused on two counties. I am confident that hatcheries in other counties, like Sawyer and Price have also harvested forage to support their hatchery operations. So is there a solution to head off the inevitable decline and eventual collapse of Wisconsin Musky fisheries?
I have two suggestions, neither of which will be popular: Musky stocking should be stopped for a period of 5 years and hatchery operations should be reorganized to produce forage for stocking in Musky bodies of water. Musky size limits should be reduced to 44 or 45 inches and Musky anglers should be encouraged to harvest at least 1 legal Musky a year. I can already hear the folks at Muskies, Inc. saying that calling for lower size limits and harvesting of Musky is a radical idea. To that I would respond that the Wisconsin Musky fisheries are facing an inevitable collapse because too many Musky are chasing too little food. Suspending Musky stocking coupled with size limit adjustments and limited harvesting represents no more of a radical suggestion than the concept of catch and release did back in 1969. The pendulum of Musky fishery health has swung to a perilous extreme and it needs to be returned to a more balanced approach. If Muskies, Inc. has a better idea to address the Wisconsin Musky fishery decline, I am sure we would all be interested. I would be pleased to provide a spokesperson for Muskies, Inc. space on my website for their suggestions. We Are All In This Together!!!
CAL JOHNSON’S OWN STORY… New World’s Record MUSKY! Here, in his own words, Cal tells you how he hooked, fought and landed the largest muskellunge ever taken with rod and reel By CAL JOHNSON - 1949 It had stormed throughout the night and prospects looked bleak when my son Phil and I clambered out of bed at three-thirty in the morning of July 24. Rain still pounded on the roof of our cottage at Moccasin Lodge on the shore of magnificent Lac Court O’Reilles, located about ten miles southeast of Hayward, Wisconsin. Shortly after four o’clock we gathered our tackle, put on raincoats and headed for the dock. It was still raining, but the thunder by now had become only a low rumble in the distance. The wind was blowing from a southerly direction and the surface of the waters was dark and ruffled. To me, it looked like the ideal day for the big Musky to move around. Phil and I got into our boat and started trolling about fifty feet out from shore over a bottom of gravel, sand and rock. It was not the first time we had fished Moccasin Bar. Six weeks earlier we had spotted two unusually large Musky there. We were not the only ones who knew of their existence. In fact,
among the hundreds of letters I have received since landing this new world record fish was one from Harry T. Miszewski of Milwaukee who wrote: “In 1946 I hooked into one of the two big Musky around Moccasin Bar. I lost it after a five-minute battle. Saw his back when he turned and rolled away from the bait and his back alone was four feet long. My brother-in-law had one of them on the week of July 4th this year on Moccasin Bar and after only a minute it snapped a brand new line. Also, a Mrs. Tracy from Georgia lost a big musky there in 1946...” The rain changed to a drizzle by the time we reached the extreme east corner of Moccasin Bar. Phil rowed the boat fairly close to the rushes and weeds as we worked along at medium speed. The lure, a chub-finished Pike-Oreno, wobbled and shimmied about six to eight feet down, over a bottom of anywhere from ten to fifteen feet deep. The waters were still ruffled and the wind was just right. I was using a light South Bender rod, four feet and eleven inches long. My reel was a South Bend Perfectoreno, the line a Gladding Invincible 30-pound test. To this I had attached an eight-inch wire leader with Cooper snap and swivel. It’s a good outfit for musky fishing. By the time the boat had traveled a hundred feet from the edge of the bar, I felt a terrific strike. It seemed for a moment as though I had snagged a sturgeon in the nose, for the fish did not move at first. Then I could tell that tell-tale back and forth movement of the fish’s body, and I realized I had hooked into one of the big Mudky we had been fishing for during the past six weeks. “Son, I’m into one this time!” I yelled to Phil. “Now do just as I tell you and we’ll try to land him somehow.”
Without any instructions, Phil, who is an experienced muskellunge fisherman himself and a licensed guide, rowed slowly into deeper water. It was necessary for me to let out line as the fish refused to follow. Finally the big ‘lunge began to move forward slowly and I could feel his great strength and weight. I realized then that I would have to let this huge fish fight me, rather than attempt to lead him around. So Phil and I decided to “sit it out” for as long as the fish wished to take charge. In handling any unusually large Musky it is wise to let the fish lead the battle. Trying to “horse” him is impossible without breaking the line or rod. But the fish will tire eventually after fighting the resistance of a taut line and a heavy boat. Big fish are not spectacular. They do not leap and swirl like the smaller Musky. My record fish reminded me more of fishing for tuna. Actually, the fight was mostly a grim tug-o-war with a giant that refused to show himself. After permitting the ‘lunge to battle me for a full half hour I decided to try my luck at turning the tide. To determine whether he was ready to take orders, I tried pumping him. To my surprise the fish turned, but still stayed deep. I had to get him off the bottom somehow, so I continued pumping to make him either lead toward the boat or at least come to the surface where we could see him. A few minutes more of this type of handling brought the fish close to the surface. He finally rolled, his belly shining white, within inches of the surface. When we actually saw his size we became a bit jittery and plenty excited. And who wouldn’t? “Pop,” said Phil, in a voice that trembled, “we never can bring him over the side. What’ll we do?”
“We’ll have to beach him,” I replied. “Work your way toward shore, but take it easy. I want this fish and I’m willing to fight him all day if necessary.” The fish rolled and wallowed near the surface, but I had to hold my rod well up to keep him there. He seemed to want to dive deep again, but his fighting powers were waning and I had full control. Would the knot where the line met the leader hold— would the plug pull from his mouth—would my rod snap? The next ten minutes gave my heart the greatest strain it will ever endure. When we had worked the fish within ten or fifteen feet of the beach I directed Phil to leap from the boat and gaff the fish, then haul him to shore, and I didn’t care how far up the beach he pulled him, either. Phil did a swell job. He made his way slowly and carefully toward the big wallowing musky, gaff in hand ready for the final operation. He looked funny in the waters up to his waist, raincoat still on and bulging around him as the air entered underneath. His hat was a mess on his head—wet and out of shape, but still glistening with bass bugs, spinners and flies. I was getting more excited as I realized how many big fish have been lost at this point of the battle. It’s difficult for me to recall exactly what happened next, but there stood Phil on the shore beside the fish, its glistening body looking like something that weighed all of one hundred pounds. I wilted in the boat, and I know that my son, who is 23 years old, was a nervous wreck, for he was pale and trembling. We loaded the fish into the boat, cranked the little two-and-onehalf horsepower outboard, and sped around Moccasin Bar back
toward the Lodge. When we got there and landed our fish, bedlam broke loose. The owners and guests of the lodge came running in their pajamas, like volunteer firemen in a small town. The fish was immediately taken to the Moccasin Lodge garage where it was placed upon their “store size” scales. Seventy-five pounds said the scales—but Mike Solo called, “Don’t get too excited, Johnson. That includes these boards and gunny sack.” I held my breath until the excess luggage was taken off the scale and weighed separately. The final result showed that the fish weighed 67’/2 pounds—a new world record for this species taken on rod and line. From there we took the fish to Karl Kahmann’s taxidermy shop where Karl weighed it again and measured it. He used a steel tape to measure it—and that kind doesn’t stretch or shrink. The scales are to be tested by the state inspector to verify everything so that the fish can be presented for recognition as a new world’s record by the American Museum of Natural History. The correct weight and measurements of the new record muskellunge are 67½ pounds; length, 60¼ inches; girth, 33½ inches. Its stomach was empty. Its body did not have a blemish. It is planned to display this great fish at many sportsmen’s shows during 1950, but its permanent home will be Hayward, Wisconsin, near the waters where it grew to such prodigious size. Editor's Note: The account of the catching of Cal Johnson’s 67½ pound world record Musky is reprinted from the October 1949 issue of Outdoors magazine that was recently discovered by Bernard
Tworek, owner of the Moccasin Bar in Hayward, Wisconsin, the famous Northwood tavern where Johnson’s mounted world record musky has been on public display for more than fifty years. The article was written by Cal Johnson himself right after he had caught his fish and this story gives an exciting, blow by blow account of the catching of his World Record. This story by Cal is a compliment to the account of the catch by Cal’s son Phil which is also available on Musky America. There have been efforts to besmirch Cal's accomplishment, but these efforts have relied upon faulty logic and misapplied technological assessment. There is no doubt that there will be renewed attempts to discredit this catch so that the detractors can find a "back door" way into the record books in pursuit of a "Pay Day Fish" or personal recognition.
If you find yourself in need of “short-term” medical care for cuts, abrasions, hooks in the hand, and other Musky fishing maladies, this is a great option. Visit the website at Birchwood Family Medicine | Birchwood Direct Primary Care.