Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chippewa system giving up world class fish

HAYWARD – The Chippewa River and its namesake flowage are regaining their reputation for record-setting musky.

Two fish pulled from the storied system in 2008 set new fly fishing catch and release musky world records: the 51.25-inch musky Brad Bohen caught and released on a 36-pound tippet on Oct. 16, 2008; the 40-inch musky Bill Flader caught on 14-pound tippet from the river, according to Emmett Brown, executive director of the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum in Hayward.

Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Supervisor Dave Neuswanger reported that a genetics study done in 2006 netted 52 fish greater than 40 inches in length, including very hefty females over 50 inches long. “Those fish have only grown larger in the intervening years,” Neuswanger says. “Musky fishing is improving steadily throughout the Upper Chippewa Basin as our native strain is allowed to reach its inherent potential.”

More than half a century ago, Louis Spray’s capture of a 69-pound, 11-ounce musky from the Chippewa Flowage, followed by three other world record fish from the Hayward area, set off a fishing frenzy that led to the near collapse of the area fishery by the 1970s.

Since then, higher minimum length limits and a strong catch-and-release ethic, particularly among the most skilled musky anglers, have brought the big ones back. An article on these efforts can be found in the December 2002 Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

Neuswanger says that the DNR has no way of knowing the origin of Bohen's fish. It could have grown up in the Chippewa Flowage before migrating through the Winter Dam and into the Chippewa River downstream.

“Some muskellunge live their entire lives in the rivers, while others become large in forage-rich flowages before escaping into the rivers,” he says. “River fishing is often overlooked by musky anglers, and so that's where many of the biggest fish live. It is quite a thrill (and even a little scary) to see a 50-inch muskellunge following your lure in clear water only a foot deep!”

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave Neuswanger (715) 634-9658

Weekly News Article Published: January 20, 2009 by the Central Office

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