Anglers will find ice off, spawn in progress, more big fish
MINOCQUA - The northern zone musky season opens May 24 with water temperatures warming up quickly and anglers likely to reap the benefit of more than 20 years of improvement in musky sizes and numbers.
"We had a late ice out but it's warming up quickly," says Steve Avelallemant, longtime DNR northern district fisheries supervisor. "I think it will be a pretty normal opening. Spawning will be a little bit behind but not weeks behind."
Avelallemant expects the musky action to be good for anglers, and chances are getting better that anglers will find themselves fighting and boating bigger fish.
"We've looked at a variety of measures and we've definitely seen an increase in the last 20 years in the number of muskies 45 inches and larger," says Tim Simonson, a DNR fish biologist who chairs DNR's musky committee.
The number of 45-plus inch fish registered by Muskies, Inc., members, and the size of the largest fish caught by participants in the National Championship Musky Open in Eagle River in August and during the Vilas County Musky Marathon, a season-long competition, have all been increasing over the past 20 years, Simonson says.
"Things are definitely getting better," he says. "Most of it is due to the voluntary release of fish by avid musky anglers in combination with more restrictive regulations through time." Background on this trend is detailed in "Long live the kings," a Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine article.
A 40-inch size limit in effect statewide since 2013 is expected to help increase the number of larger fish even more, Simonson says. "We know from our evaluations that it takes at least 10 years to see any population level effects, but based on what we've seen on waters that have had the 40-inch limit, we can expect to see continued improvement in size structure."
The 40-inch limit applies to 94 percent of musky waters in Wisconsin. There are 41 waters that continue to have either lower size limits or higher size limits. Starting this year, waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan north of Highway 10 carry a 54-inch minimum size limit. The bag limit is 1.
Musky forecasts in Wisconsin for 2014
Fish biologists from across the state filed musky forecasts for some of their more popular waters where recent surveys revealed fish size and abundance information. Those forecasts are found in the 2014 Wisconsin Fishing Report musky forecasts.
Musky Fast Facts
- Wisconsin lawmakers named the muskellunge the official state fish in 1955.
- More world records have been landed in Wisconsin than anywhere else. The state and world record is a 69 pound, 11 ounce fish taken from the Chippewa Flowage. Also credited to Wisconsin is the world record hybrid musky, 51 pounds, 3 ounces from Lac Vieux Desert.
- Fishable populations of musky are found in 667 lakes and 100 rivers in 48 counties. The heaviest concentration of lakes with musky is found in the head water regions of the Chippewa, Flambeau, and Wisconsin rivers.
- Musky densities are very low, even in the best waters, because muskies are large top predators that tend to choose vulnerable spawning sites. Good musky waters average one adult fish for 3 surface acres, compared to up to 12 to 15 adults per 3 surface acres in good walleye lakes.
- Musky fishing continues to grow in popularity. The number of participants has more than quadrupled over the last 50 years. An estimated 456,000 anglers pursued muskellunge in Wisconsin in 2001, the latest year for which survey results are available.
- Catch-and-release, protective regulations and DNR's stocking program have helped turn the famed fighter from the "fish of 10,000 casts" into the fish of "3,000 casts" in Wisconsin. It used to take two guys in a boat 25 hours to catch a fish. Now it is closer to 12 hours and 3,000 casts each.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Avelallemant 715-365-8987; Tim Simonson, 608-266-5222 or local fish biologists