Contact(s): Tim Simonson, DNR fisheries biologist and musky management team leader, 608-266-5222, Timothy.Simonson@wisconsin.gov; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084, Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov
November 19, 2015
MADISON -- While hundreds of thousands of hunters will take to the woods during the nine day gun deer season, a smaller but equally avid group of outdoor enthusiasts will be out on Wisconsin waters in search of trophy musky during the next few weeks.
Over the years, late fall has become the time when the most serious musky anglers pursue their quarry. The inland musky season closes Nov. 30 north of U.S. Highway 10 including the northern tributaries to Lake Michigan; it closes Dec. 31 to the south of U.S. Highway 10 including the southern tributaries to Lake Michigan.
"Late fall is a great time to fish for musky because the fish feed aggressively before the coldest weather moves in," said Tim Simonson, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist and muskellunge management team leader. "The thrill of having one of these fish on the line is more than enough to drive away the chills, and this is when you are most likely to catch that trophy fish."
Simonson said data collected by statewide musky groups corresponds with the observations of fisheries managers and indicates that the average length of fish caught is largest from late October through December. In Wisconsin, some musky are living more than 20 years, and this longevity combined with a healthy population of prey species in many lakes contributes to the potential for large fish.
Trophy or not, many musky anglers practice catch and release fishing to give others a chance to experience the excitement of hooking these long-lived fish.
In late fall, the choice of bait typically ranges from bucktails and jerkbaits to live suckers and many anglers contend "the bigger the better," Simonson said. Anglers using live bait 8 inches or longer must use a quick-strike rig with one or more treble hooks attached to the body of the baitfish to prevent the musky from swallowing it completely; special non-offset circle hooks also may be used.
"The quick-strike rigs can really reduce mortality and work well for anglers using large suckers," Simonson said. With live bait, Simonson suggests using heavy tackle (at least 100-pound test line with heavy wire leaders) to avoid breaking the line and leaving a sucker hooked in the mouth of a large musky. It's also very important to set the hook immediately when that big musky strikes, to avoid causing lasting injury to the fish. Musky anglers are reminded to properly dispose of unused bait and not release bait in Wisconsin waters.
Wisconsin's top destinations for late fall musky fishing include lakes in Vilas and Oneida counties; the greater Hayward area in Sawyer County; the Mercer area in Iron County; and the Spooner area in Washburn County. In the southern part of the state, Lake Monona and Pewaukee Lake often produce large fish thanks to stocking and management efforts by local clubs in partnership with DNR.
To learn more, visit DNR.wi.gov and search "musky." More information about musky seasons and bag limits can be found by searching "fishing regulations" or the "Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations 2015-2016."