NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 4,316 days

See This Full Issue

All Previous Archived Issues


October 19, 2010

MADISON - You heard it here. Musky are going to hit hard this fall in Wisconsin.

"They're going to have to -- they haven't eaten much all summer," says Tim Simonson, co-chair of the state's musky committee and an avid musky angler.

Green Bay musky
Having a large enough landing net makes it easier on the fish and the angler when successfully landing and releasing a monster Green Bay musky this fall.
J. Aschenbrenner Photo

"The recent history is a trend toward a growing number of big fish caught late in the year. So far this year, the musky fishing's been down. The hot summer it made it kind of miserable to fish. And water temperatures were probably above the optimum for musky feeding.

"I think those fish are going to hit hard late in the season. I still expect we'll see one of the top three years ever for big fish," Simonson said.

Last year, Muskies Inc. members reported catching more than 100 muskies 48 inches or greater in Wisconsin. That number has grown steadily since the 1970s, and leaped forward in recent years.

Simonson credits the Green Bay musky fishery, re-established through a generation of stocking and other management efforts by DNR and partners, with helping boost the numbers.

"People started discovering those fish in about 2006 and it's ballooned into a real popular destination for big fish, particularly in the fall," he says.

The contribution of big fish from Lakes Michigan and Superior to the Muskies Inc. registry has increased from 2 percent in 2004 to 24 percent in 2009.

Simsonson says there's a perception that fall is a good time to catch fish. Analysis of creel surveys and other records haven't been able to establish that definitively, but there's enough anecdotal information to show that some of the biggest fish are caught late in the season, he says.

His advice to anglers is to head to big water if it's big fish they're after. Ultimate fish size is related to lake size.

His short list of places to try: Green Bay, the Chippewa Flowage, the Madison lakes, the Turtle Flambeau Flowage, the St. Louis River, Lake Wissota, Holcombe Flowage, Pewaukee Lake and the Petenwell Flowage.

Chippewa River musky
Brad Bohen landed this 46-inch musky from the Chippewa River in Rusk County on Sept. 12, 2010, and a new world record for the Unlimited Class tippet category in the Catch & Release Fly Rod Division.

He also reminds anglers that the musky season will be open a month longer south of U.S. Highway 10. This is the second year since the southern zone musky season was extended to December 31. The northern zone musky season closes November 30.

Musky notes

Simonson reminds anglers to take a few simple steps to keep the musky fishery strong, particularly for those anglers planning to use live suckers as bait.

  • Use a quick set rig instead of a single hook rig. Studies, including one in Wisconsin,have shown delayed mortality of 80 percent or greater when musky are allowed to swallow single hook bait before the angler sets the hook.
  • Follow rules to prevent the spread of VHS, a deadly fish disease. You can use suckers or other minnows left over at the end of the day on the same water or on another water if you did not add any lake or river water or fish to their container. You may carry the suckers away in up to 2 gallons of water.
  • For any harvest of fish, remember to follow the fish consumption advisory to reduce exposure to environmental contaminants in the fish. Women of childbearing age, nursing mothers, and all children should not eat muskies from any Wisconsin waters. Men and older women may eat one meal per month of muskies.
  • More musky notes

    The 2010 Muskellunge Management Update (pdf) is available online and has carries the latest news in musky management in Wisconsin, including information on proposals approved by DNR's fisheries management board to go to the state Natural Resources Board in December for their consideration to included in the 2011 spring fish and wildlife hearings as statewide fisheries questions. One proposal calls for increasing the minimum length for musky to 40 inches statewide from the current 34 inches; another calls for requiring quick strike rigs to decrease hooking mortality.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tim Simonson (608) 266-5222

    48-inch-plus musky have been increasing every year.
    48-inch-plus musky have been increasing every year.

    Musky conditions look good around the state

    Populations of Wisconsin's official state fish are looking good this fall, based on condition reports and forecasts filed by fish biologists and technicians in the last few weeks, and also from the population information some of them submitted in May 2010.

    Outlying waters of Green Bay and the Lower Fox River - Green Bay has been one of the top big fish musky destinations for the past three years and this trend will continue this fall, thanks to a 50 inch size limit, catch and release ethic, and loads of forage. While the muskies don't go on summer vacation, their eating and movement patterns make them prime targets in the fall. In the lower bay the muskies seem to concentrate with the schools of gizzard shad moving into the mouth of the Fox River. Here trolling medium to smaller baits produces, and trolling speeds may be the most important factor. Anglers are also learning that these 'skis aren't the only game in town and are beginning to fish more traditionally by spreading out and casting weed lines with big jerk baits, glide baits and bulldawgs in the Oconto, Peshtigo, and Sturgeon Bay areas. Once the water temps drops below 50 degrees, fishing baits that imitate the abundant whitefish can improve your odds of a big fish. Spring netting this year by DNR crews turned up a dozen fish over 50 inches and one monster that was 54 inches! Anglers should be prepared with a large enough landing net so they can leave the fish in the water while unhooking, hold the fish horizontally for one or two pictures, and report any tagged fish so DNR biologists can better understand the growth and movement of these very exciting fish! - David Rowe Fisheries Biologist Green Bay

    Adams and Juneau counties - The muskellunge population on Petenwell is growing in strength as observed from our spring 2010 fyke netting survey. Both the number of fish available and the size of the fish has increased. The population has gotten a recent boost with two stocking events one from the State and one from the Petenwell Musky Challenge. A third stocking event is yet to take place this fall sponsored by Consolidated Musky Club Inc and Wood County. Fishing this fall could be a challenge as many large woody structures were displaced and moved with the recent high water events and flooding.- Justine Hasz, fisheries biologist, Wisconsin Rapids

    Barron and Polk counties - Polk County is known for its excellent muskellunge waters. Popular lakes such as Deer, Bone, Wapogassett, Cedar and the Apple River Flowage provide excellent musky fisheries with many musky in the mid 40 inch range and on occasion some bigger. Catch rates are usually very good on Polk County Lakes due to an consistent stocking program from DNR hatcheries and a strong catch and release ethic from hook and line anglers. Rice Lake in Barron County offers the area's best chance for a 50-inch fish. Muskellunge densities and catch rates are low but some very large fish are present. Those anglers who put their time could be rewarded with a personal best muskellunge. Some other lesser know waters such as Sand Lake and Big Moon Lakes in Barron County and Big Blake Lake and the Black Brook Flowage in Polk County can also produce a quality fish from time to time and should also not be overlooked. - Heath Benike, fisheries biologist, Barron

    Chequamegon National Forest in Price, Sawyer, Ashland counties - Abundance is still high on many small waters in the Chequamegon National Forest and anglers just looking for action should try Day Lake Flowage, Spider-Moquah Lakes, English Lake, Mineral Lake and Potter Lake in Ashland County; and Ghost Lake, Lower Clam Lake, and Black Lake in Sawyer County. On these smaller lakes with a high abundance of musky, the key is to downsize your baits. Large forage is generally scarce in these lakes and the musky are used to chasing smaller baitfish - so anglers should adjust accordingly. Other waters with good abundances of musky include Butternut Lake, the Phillips Chain, Solberg Lake, and the Pike/Round Chain in Price County. - Skip Sommerfeldt, fisheries biologist, Park Falls

    Florence and Forest counties - Fall is a great time to fish for trophy muskies in Northern Wisconsin! During the summer months in many lakes, the largest fish will often suspend themselves in deep water searching for their optimal temperature range and preferred cold water prey items. As the water temperatures drop during the fall some of these larger fish will relocate themselves along traditional fishing spots (weed lines and drop-offs) making them much more vulnerable to anglers. Cooling water temperatures also trigger these large fish to feed more consistently throughout the day, offering better daylight fishing then during the summer months. This time of year muskies prefer larger prey items so upsizing your bait is normally a good idea. The bait of choice for most anglers during the fall is a live sucker ranging in size from 12 to 18 inches. Today there are a number of different sucker harnesses available that afford you the opportunity to catch your fish without it swallowing your bait and hooks. I strongly urge fishermen that plan on releasing their catch to consider using one of these "quick set" rigs when using live bait for muskies. Weather conditions can be challenging this time of year, but for many anglers their efforts has been rewarded with many of each years largest muskies being caught between October and November 30th. So get out on the water, that's where I'll be! - Greg Matzke, fisheries biologist, Florence

    Iron County - The Turtle-Flambeau Flowage musky population has improved over the past 12 years. Surveys show that musky abundance is similar from 1997 to 2009 but the size structure has dramatically improved. In 1997, 17 percent of the fish sampled were 40 inches and longer while no fish were captured exceeding 45 inches. In spring 2009, 31 percent of the fish sampled were 40 inches or longer while eight percent exceeded 45 inches. There was no evidence of natural musky reproduction and the population and fishery remains dependant on stocking. - Jeff Roth, fisheries biologist, retired.

    Lincoln County - A comprehensive survey on Lake Mohawksin, a 1,910-acre impoundment on the Wisconsin River in Tomahawk, found strong, self-sustaining populations of walleye, musky, northern pike, smallmouth bass and panfish. There is a strong musky population with good numbers of fish up to 45 inches long. - Dave Seibel, fisheries biologist, Antigo

    Marinette and Oconto counties - In Marinette County, Caldron Falls has been stocked by the DNR for more than 20 years and it supports a very good fishery. Those fish have expanded into the next flowage known as High Falls. Both impoundments produce several legal-size musky each year. White Potato is also a stocked fishery but it is located in central Oconto County. White Potato is a large shallow water lake that also supports a good musky fishery. DNR recently assessed Brule Flowage in Florence County and that information confirms a decent musky fishery exists in that flowage located just north of Florence. - Mike Donofrio, fisheries supervisor, Peshtigo

    Marathon and Portage counties - The musky stocking program for the flowages on the Wisconsin River between Stevens Point and Wausau has been very successful and the local fishing has benefited. The stocking program continues to get better with the assistance of local musky clubs, and the DNR is taking a more active role in management by marking every stocked musky with an elastomer jaw tag, used for evaluating natural reproduction. These tags are invisible to anglers, however a large number of adult muskies are now marked with orange internal anchor tags, placed between their pectoral and pelvic fins (belly). Anglers should report these tag numbers along with length and waterbody by calling the telephone number listed on the tag, as this is valuable recapture information for biologists. - Tom Meronek, fisheries biologist, Wausau

    Oneida County - A muskellunge survey on Tomahawk Lake estimated a low-density population of about one fish for every 18 acres of water. The Minocqua Chain was last stocked in 2001, but was put back on quotas due to low numbers of fish from the non-stocked years. Big-fish potential was excellent, with 57 percent of the fish larger than 40 inches and 15 percent over 45 inches. Just a few fish ranging 31 to 49.2 inches were handled in a netting survey on Stella Lake, where stocking also will be resumed. George Lake showed good numbers of small fish, but about 20 percent were over 40 inches. Crescent Lake had a lower catch than George, with 18 percent over 40 inches. A reminder that dragging a sucker while under power with an electric motor is trolling and is prohibited in lakes where motor trolling is not authorized. Wardens have received complaints and written citations this fall for anglers trolling with suckers.- John Kubisiak, fisheries biologist, Rhinelander

    Price County - Fall 2008 and spring 2009 surveys of Butternut Lake allowed sportfish population comparisons to goals outlined in the 2005 Butternut Lake Fishery Management Plan. Capture rates for musky ranked in the 81st percentile among spring netting surveys on similar "fast-action" musky waters, suggesting that musky density remains above the goal of 0.2 - 0.3 adults per acre. Anglers are encouraged to selectively harvest a musky 34 to 40 inches long once in a while to help attain goals for musky, perch and walleye. - Jeff Scheirer, fisheries biologist, Park Falls

    Shawano County - Musky have continued to provide a great fishery on Shawano Lake, with several 45- to 50-inch musky captured/observed during our fall assessments. - Al Niebur, fisheries biologist, Shawano

    Taylor County - Anglers of all skill levels can pick from a variety of fishing opportunities that Spirit and North Lakes offer. Novice and avid musky anglers should enjoy fast-action with a decent chance to land one of memorable size. Netting in spring 2009 yielded 31 musky ranging 29.5 to 42.5 inches. Musky abundance and size structure were better in North Spirit Lake where 42 percent were 38 inches or longer. - Jeff Scheirer, fisheries biologist, Park Falls

    Washburn County - Muskie will be putting on the feed bag on the Namekagon and St Croix rivers. Not trophy waters, but good numbers of fish into the low 40-inch class. The Namekagon is canoe or drift boat water but small motor boats can manage on the St Croix. Fly fishing can be quite an effective method. Expect great fall scenery and very little human activity. - Larry Damman, fisheries biologist, Spooner .

    Waukesha County - Okauchee Lake has incredible growth rates with an astounding 42-inch average length reported by 2009 tournament anglers. The county's largest lake, Pewaukee Lake, has big muskies and lots of them. The Department of Natural Resources continues to stock up to 2,500 10-inch fall fingerlings annually on this lake and an October 2009 fishing tournament recorded a phenomenal catch rate of 27 musky in eight hours ranging from 34 to 46 inches long.- Benjamin Heussner, fisheries biologist, Waukesha

    Last Revised: Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    Need an expert?

    The Office of Communications connects journalists with DNR experts on a wide range of topics. For the fastest response, please email and the first available Communications Specialist will respond to you.