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Fishing WisconsinCatching and releasing musky

The decision whether to keep a legal-size muskellunge is up to the angler, but remember that musky fishing has evolved into a sport where success is no longer measured by the number of fish caught and killed. Voluntary catch-and-release along with higher size limits will make the fishery even better, but how much better will depend to a large extent on how well muskies survive after being released. Experience has shown that they do survive well if they are handled carefully. Anyone who releases a musky should give top priority to the fish's well-being.

To help ensure the survival of muskellunge that you release, the following release techniques are recommended:

  • Prepare beforehand by carrying a long-nose pliers or hook remover, and a wire cutter or small bolt cutter capable of cutting your heaviest hooks.
  • Don't play the fish to complete exhaustion.
  • If at all possible, KEEP THE FISH IN THE WATER! You can measure it and remove the hooks while it is held horizontally in the water. The fish will usually remain much calmer than if it is bought into the boat. You can measure it by laying a ruler alongside it in the water, or with markings on the outside of your boat.
  • If hook removal might injure the fish, cut the hook with a small bolt cutter. The imbedded portion can then be more easily removed with a pair of long-nosed pliers.
  • If you want to take a picture, do it quickly, and DO NOT hold the fish vertically by the gill covers. A fish's body is designed for life in a weightless environment. Always support its weight horizontally to avoid possible injury to the spine and the tissues around the head.
  • When the fish is ready for release, hold it upright in the water and allow it to regain its strength.

Anyone who has ever released a musky knows the thrill and sense of pride that comes from watching it swim away to grow larger and fight another day.

Good Luck!

For more information, please contact:

Tim Simonson, Fisheries biologist
(608) 267-7498

Last revised: Monday April 06 2015