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Fisheries Management

Fishing WisconsinClassification of musky waters

Wisconsin muskellunge waters have been classified by two separate criteria:

  • A rating of the overall angling quality, based on surveys and the observations made by fisheries biologists.
  • The status of natural reproduction of muskellunge in the waters.

Angling quality

Angling quality can be looked at in various ways by different anglers. In some situations an angler might consider a lake with an abundance of muskellunge a Class "A" water, whereas another might view a water with fewer muskellunge, but a larger size structure a Class "A" fishery. Because of this, Class A muskellunge waters have been separated into two types to help describe a specific water further. Anglers should keep in mind that this general classification is provided to assist them with selection of waters and may be subject to change as natural conditions are altered or management objectives are modified. For more detailed information on a specific water, a local fisheries biologist should be contacted.

Classifications for angling quality are based on the following criteria:

  • Class A - These are premiere muskellunge waters, considered by most to provide the best muskellunge fishing. These waters are broken down into two categories, depending on population numbers, size structure, and angling quality of the water.
    • Class A1 - These waters are best known as "trophy waters" for their ability to produce large muskellunge, but overall numbers of muskellunge may be relatively low. Angling action can be inconsistent in these waters, but fish that are caught have a larger average size. At certain times when conditions are right, however, these waters can also provide good action.
    • Class A2 - These waters are best known for providing the most consistent angling action, and they have potential to produce some big fish as well. They generally have the best overall numbers of muskellunge, but big fish make up a smaller percent of the total compared to the Class A1 waters.
  • Class B - This intermediate class consists of waters providing good fishing. In general, angler success and catch rates may be less than in prime waters.
  • Class C - These waters have fishable muskellunge populations, but they are not of major importance in the total fishery.

Reproductive category

Note: not all waters containing musky are classified "musky waters."

Natural reproduction in muskellunge waters is categorized based on the level of natural production of muskellunge and the extent to which muskellunge waters are stocked. This category is important to the fishery biologist when considering management options for waters in their area. Obviously, having all waters self-sustaining by natural reproduction would be an ideal situation, yet stocking is often required to either supplement natural populations or to sustain a fishery. Categories for natural reproduction are based on the following criteria:

  • Category 1 - The population is self-sustaining through natural reproduction. No stocking occurs.
  • Category 2 - The population has some natural reproduction, however some stocking occurs to supplement natural recruitment.
  • Category 3 - The population has no known natural reproduction of muskellunge. Stocking of muskellunge is required for maintenance of a population.
  • Category 4 - The population has no known natural reproduction of muskellunge. Stocking of Hybrid muskellunge occurs. A hybrid muskellunge is a cross between a muskellunge and a northern pike, often called a "tiger musky."
  • Category 0 - Reproductive status is unknown, stocking generally occurs.

Roughly half of the 711 musky waters in Wisconsin are Class A waters, while the remaining half are split almost equally between Class B and C waters. About Seventy-seven percent of the musky waters in Wisconsin are sustained through natural reproduction. Some stocking is carried out in about 180 of Wisconsin's musky waters.

For more information, please contact:

Tim Simonson, Fisheries biologist
(608) 267-7498

Last revised: Monday April 06 2015