Musky America Magazine November Edition

Musky America Magazine November 2022 Edition Thank you for visiting Musky America Magazine! With the ice the 2022 Musky season will be over. Soon, the offseason Musky shows will be the only relief from “Cabin Fever”. Did you have a 2022 Musky adventure? Share that adventure and write an article! Each day of the Musky season, anglers experience encounters on the water that can provide insights for all of us Musky anglers. We are offering $10.00 for your article. For information about submitting articles for inclusion in Musky America Magazine, please CLICK HERE! Craig Sandell Owner and Fellow Musky Angler The Icons shown here are at the bottom of the Magazine pages. *All Rights Preserved©*

If you find yourself in need of “short-term” medical care for cuts, abrasions, hooks in the hand, and other Musky fishing maladies, this is a great option. Visit the website at Birchwood Family Medicine | Birchwood Direct Primary Care. Rods & Reels & Other Stuff Craig Sandell © 2016 I have gotten some Email concerning the storage of Muskie equipment during the cold off season period. I have done a little research and offer the following for your consideration: RODS Technically speaking, the fiber glass and composite graphite material used for Muskie rods should not be affected by the cold. Having said that, however, you must consider that any material that is subjected to extremes in temperature is likely to be effected in some way. Consider also, that many Muskie anglers have rods with cork butts. Cork is likely to retain some moisture. When moisture is frozen, it tends to expand causing some displacement to adjacent areas. This can translate into shorter life for the butt material of your rod.

I would recommend that you store your rods in an area where the temperature does not get below freezing. The basement, the den, a hall closet; all of these would be a good choice. REELS Throughout the season, your reels are constantly subjected to moisture. Regardless of what you do, some moisture will remain in your reels. In addition, the grease used as lubricant in your reels will, under extremely cold temperatures, freeze. When the grease thaws, it will become brittle because the moisture in the grease will have separated. Your reel lubrication will no longer be effective. As with the Rods, store your reels somewhere in the home where the temperature will remain above freezing. LURES Lures, especially wooden lures, will be damaged by extremely cold temperatures. Keep your lures in the house where they are warm. You have invested a lot of money in those lures and you need to treat them accordingly. ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT Prolonged storage of electrical equipment such as, depth finders, flashers, GPS systems, etc. in temperatures under freezing may cause the seals in the LCD compartments to rupture. In all cases, follow the manufacturer's instructions for storage. If you are unsure, keep them in the house where it is warm. A PARTING WORD All Muskie equipment was designed to be most effective in the warmer periods of the year. Don't put your equipment anywhere

where you would not want to spend the winter. There is nothing more disappointing than the discovery that your equipment is no longer up to the rigors of Muskie fishing.

Musky Tackle Boxes - Does One Size Fit All? By Craig Sandell © 2010 Probably the single most troubling aspect of Musky fishing is the storage of and access to our arsenal of lures. Musky lures tend to be larger and come with a compliment of hooks that can result in a “Gordian Knot” of inter-connected lures. Adding to the problem is the fact that Musky lures come in 4 basic categories; surface baits, crank baits, bucktails and jerk baits. Finding a way to have a selection of lures readily available in a boat with limited storage space becomes a constant exercise in efficient space utilization. Since the new Musky season is upon us, I thought that it might be helpful to take a look at some of the tackle box options available to today’s Musky angler.

Plano Flambeau Special Mate The Plano 7915 specialty tackle box is a sturdy tackle box for large Musky lures and is made of rugged, heavy-duty plastic. It provides convenient storage for baits that are too big for a standard tackle box. It holds up to forty (40) 12" long baits in two compartments and it measures 21½" (L) x 12½" (W) x 13" (H), The box price is around $80.00. The Flambeau Maximizer is made of heavy-duty plastic. This box provides convenient storage for those large baits that won't fit in a standard tackle box. It holds up to fifty (50) 12" long baits in two compartments and it measures 27½" (L) x 14" (W) x 14½" (H). The box price is around $80.00. The Special Mate 1345c is the largest of the Special Mate boxes. It is made of high impact plastic and contains 9 ribbed dividers to keep lures and hooks separated, with 5 compartments in each divider. It will hold 45 large crank baits, jerk baits, or similar large lures up to 12” in length and it measures 22" (L) x 11" (W) x 13" (H). The box price is around $81.00.

The boxes are all somewhat similar, however, in today's economic reality, the Special Mate box is almost half the price of the Plano and Flambeau boxes...a very attractive feature. The floating ribbed inserts make it easy to flip through a tackle collection. Also, if you are dead set on spending around $80.00 for your tackle storage, Special Mate has another box you can get for around $42.00, in addition to the 1345c, that is specifically configured for bucktails, spinners and spoons. The 8225s Special Mate box contains 15 dividers, with 15 groves in the top of each divider. It will hold 225 spinner baits, spoons, or similar lures up to 8” in length. The box measures 22” long, 11” wide, 9” high From my perspective, the combination of flexibility, functionality and price make the Special Mate tackle boxes the right choice for the Musky angler starting out or the Musky angler looking for a better way to manage a lure collection. Take a look at the complete line of Special Mate tackle box options by going to Good Fishing

When You Remove The Hype… All That’s Left Is The Truth. Craig Sandell © 2015 Recently, there has been a lot of hype surrounding Muskie angling and it bears recognizing that Musky Hunter Magazine (MHM) has only contributed to the problem by refusing to speak out against the issues and practices that threaten the health of our Musky fisheries, like Winter Spearing, as well as the Musky politics that diminish the credibility of our sport. This is not a surprise. An insight into the mindset of MHM is evidenced by its self serving content. For those of you who don't remember, the anniversary issue of MHM contained a series of self serving editorials that appear to put forward the proposition that if it weren't for MHM, there wouldn't be an organized sport of Muskie fishing. Yes, it is true that since its first issue in 1989 (under different management than that currently), the magazine has contributed to the existing Muskellunge information base by repackaging existing information in an organized format. However, the magazine of today is not on a par with the magazine as it used to be and it certainly is not nor was not the only wellspring of information for the Muskie angler. Unlike the quality issues of the past, today the reader of MHM is assaulted with relentless advertising as he seeks to gain a little Musky knowledge. Today, the reader is subjected to skewed and

self serving editorial proclamations regarding the magazine's contribution to the sport of Musky angling in an obvious attempt to justify its ever increasing subscription price to the Musky angling population at large while the content of useable information continues to shrink. To read the MHM editorials, one might think that before 1989 there was no organized sport of Musky angling and that the people who did fish for Musky were merely stupid clods without a clue as to technique or tactic. MHM attempts to characterize itself as the messiah of Musky angling but the facts just don't support that. Sadly, it (MHM) gives little recognition to the one organization that is probably the most responsible for the organized activity of Musky angling, Muskies, Inc. They seem to have conveniently overlooked the fact that Muskies, Inc. (Established in 1966, 23 years before the first issue of MHM) and its chapters are responsible for over a Million Dollars in fishery stocking activities that directly enhance our sport and the quality of our fisheries. Another fact conveniently overlooked by MHM is that in 1977 (12 year before MHM) Muskies, Inc. chapters established the first Musky tournament challenges bringing the sport of Musky angling of age as Muskies, Inc. became an International organization. Without the efforts of Muskies, Inc., there would likely never have been the support base to justify a "For Profit" publication like MHM. Now don’t get me wrong, profit is not a dirty word. In order to be in business, any business must make more than it spends. As Musky anglers, we must not lose site of the reality that any publication depends upon a return on its investment in order to stay in business. One would hope, however, that that

pursuit would not give rise to a level of advertising that over shadows and distorts the information content. MHM is not the "lightening Rod" that furthered the use of the figure eight, night fishing, twitch bait fishing, longer rods, better tackle, surface baits or bucktails as MHM's self-serving editorials have suggested. These approaches to Musky angling were developed by innovative Musky anglers long before MHM was in print. It is also ludicrous to suggest that MHM is the only printed publication where Musky anglers have been able to discover Musky fishing information. "In Fisherman", the first issues of which were free from advertising, provided an extended forum for Musky angling techniques as well as other aspects of fishing. What about "Fishing Facts", "Outdoor Life" and the countless other periodicals that have graced the eyes of many a Musky angling enthusiast? Certainly, the Muskies, Inc. Magazine has, since its first issue in 1979 (10 years before MHM), contributed a wealth of knowledge to the Musky information base, a fact persistently overlooked by MHM. When it comes right down to it, there is very little in the sport of Musky angling that hasn’t already been said when it pertains to tactics and lure presentation. As a dispenser of Musky information, myself, I recognize that I stand on the shoulders of the experiences of the average Musky angler, both past and present. I take his stories, anecdotes, and those factual experiences and package them with my own knowledge in such a way as to provide an ordered and entertaining envelop for the interested reader. It is unfortunate that MHM has apparently abandoned its roots for shirts with

promotional patches and perks from manufacturers looking for that advertising edge. It all comes down to this...When you visit the on-line pages of Musky America, it costs you nothing to peruse a broad base of Musky angling information. When you join Muskies, Inc. you receive the club magazine as recognition for your commitment to the collective health of our Musky fisheries. When you buy or subscribe to MHM in its current format, you are paying for slick advertising that is interspersed with increasing smaller amounts of useful information. Tight Lines

Catch And Release - Time For Some Straight Talk by Craig Sandell © 2013 This article is going to make a lot of people angry but it's time for some straight talk about catch and release and the negative effect that it is having on the Musky fisheries in Wisconsin. As most of you know who follow the Musky issues in Wisconsin, there is a philosophy being put forward by the Wisconsin DNR to have a universal size limit of 50 inches for musky on all Wisconsin Musky lakes. That is just plain stupid…actually a 50 inch size limit is stupid. You would think that people educated in fishery biology would have a better grasp of what it takes to have a healthy and productive Musky fishery. The short sighted fishery policy being put forward by Wisconsin fishery management people seems to support a belief that "age and education are no guarantee of competency or intelligence". Every Musky lake in Wisconsin has a limited forage base that can only support a limited number of Musky...That is what is commonly called "Carrying Capacity". The application of what amounts to a 100% release policy has resulted in the population

of Musky being unchecked and thereby overloading the carry capacity of many of the Northern Wisconsin Musky fisheries. It doesn't take a degree in biology, just a little common sense, to recognize that too many Musky chasing too little forage will result in Musky that will never reach their growth potential. If you truly value our Musky fisheries, get your head out of your butt and deal with that reality. Certainly, there was a time back in 1969 when our musky fisheries were in need of drastic measures to save them from complete collapse. With the establishment of Muskies Inc., a voice for the policy of catch and release became a reality. In today's reality however, blind allegiance to catch and release has become the mantra of the fanatic. Catch and release now has the potential to destroy our fisheries for Musky and Walleye and Bass as well. High Size Limits Do Not A Trophy Musky Fishery Make!!! There is a dramatic decline in the forage base across Northern Wisconsin Musky fisheries. Another article on the effect of unchecked Musky populations on the forage base is available; CLICK HERE The Wisconsin DNR has not done a forage base assessment based upon boom shocking on these lakes for years. The guides who service these lakes are seeing Musky lakes, once considered a trophy lake, degrade to action lakes. The populations of perch, cisco and other forage fish on these lakes are no longer abundant enough to feed the predator species. Musky have to eat so if forage is not available they will turn to Walleye and Bass to fill their belly.

The Wisconsin DNR, which is charged with stewardship of Wisconsin’s fisheries, continues to ignore its responsibility to inject informed fact into the discussions that happen at the Conservation Congresses that happen each year. The panel of DNR representatives at these Congresses sits quietly in front of each gathering offering no counterpoint to an audience stacked with folks who have been duped into believing that larger size limits are the only approach to creating trophy fisheries. Then the DNR pronounces that "the will of the people" has dictated the need for higher Musky size limits while offering no informed biological assessment of the impact of such size limits upon the long term health of the fishery.

It's not like the DNR doesn't appreciate the importance of the forage base to a healthy Musky fishery. In a recent article from the WDNR penned by Tim Simonson, he included a chart of the belly contents from kept and mounted Musky. The chart he included is from 1994. The chart shows the importance of the forage base to a healthy Musky fishery. Unfortunately, due to the higher size limits resulting in 100% release of Musky, there is no current information on what Musky are eating but it is unlikely that dietary preferences have changed very much. So, if the forage base is this important to the health of a Musky fishery, why isn't the WDNR doing forage base assessments on Wisconsin Musky fisheries on a regular basis? The WDNR will most likely try to blame a shrinking budget but that is just another copout to avoid the development of good science. They seem to have the money to pay for useless creel surveys and uncertified Musky telephone surveys. As an example, lets look at Northeastern Wisconsin. As you can see from the illustration at the left, this area has a good population of water that is considered to be Musky fisheries. Many of these lakes were once considered "big fish" waters; among them Star Lake and Preque Isle Lake. They had that reputation because there was a robust forage base supporting a

nominal Musky population. Today, that is not the case. The higher Musky size limits and stocking practices have resulted in extreme pressure being placed upon the forage base. The result, according to local guides who have been fishing these waters for years, is that there are too many Musky chasing too little food. These lakes are now considered action lakes rather than trophy lakes. That was not the published goal of the WDNR when they increased the size limit on these lakes. The published WDNR goal was to enhance the trophy potential of these lakes through higher size limits. Of course, the WDNR station at Boulder Junction has no perspective or comment on the decline of these lakes. The reason for this lack of WDNR knowledge is the direct result of two major factors: 1.) The absence of a Musky population assessment prior to the imposition of higher Musky size limits and 2.) The disregard for the effect that higher Musky size limits would have on the forage base. So what is it that I am suggesting to address the emerging decline of Wisconsin's Musky fisheries? Well, I am NOT suggesting that the WDNR needs to change...that is a lost cause. The WDNR has evolved into to a self serving, self-propagating bureaucratic wasteland. • If Wisconsin's Musky fisheries are to be prevented from further decline and eventual collapse, the change has to come at our insistence.

• We need to insist that the WDNR start a regular program of forage base assessments and, where indicated, start restocking the forage base to balance the fisheries rather than to continue the stocking of Muskies. • We need to petition for the reduction of the size limits for Musky down to 44 inches so that pressure on the forage base can be reduced. • We need to discourage the policy of blind fanaticism promoted by Muskies, Inc. to catch and release and encourage a sensible holistic approach to enhancing our Musky fisheries. I am sure that there will be resistance to common sense taking the control of Wisconsin's Musky fishery policy away from commercial publications like Musky Hunter Magazine whose focus is on making a buck rather than the long term health of our fisheries...After all, common sense is not necessarily a productive marketing approach. That is the other element to the problem that needs to be addressed. We have got to stop letting a small group of money motivated self-involved cult enthusiast assert control over long term Musky fishery policies.

A Successful Technique For... Catching Those Uncatchable Musky By: Richard Quade © 1998 How many times have you been on the water chasing the elusive Musky only to draw follows and no strikes? If you’re like me, you enjoy follows as they get your heart pumping and your concentration rising, but they are inherently disappointing. They don’t result in a landed fish. The lake that I most often fish seems to draw a follow rate of about 4-5 followers for every hooked fish. A technique I like to call "suckering" the Musky can greatly improve your hookup to follow ratio, if you don’t mind the added effort of carrying 5-10 live suckers on board with you. "Suckering" is deadly and extremely simple to execute. Here’s how it’s done. Simply float a sucker with a "quick-strike" rig. Leave out no more than five feet of line from the boat. Set the drag on your reel extremely light or leave it in free spool with a rubber band or some other device to keep the line from paying out. If you prefer, you can add a spinner blade to the tail of the sucker for added attraction. Keep your sucker as deep as possible but it is important that you are able to see the sucker. One friend of mine swears by large goldfish because he says both he and the fish can see them better. This is a photo of a 42 inch, 23 pound Musky that I "suckered". This fish never hesitated, he came right off of my bucktail and in one motion devoured my 10 inch sucker.

Whichever bait you choose, don’t change your fishing strategies, i.e. keep casting whichever baits you think will produce during the particular conditions you are fishing. I like this technique best when bulging bucktails in the fall. I seem to draw an inordinate amount of follows with this technique at this time of the year. I know those fish are hungry and are trying to fatten up for the long winter ahead, but until I began "suckering fish", I often couldn’t get them to strike. You must be alert at all times when using this technique. It is critical that you see the following fish as early in the retrieve as possible because you want to run your lure right past the sucker. You literally want the following Musky to bump its head right into the sucker. You will be amazed how well this technique works. Oftentimes, the Musky will veer right off of your lure and head straight for the sucker. Sometimes, you will not even see the follow and out of nowhere your sucker will get eaten. Even when you cant get the Musky to hit your lure or eat the sucker, you will be amazed as to how long they will stick around and look at the sucker. The key to this technique is that you cannot waste a lot of time messing around with the baited rod. Stick it in a rod holder and leave it alone. Check it periodically to make sure it doesn’t have weeds, but don’t let it detract from your concentration or number of casts you make in a day. In other words, don’t up your odds by having a sucker in the water only to reduce your odds because you aren’t concentrating or not getting in as many casts as usual. This technique works best in the late fall or early spring when water temperatures are cold enough to keep suckers active and alive for a long period of time. If utilized properly, I find that three people fishing per boat will catch about one extra fish per outing. It works so well on my lake that we each take turns for one hour

intervals. We work as a team so that if I get a follow and it isn’t my turn with the bait, I will nevertheless, run my follower right into the sucker. A good friend of mine caught his first Musky this way and he still thanks me to this day. I am not a big advocate of bait fishing because if you are not careful, the Musky can get hooked deep in the mouth or even in the stomach, resulting in a poor chance for survival. This is why the "quick-strike" rig is important. I have never hooked a Musky with this technique that couldn't quickly and easily be released to fight another day. So, there you have it. Go get yourself a bucket of lively suckers and up your odds this fall.

An Interview With Rich Reinert Wisconsin Musky Expo Organizer By Craig Sandell With all of the other Musky shows that punctuate the off season, I was curious why Rich Reinert decided to make the personal commitment required to organize a successful Musky Expo. To satisfy my curiosity, I sat down with Rich to get his perspective. I asked Rich what motivated him to create the Wisconsin Musky Expo. "Well, to be honest, I was disappointed with the way the usual Musky Expos had evolved. Being a Northern Wisconsin resident, I found myself having to brave the winter weather to drive to Chicago or Milwaukee and found myself seeing the same large retailers and hearing the same spiel from the same seminar speakers…I thought to myself; I Can Do Better." I asked Rich what makes the Wisconsin Musky Expo in Wausau any better than the other shows. "In a word, ‘traditionalism’. Musky fishing has never had the following that Bass fishing has enjoyed and, as a consequence, Musky lure manufacturing has always been a ‘cottage industry’. Somewhere along the way in pursuit of the bottom line, the mass produced Musky lures from large retailers replaced the availability of high quality lures being made in limited quantities by dedicated Musky anglers. It was in my mind to change that dynamic when I established the Wisconsin Musky Expo in

Wausau. The 2012 Expo was a great success with not only local Northern Wisconsin Retailers but also the small Musky lure manufacturers that have been a traditional source of innovation for our sport." I asked Rich why these smaller manufacturers are not better represented at the other Musky shows. "That is simple…the high cost of show participation. The other shows charge upwards of $650.00 for a standard booth space. The small manufacturer cannot afford that type of initial costs and offset the costs of travel, lodging, meals and product display. Add to that the overwhelming impact placed upon them by competition from the larger retailers and it is easy to see why choice in lure innovation is generally extinct at the other Musky shows." I told Rich that I could see his point but then, aren’t there better opportunities for Musky anglers to get Musky information from seminar speakers at the other shows? "Well, I am probably going to get some flak for this but here is my perspective. The other shows seem to have the same list of speakers year after year with the same presentations in an attempt to encourage folks to buy their stuff rather than to impart tips that will actually help them be successful on the water. Some of the best seminar presenters are conspicuously absent from the other shows. You see the same faces with the same presentations at the Chicago, Milwaukee, Michigan, and Minneapolis shows. My Wausau show has presentations by accomplished Musky anglers who you will not hear at the other Musky shows. These seminar guests provide the serious Musky angler with what he really needs; solid first-hand information that can lead to success on the water.

I asked Rich why he chose Wausau for the sight of his Musky Expo. "The concept behind the Wisconsin Musky Expo is rooted in the belief that Musky anglers in the fertile waters of Northern Wisconsin should not have to drive to Milwaukee, Chicago or Minneapolis to see new lures and have access to Musky services and resorts. I also wanted the Expo to be friendly to the ‘cottage industry’ of small lure manufacturers; the place where most lure innovations over the past 50 years have been hatched. In addition, I also wanted the Expo to be a great family Musky outing rather than the madhouse atmosphere you find at the other shows. The 2012 show achieved that goal and the 2013 show is shaping up to be ‘heads and tails’ above last year. We have free Musky lures for the first 200 people attending on Friday and 100 free rods for children under the age of 12 on Sunday." Interviewer’s Note: Rich and I spoke at some length and after the interview I was convinced that he was the "Real McCoy". It isn’t often in this day of slick advertising that you run across someone as genuine as Rich. I was so impressed with Rich that I decided to do something that I have never done…I decided to exhibit at the Wisconsin Musky Expo. I will see you there. Tight lines

The Underwater Seasons Craig Sandell © 2010 During the course of the Musky season, every body of water undergoes changes in its water temperature as well as changes in the oxygen that is dissolved in the water. As the underwater seasons change, the Musky react to those changes driven by their need to eat and their need to breath. The successful Musky angler must tune into these changes. He/she must be prepared to be flexible with regard to lure selection as well as conducting a better evaluation of water and weather conditions. Late season fishing can be marked by drastic weather changes and dramatic changes in the condition of the water. As the water begins to warm after the long winter months and as emergent vegetation adds oxygen to the water, Musky become more active and settle into their seasonal patterns. For the greater part of the Musky season, most bodies of water are locked into the characteristic thermal distribution commonly referred to as the "summer thermal water pattern". The graphic shown here at the left demonstrates this summer thermal pattern. Water at the surface tends to change gradually in water temperature and tends to have higher levels of oxygen than the water layers beneath it. The thermocline is sort of like a buffer area between the warmer surface water and the cooler deeper water. The

cooler deeper water tends to have the lowest level of oxygen during this period of time. Musky tend to populate the upper water levels when they are active and the lower water levels when they are inactive. The hotter the top layer of water, the more likely Musky are to seek a comfortable temperature at greater depths. At these greater depths, they are less likely to be aggressively active. As summer transitions to fall and the water looses its heat to the longer cooler evenings, the temperature difference between the thermal layers of the lake become less distinct. Most of the oxygen is still located in the surface layer of the water and Musky tend to be more active during this time. Typically, this time is associated with late August and early September. Temperatures will vary depending upon the geographic location and the depth of the body of water so you should keep a close watch upon the water that you plan to regularly fish. The graphic at the right will provide you some perspective regarding this gradual shift in water temperatures. Relentlessly, the seasons move on toward fall. The nights get cooler robbing the water of heat as the warming effect of the sun diminishes due to its lower position in the sky. The water temperature tends to equalize the temperature between the upper warmer and

more oxygen rich layer and the cooler less oxygen rich lower layer. The thermocline is still in place but as you can see from the graphic at the left the water is on the verge of homogenizing into a uniform temperature distribution. This time is a prime Musky activity window but the window is very short lived. It is very difficult to accurately predict the exact time of this water temperature circumstance. You'll just have to trust to "luck" if you are trying to hit this period on the head. NOTE: One should also remember that, depending on the spring warm up, presummer and Imminent turnover are relatively the same water conditions.Finally, the water succumbs to the persistence of the changing season and "turnover" takes place. The thermocline barrier disappears as the water temperature becomes uniform throughout the body of water. This is typically a very slow period for Musky activity. The blending of the oxygen rich upper water and the oxygen poor lower water causes the overall oxygen level to be less than what the Musky are used to having. The Musky require time to adjust to the new oxygen level as well as to the fact that they are "stuck" with a uniform lower water temperature. As you might suspect, this is not a good time to Musky fish. Every body of water will experience turnover on its own timetable so it is very hard to predict. If you plan to fish late in the season, you must "keep your finger on the pulse" of the body of water that you plan

to fish.The Musky soon acclimate to the changes in the water oxygen levels and the temperature. Around late September or early October the Musky put on their winter feed bag and take advantage of the seasonal movement of forage fish. This is typically the time when you have a better than average chance to tie into a 25 to 45 pound fish. This time of year, however, is not for the "fair weather" Musky angler. You can plan on the weather being wet, cold, snowy and generally miserable.Hopefully, this article has shed some light on the mystery of turnover and its effect upon your chances to have a Musky encounter. As has been said in other articles posted on this website, Musky fishing has a large element of luck associated with any angler success. The best thing you can do is be prepared with as much information as you can muster about the water you are fishing and then trust in the "Musky Spirts" to favor your efforts.

Single Hook Sucker Rigging: Is It A Kill Rig? By: John Dettloff © 2004 Musky fishing with single hook sucker rigs is becoming one of the most controversial issues to face musky anglers in decades. In fact, during the past year the subject was probably the most discussed and hotly debated of all on many Musky forums. Just the mention of the subject in a room filled with musky fisherman is likely to divide the room into two opposing groups. One side will quickly condemn the use of single book sucker rigs, considering them as being nothing more than 'kill rigs:' and the other will staunchly condone the method, asserting that it is not any more harmful to Muskies than any other method. The fact is, however, that neither group can cite definitive scientific or biological evidence to conclusively support their respective positions. This age-old debate can be expected to rage on until definitive evidence is discovered to support the question, one way or the other. Such evidence may soon emerge that will finally put this debate to rest. What seems to have fueled the debate even more during the past year was the first year's results of the Chippewa Flowage Musky Radio Telemetry Study. One of the study areas focused on the survivability of Muskies which are caught and released after being gut-hooked with a single hook sucker rig. Regardless of what you may have heard. The first year's findings of the sucker hook portion of this study have not yet been fully

revealed, simply because all the data has not been available until only recently. It is not the intention of this article to prolong the debate, but rather to announce that a more comprehensive study specifically tailored to finally answer these questions is underway. As this new study's findings become available, we intend to share this information with you in the hope that an informed mind will stand a better chance of making rational decisions regarding this topic. In order to understand how we got to this point, a recap of the first year of the Chippewa Flowage Musky Study is needed. FIRST YEAR FINDINGS The Chippewa Flowage Musky Study answered some of the most important long-asked questions regarding Muskies and musky fishing. For example, no other study has revealed, with high confidence levels, such things as: annual and multi-year recapture rates; reliable annual mortality rates; reliable annual exploitation rates; positive confirmation of conditioning as a result of catch and release; deep water preferences for the majority of Muskies studied; extreme variances in growth rates; data showing that no way of holding a musky had any greater or less impact on mortality.

The implications of the first year findings are potentially enormous for fisheries management as well as musky fishing as a sport. For fisheries management, the first year of the Chippewa Flowage Musky Study-Year 1 (CFMS-Y 1) provides fisheries managers with greatly improved data by which to estimate fisheries populations, make stocking decisions, and to better determine prudent size limits. For musky fishing, the CFMSY1 smashed many of the longest held beliefs, but also confirmed some of the things that we, as musky fishermen, have come to rely on in our pursuit of Old Esox. The CFMS-Y1 findings are, for the most part, not necessarily exclusive to the Chippewa Flowage; but rather, are likely reflective of musky behavior anywhere. TWO REMAINING QUESTIONS As noted, the CFMS-Y1 is completed. The large and diversified consortium of agencies that were part of the first year of the CFMS continue to analyze the data for additional insight into the world of the musky. To recap -the finding for the first year came from the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe, the U.S. Dept. of Interior and the Hayward Lakes Chapter of Muskies, Inc. As a result of this cooperation, all of the questions that were part of the original study were answered with the exception of two. They are: Whether two genetically different species of Muskies exist. The mortality (death) rate of Muskies caught and released while utilizing the single hook sucker method. These two remaining questions are among the most discussed in musky fishing. But, of the two questions, the most controversial involves the use of the single hook sucker rig.

To address the questions surrounding the single hook rig, a spinoff study, hereinafter known as the Chippewa Flowage Musky Study -Year Two (CFMS-Y2), has been initiated. The CFMS-Y2 study team includes Scott Allen, former study coordinator of the CFMS-Y I; Chippewa Flowage Guide and resort owner John Dettloff, who will manage the spin-off study. Hayward guide and Muskies, Inc., representative Art Malin will help monitor the study Muskies. The spin-off study, or CFMS-Y2, has received funding from two Muskies, Inc. chapters: the Hayward Lakes Chapter donated $4,250; and the South of the Border Chapter donated $2,000. Hayward Lakes Chapter President Mike Persson probably said it best when he stated, "What good does it do to talk about such things as size limit adjustments and stocking levels if single hook rigs are killing Muskies before they get the chance to grow to their full potential?" HISTORY OF SUCKER RIGS Long before musky anglers had much to choose from in the line of artificial bait selection, live bait was a frequently used method. At first, bait choices weren't just limited to suckers, either. Any critter, such as bullheads, perch, frogs, and even mice and chipmunks were often used. But suckers soon surfaced as the live bait of preference. Large suckers are effective, but the chances of hooking a musky in the mouth with such a large bait are diminished. Since Muskies grab suckers at mid-body and a single hook rig places the hook in the sucker's mouth, it is necessary for the angler to wait for the musky to swallow the sucker to ensure a hookup. These Muskies are usually hooked in the stomach. This technique has been used for Muskies for years.

A most unique and crude method of utilizing suckers during the early days was using what was known as the "musky spike." A line was attached to the center of a pencil-length, barbed, metal spike and slid deep into a live sucker's gullet, and the sucker was then trolled behind the boat in the usual manner. Once swallowed by a musky, this spike would lodge itself crossways inside the Musky's gullet the moment that the "hook" was set. Obviously not a method to be used if a Musky was to be released. The musky spike was quickly denounced as being unsporting, unethical, and - most certainly - a kill rig. Anglers eventually realized that any Musky that was unfortunate enough to swallow a musky spike stood no sporting chance. Therefore, and interestingly enough, this method was discontinued, not through legislation but because common sense prevailed. Most recently, sucker-using fishermen have theorized that single hook sucker rigs may be killing too many fish so they have switched to using one of a wide variety of quick-set sucker rigs now being made. It's interesting to note that this idea isn't really a modern day innovation. World record holder Louis Spray designed, briefly marketed, and caught his 69-pound 11-ounce record-setter on a quick-set rig. Spray called it the "Sure-Fire" Minnow Harness. Another off-branch of the fall sucker method to develop, more than 40 years ago, was shore fishing with suckers. Originated by guides as a means of allowing their clients an opportunity to continue fishing during lunch breaks, shore fishing as its own method began to be practiced during the inclement weather periods at first; but then (more recently) by people who have

boat rigs which were too heavy to be effectively rowed along specific structures. In those instances, anglers typically put out the maximum allowable rods per person along a section of shoreline which usually has a rapid drop-off into some of the deeper areas of the main lake basins or channel areas. They often commit themselves to just one area per day and attend to their rods to wait for a strike, at which time they hop into a boat with their rod and proceed to follow the musky in the traditional manner - waiting until the musky swallows the sucker before they set the hook. Shore fishing is a very effective method for those who have the patience to wait it out. But sadly, some individuals have been abusing this method. Going well beyond the obvious intent of the law, they commonly set up a "trap line" of sucker rigs often with some rods set nearly a half-mile out in various directions from where the individuals are actually encamped. Needing a pair of binoculars to see many of their rod sets, these "sportsmen" have been treading on uncertain and, perhaps, unethical ground. And shore fishing is almost always done with single hook sucker rigs in order to maximize the efficiency of the method. If it proves that single hook rigs are indeed killing an alarming percentage of Muskies, then at what cost are these so-called sportsmen profiteering off the resources? Perhaps it is time the Wisconsin DNR rectifies this rapidly growing problem by better defining unattended-line laws and to follow the lead of Minnesota, which has on its books a distance requirement of 150 feet to define a rod as being legally attended. QUICK-SET RIGS

Many musky fishermen who use suckers have switched from single hook rigs to quick-set rigs for a variety of reasons. Some fishermen believe that quick-set rigs have an advantage over single hook rigs because there is no need to wait as long as an hour for the musky to swallow the sucker. Another advantage that many quick-set users cite is that they are far safer for the Muskies. Based upon our findings, thus far, this does indeed seem to be the case. In fact, based upon the findings of the CFMS-Y1, the Muskies that were caught on quick-sets exhibited no evidence of any trauma at all! In comparison, every artificial lure type used in the CFMS-Y1 inflicted at least some sort of visible injury to the Muskies in at least one instance. By using the term "visible injuries" we are referring to bleeding or ripped gills, hooks in eyes, hooks in the body of the musky, etc. Of the artificial lures used for the CFMSY1, jerkbaits led the way with the highest rate of visible injury. Bucktails recorded the lowest rate of visible injuries of artificials. And, quick-sets recorded no visible injuries. It should be noted, however, that unless an angler uses the standard quick-set rig properly, a musky could swallow the rig. A swallowed treble hook would mean a likely fatal injury to the musky. There are at least a dozen different types of quick-sets on the market. Most follow the same design in that they feature a single nose hook and a treble hook for placement along the side of the sucker. MUSKIES CAUGHT ANNUALLY ON SINGLE HOOK RIGS While researching this article, we conducted an informal survey of the owners of bait and tackle shops, who estimated that of those who fish for Muskies with suckers, approximately 25 to 33 percent use single hook rigs. In addition, it has been estimated that 15 to 20 percent of all Musky fishermen will use some form of live minnow bait, such as a sucker, at some point during the

season. Chippewa Flowage Musky charts reveal that approximately 100 legal size Muskies are caught on single hooks each year. Across Wisconsin, it is estimated that 1,000 to 2,000 legal size Muskies are caught each year on single hook rigs. Consider the potential total number of Muskies that are caught on single hook rigs each year throughout all of Musky country and the numbers become mind boggling. Keep in mind that the vast majority of these Muskies are being released under the assumption they will live to fight another day. Will these Muskies survive? If this study finds that a large percentage of these Muskies are dying then we could have a major deprivation of the fishery staring us in the face. If, on the other hand, this study discovers that the single hook rig is not having a significant negative impact, then we will be the wiser for the experience. SINGLE HOOK FINDINGS FROM CFMS-Y1 Of the 47 Muskies involved in the CFMS-Y1, nine were caught and released using single hook sucker rigs. All were throat or gut-hooked during the fall of 1998. Of the nine, four had died by the end of May 1999. One was caught in an otter trap and autopsies revealed that the other three had died as a result of injuries sustained from the single hooks. Another specimen, a 35-inch male, was caught on a jerkbait during the summer of 1998 and implanted with a radio transmitter. In the process, it was hooked in the eye and gills, and was severely stressed and bleeding from the ordeal, but survived. It was tracked successfully throughout the rest of the open water season. However, in mid-May of 1999, it was found dead along shore. A single hook rig was discovered to be the cause of its demise.

One of the Muskies caught for the study on a single hook rig was found dead along shore after the 1999 spawning season. An autopsy revealed the cause of death to be from the 14/0 single hook that passed through its stomach lining into its rib cage. The stomach was empty except for the giant hook and the musky was much thinner than average. It has long been believed that fluids in a Musky's stomach would dissolve the hook with time. After removing the large hook from this deceased musky, a minor amount of pressure was applied by hand to the giant hook and it snapped! Luckily the video camera was running to record the event. The giant hook was obviously greatly weakened, but not quickly enough to save the musky. All of the CFMS-Y1 Muskies under 40 1/2 inches that were caught on single hook rigs have died. The remaining five, all over 41 inches, continued to live into the following fishing season of 1999, until their transmitters lost battery life. The status of these Muskies could not be determined after this time. For non-biologists, it may be tempting to take the position that three or four dead Muskies out of nine is proof enough. But, keep in mind, a sample is needed that is sufficiently large enough so that the scientific community, as well as laymen, will have confidence in it. Without the support of the scientific community, any findings as to the mortality of Muskies caught on single hook rigs will lack credibility. Additionally, without a large enough sample, groups in this debate could point to the small sampling from the CFMS-Y1 in an attempt to discredit the study's findings. With that in mind - and with the guidance of several fisheries biologists - a greater sized study group of Muskies was determined as appropriate for additional radio-tagging.

GOALS & OBJECTIVES OF CFMS-Y2 The goal of the study team is to radio-tag a total of 20 Muskies for the CFMS-Y2 during the fall fishing season of 1999 and the spring phase of the 2000 musky season. All of the Muskies of the CFMS-Y2 will be caught using single-hooked suckers and only Muskies that are hooked in the throat or deeper will be included in the study and fitted with a radio-tag. The radio-tags attach to the musky just beneath the dorsal fin. The hooks that are being used will range from the round type to the square variety, in sizes ranging from 10/0 to 14/0, and will vary in makeup from bronze-color steel to stainless steel. The leader material includes nylon/plastic-coated steel and the standard non-coated leader. The Muskies that will be radio-tagged will range from undersized and up. (The legal size limit on the Chippewa Flowage is 34 inches.) An attempt will be made to utilize equal numbers of males and females for the study. The Muskies of the CFMS-Y2 were not tracked until after the closing of the 1999 musky fishing season. NEW RADIO TELEMETRY TAGS The CFMS-Y1 utilized the most technologically advanced external radio tags available during the spring of 1998. The CFMS-Y1 radio-tags lasted an average of nine months. This nine-month life span more than met the objectives of the study's first year. But, for the CFMS-Y2, it was apparent that a ninemonth tag would not meet the objectives. After much urging from the CFMS-Y2 team, the radio-tag manufacturer developed a longer-lasting, state-of-the-art tag that is guaranteed to last 400 days, and most likely 600 days. This new type of radio-tag exceeds the requirements of the CFMS-Y2 and allows the door

to be opened for the gathering of additional data on the Muskies that survive the single hook mortality phase of the CFMS-Y2. For instance, there is much to be learned regarding the spawning habits of these study Muskies. CFMS-Y2 FINDINGS TO DATE To date, 13 Muskies have been radio-tagged as part of the CFMS-Y2. The sizes ranged from 33 inches to one nearing the 30 pound class. Of the 13 Muskies that have been caught and released as of this writing in early December, three had expired as a result of injuries sustained due to the single hook rigs. The details concerning each of the expired Muskies are as follows: The first to expire was the smallest musky in the study - a 33inch male, caught in mid-October of 1999. The musky hit and swallowed a 12-inch sucker. The hook used was a 10/0, squared steel hook of bronze color finish. The leader material was nylon coated 60-pound test wrapped wire. The musky was hooked in the stomach. The leader was snipped and the musky was implanted with a radio transmitter and released. Though it swam off quickly and with strength during the release, the musky was discovered about four weeks later, after it had died and washed up on shore about a mile north of where it had been originally caught. The second musky to expire was a 46 1/2-inch female, caught in late October on a 21-inch long sucker. A 13/0, squared, bronzecolored steel hook was utilized. The leader material was 60pound non-coated wrapped wire. The musky was deeply hooked in the throat and only the upper tip of the shank was visible upon examination. It was fitted with a radio transmitter and released in a shallow water area. It remained near the boat after its release but died within about 10 minutes. An autopsy revealed the cause

of death was injuries sustained to vital organs as a result of trauma caused by the single hook. The third musky to expire was a 41 1/2-inch female, caught in November on a 16-inch sucker. A 10/0, squared, bronze-colored, steel hook was used. The leader material was nylon-coated, 60pound test, wrapped wire. The musky was hooked in the stomach and no part of the hook was visible. The wire was snipped and the musky was released in shallow water. Although the musky swam off exhibiting a great deal of strength and speed, it was found the very next day dead along the shore. An autopsy revealed that the hook had passed through the stomach lining and penetrated the rib cage. The result was that the musky died from internal bleeding as evidenced by the large quantity of blood in its stomach cavity. The remaining 10 sucker-caught Muskies are believed to still be alive (at this writing). Some may take the position that three dead fish is evidence enough to seek legislation against single hook rigs. However, others - especially those in the scientific community and those who support the use of single hook rigs - could make the claim that the three that have expired may have died as a result of a combination of factors that may or may not have been related to the single hook rigs. However, special care was taken to not cause unusual additional stress to the study Muskies. Of the three Muskies which did perish, none of them fought in an abnormally excessive manner nor did they experience any excessive handling during the transmitter implantation process. So, in the cases of these three Muskies, as evidenced by the autopsies, it's clear that the hook itself was the cause of death.