One of today’s newest musky fisheries produced a fish in July that challenged one of the longest-standing records in freshwater fishing.
On July 16, Charlie Gallagher of Crete, Illinois, was fishing on the St. Louis River with his nephew, Dustin Carlson of Northland Muskie Adventures, when he boated a 48 1/2-inch tiger musky with a tremendous 28 1/2-inch girth. Using the LxGxG/800 formula, the fish was estimated to weigh 49 pounds, just shy of the 51-pound 3-ounce weight of the world record hybrid musky.
The world record hybrid was caught in 1919 by John Knobla from Lac Vieux Desert on the Wisconsin/Michigan border. It measured 54 inches long.
Joining Carlson and Gallagher that day was Charlie’s best friend, Greg Avey, also of Crete, Illinois. Late in the afternoon, about 5 p.m., the trio had just fished a weed edge when Carlson decided to fish the weedbed inside-out to offer the fish an angle change.
“I’ll put the boat in three feet of water and cast to the weed edge in seven feet. You will be amazed when you give the fish a different angle and they sometimes come charging out of there to eat your bait,” Carlson explained.
“I turned the boat and Charlie cast back up there to the edge and the giant tiger ate Charlie’s TopRaider,” Carlson continued. “It ate it about 30 feet from the boat, thrashed on top for a few seconds, and it looked like someone dropped a bathtub in the lake. Then she made a few runs but stayed down the whole time. I knew it was a big one when I saw his rod doubled over. When the fish came out from under the boat I netted her.
“When I did, the back half of the giant tiger rolled and I saw what she was. I said to Charlie and Greg: ‘Oh, my God this is a giant tiger musky. This thing must be a world record class fish!’”
After measurement and photos, Gallagher released the big tiger — the first musky he’d ever caught — back into the river.
Gallagher used a red squirrel-pattern TopRaider, which Carlson called his favorite for stained water. “The topwater bite was doing very well so I knew I would be having Charlie and Greg throwing topwater most of the time,” Carlson said. “The St. Louis is stained water and the fish are very aggressive toward topwaters. Often in the summer, there is a lot of floating grass on the surface that gets cut up by boats driving over the weed flats, and the TopRaider, with its metal tail, allows you to give it a little rip when you pick up weeds and they break right off.”
The St. Louis River’s musky fishery is relatively new and was established via stockings by both the Wisconsin and Minnesota departments of natural resources. With newly-established muskies and a longstanding northern pike population, the potential exists for hybrids, but Carlson said not many exist in the river. The biggest in his boat prior to this measured 42 inches.
For more information about guide Dustin Carlson, visit www.northlandmuskieadventures.com.