Releasing muskies will only improve our current fisheries, transforming them into trophy status. Kentucky has the shortest legal length of almost any state concerning muskellunge. Here are some tips to ensure the release of healthier fish that will survive to fight another day and create a true trophy lake. A must in any muskie boat is a big net, thick rubber gloves, quality hook cutters, pliers and hookouts. To make releasing less challenging an instamatic camera, extra hooks and some wire ties are also needed. After netting a fish there is no reason to bring fish and all into the boat! This is usually dangerous in an unprepared boat, broken rods and more than one lure tangled in the net can spell disaster to an otherwise great day. The protective slime coat that protects the fish is also removed as it rolls on the boat carpet. Use a large net with a deep bag, you can lay the net handle on the boat edge and keep the fish in the water and in the net. The two easiest methods to remove the hooks are: CUT THE HOOKS or CUT THE BAG. While this may seem extreme it will generally be the key to a quick, safe, and successful release. The bag can be fixed with wire ties and the hooks can be replaced, both a small price to help insure tomorrow’s trophy fishery. Everyone deserves a photograph of a prized catch. Just be responsible when you lift the fish out of the net. Before the muskie is lifted, make sure the camera and photographer are ready. Lift the fish while supporting its’ midsection. Hold the muskie in a horizontal position while supporting its belly. DO NOT hold the fish in a vertical position. The weight of a muskie hanging in this position will create a problem with the bone structure behind the head and it may not survive. DO NOT drop the fish onto the floor of the boat, keep a firm grasp and hold on tight. Return the fish into the water and hold it by the tail, move the muskie back and forth allowing water to pass through the gills. A wiggle of the tail will help “jump start” the fish into swimming away. If your released fish has a problem going deeper or won’t swim away, recapture it by the tail and run your hand from the rear of the fish towards the throat area, while pushing into the fishes belly. This will push any air out of the fish allowing the muskie to dive. Try to release a muskie into a shallow water area. The deep areas will only hurt the fish as it tries to get away from danger quickly. The shallow areas will let the fish adjust easier to the environment. Safety is the key when handling muskies, watch out for teeth and hooks, and come home with a photo and good memories of a day after the “lunge”.
Tony Grant has been chasing muskies for nearly 20 years. As his career started on Kentucky’s Cave Run Lake he has now expanded his guiding to the waters of Wisconsin and Minnesota during the southern muskies dangerously hot summer water temps. In 2005 Tony teamed up with Gregg Thomas to form Musky Road Rules, a series of “Cabin Fever Clinics” and Schools with “On the Water Workshops” across the mid west muskie range. Visit Tony’s sites www.kymuskie.com www.muskiesupnorth.com www.tonygrantoutdoors.com and www.muskyroadrules.com