Survey Indicates High Wisconsin Musky Success

The musky is not as elusive as once thought — 56 percent of Wisconsin anglers, 48 percent of nonresident anglers, and 83 percent of musky club members reported landing a musky in Wisconsin in 2010, according to a recent statewide survey of musky anglers.

The same survey indicated that livebait use is increasing among musky anglers.

“Anglers might not realize it, but musky fishing is better than it’s ever been in terms of the number of fish and availability,” says Dan Isermann, a University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point assistant professor and the principal investigator in the survey. “Muskies are more abundant than they ever have been because of better fisheries management and the prevalence of catch and release.”

Isermann says that improved technology also likely plays a role in the large proportion of anglers who report having caught a musky, once known as the fish of 10,000 casts but now caught in closer to 3,000 casts.

Forty percent of the resident and nonresident anglers, and 77 percent of the musky club members, caught at least one musky over 32 inches, while the average size of the largest fish anglers reported catching in Wisconsin was 46 inches.

Ninety-five percent of the fish were released by resident anglers and more than 99 percent were released by nonresidents and musky club members.

About 54 percent of musky club anglers reported some use of livebait in 2010, compared to 38 percent in 1990 and 37 percent in 2000, according to the same survey.

Resident anglers — those who don’t necessarily target muskies — reported lower use of livebait for musky — 36 percent over the same time period, according to Tim Simonson, a Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist and co-leader of the DNR’s musky team.

That widespread use of livebait makes it even more important that musky anglers use quick-strike rigs to decrease the number of fish that die due to single hook rigs baited with minnows, Simonson said.

The vast majority — 98 percent — of avid musky anglers reported using “quick-strike” rigs, which are designed to reduce hooking mortality, compared to using single-hook rigs, which have been shown to result in greater than 80 percent mortality in hooked muskies, Simonson said.

Starting in 2012, the use of single-hook rigs (other than non-offset circle hooks) will be prohibited when fishing with live minnows eight inches and larger, Simonson says. About 68 percent of musky anglers supported this ban on single-hook swallow rigs during voting at the spring fish and wildlife rules hearings, Simonson said.

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