Tag Archives: Fish Management

For the Love of Muskie’s

Author: Ted Pilgrim with Pete Maina

Pete Maina has in his day handled thousands of big muskies. Ex-guide, lure inventor, TV personality, angler extraordinaire, Maina has worn many hats. Today, while he remains a zealous hunter of the big green fish, his real crusade is a message of placing fisheries first.

“No one is handling more muskies each and every day than we, the anglers,” states Maina from his home in the muskie-rich region of Hayward, Wisconsin. “Not biologists, not lakeshore associations, tackle salesmen or legislators. Fishermen play such a huge role in actively determining the health of our muskie waters-in essence, we’re the real managers of the fishery.

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Return – Get that Muskie!

A real common question from muskie anglers is: “What do I do when I’ve located a big one?” Of course questions on triggering and wondering why figure eights didn’t work are common too. The hard thing for folks like me, is that there really are no certain answers. I’ve certainly never figured out how to catch ’em all. All that can honestly be offered for consumption – are things that have worked for us before at times. If you’ve located any muskie, and especially if so – a big one – you’ve accomplished quite a bit, actually.

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Proactive Management

Mandatory release (i.e. proactive regulations that require release of all fish, a majority of fish, certain size-structure ranges in a fish species…) is a popular management tool.

There are many variables – each specie and fishery with its own uniqueness – as to where and how special regulations should be established. And total catch and release in many cases is not necessary or preferable. It all boils down to each individual water’s current makeup; each individual specie’s numbers and size structure. State-wide or provincial blanket regulations don’t cut it. And this is why we have folks called fisheries specialists who monitor such things and therefore, hopefully, make the correct management calls.
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Netting

This subject is important for any species, but knowing how to properly use a net is especially important when it comes to big predators like muskie and northern pike. Done right, it’s the most effective and safest (for angler and fish) way to land and release fish. The ‘safest’ part is true – but based upon use of a quality, fish-friendly landing device, like the Frabill “Conservation Series” nets. (The net’s mesh must have a quality coating and large enough holding area at the base.) Play any fish with moderate-to-heavy pressure, to tire it out and prepare it for leading into the net.
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Head in the Water

When we talk of practicing effective release for muskie and northern pike, we commonly hear of the importance of having the right tools – and this is absolutely essential. If you don’t have the long-nose pliers, quality hook cutters, spreaders, split-ring pliers and spare hooks – you shouldn’t go. Additionally though, while the initial response may be giggles from some – there is never enough stress on the simple fact that the head of the fish is the part that breathes.
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Catch & Release Basics for Toothy Critters

As esox anglers, we all know the importance of catch and release to the future of our sport. Good intentions alone don’t make for successful releases. If the esox doesn’t survive the release, wasted effort and fish flesh is the result. There is no complete substitute for experience. No doubt, the more fish you handle, the more efficient you’ll be at it. However, even beginners that have a plan can be successful releasers. Sacred as these fish are to some of us, they’re just fish. Realistically, it’s not entirely necessary that the release be “pretty” as long as it’s effective.

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Fight ‘Em Right

I’ve spent many seasons now as a muskie angler and guide (to the point where I’d rather not get specific). As a result, I’ve endured many a muskie story. Of course, the bulk of these are of “the one that got away” variety (specimens cited in the telling are of extreme proportions). I’ve watched many a muskie shake-off, not-get-hooked and even skillfully avoided as potential captors managed to whisk-away their offering before snapping jaws could close around them. It’s as though they want to save their respective purchases from the wear and tear that coincides with such vicious, toothy attacks (which I’ve never quite understood, since they’re usually paying me money to catch one of the silly things).

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What’s Next for Our Muskie Fisheries?

All you muskie fishers out there-give yourself a pat on the back. Let’s look at what’s happened in muskie fishing over the last couple decades. About twenty-three years ago I started to release muskies myself, and encourage my guiding clients to do the same. As a teenager, so rabid about fishing that I started guiding others regularly at the age of 14 during the summer, I’d gotten a wake-up call.

 

I had just started to dabble in the business side of fishing when I heard something I’d honestly never even pondered. You see, I’d been brought up with the mentality that when you fish-you try real real hard to catch ‘em-and you keep and eat your legal limit. Simple, and this included muskies.

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Barbs, Cutters & Stuff

We’ll start with what may likely be the most important topic in Esox release: hook cutting. We’ve been over this a bunch, but will never stop.

Hook Cutting

This is a subject that may not have nearly as much importance for folks going barbless (more on that later), since with no barbs, hooks easily back out with no ripping or tearing. However, even when barbless, sometimes it’s just easier and quicker to cut hooks. Sometimes angles are such that it’s just simpler to cut a shaft, hook eye, or split ring rather than try to get the right angle to back a hook out – which brings us to the first part of John’s question: “when to cut ’em.”

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