As I write this, it’s the final evening of the Wisconsin Northern Zone musky season. A strong wind blows, and the whole area is being blanketed with snow and ice. Most lakes iced over weeks ago; shore fishing high current areas of rivers has been the only viable option for this most bitter end.
The general consensus is that numbers were down. There were 217 muskies registered by 21 people. The average number registered by an angler was 9.43…that’s the lowest number the club has ever had. However, size was very good. An average fish was just over 40″ long; 21 muskies over 48″ were registered by 11 anglers (that’s 9.7% of the total fish reported, and just over half of those reporting fish caught a four footer!); 9 of those muskies were over 50″ and were caught by 6 different anglers. Nick Dahlke caught his first 50″ in September. Nate Cover caught his first 50″ in Canada in August (while his membership was lapsed, you bet he kicked himself for that and renewed quickly after), then caught a 50.25″ 8 days later close to home, then about a month later caught a 50.5″ locally–three 50″+ personal bests in about 5 weeks! Jeff Micholic caught his new personal best 53.5″ musky on a trip to Lake St. Clair. Matt Lazarski bagged a 50.25″–not his personal best, but his best from the river so it’s still meaningful. Jeff Rautio landed a beastly 51″ on Green Bay. Andy Grimm took a jaunt to Minnesota and landed a 52″ fish, his 36th musky over 50″!
As far as the local fishery goes, it remains healthy, but was a bit down and idiosyncratic this year. Based on the stats from WILMA and Wausau Musky League, an average local fish was about 39.25″, roughly the state average size and mirroring the overall statistics. Water levels were high all year, and temps fairly moderate. This made things challenging at times, but as usual, those who adapted found success.
Our members had tremendous tournament success. Member Nate Osfar and his partner Matt Raley won the Eagle River Spring Classic, the Eagle River PMTT, and the PMTT Championship in Iowa, and took 8th in Paul’s Pro Am. Nick Starr and Daland Sheahan won our tournament, and took 5th in Paul’s Pro Am. The our team won the Kleeba Challenge in Vilas County, and placed 4th in the Gil Hamm Chapter Challenge on Lake of the Woods, the highest finish for a non-Minnesota chapter for two straight years.
PIT tagged fish are beginning to show up with more regularity. The most interesting thing of note, given there is still a small sample size, is that all muskies tagged as fingerlings have been caught at least 1 flowage downstream; all muskies tagged as adults have been recaptured in the same flowage. We’re a long way from any conclusions, but if this holds it will have major significance in management strategy.
So that’s our 2019 fishing. Hoping for a short winter, a stellar 2020 and beyond!