Mitch Albers with a 48 inch catch and release muskie.

Muskie: a mystery fish

For anglers in Minnesota and Wisconsin the thrill of fishing muskie is pretty well known but the fact is muskies are a very rare fish in North America. Their range is limited to just a few states and Canada. The muskie is the state fish of Wisconsin. The walleye is Minnesota’s state fish. Which state has the most muskies and the biggest is an ongoing friendly debate between the two states.

Many people confuse northern pike with muskies but they are really very different. Not only is their appearance different from each other, their behavior is also totally different. Northern pike shy away from boats and people, muskies have no fear of either. The muskie is like no other fresh water fish. They truly behave in mysterious ways. They are unpredictable and very curious. They swim with great speed and when they decide to attack it is with a vengeance. They can watch an angler’s bait for three days before suddenly attacking it. They can swim up to a boat and watch it for a few minutes and then sink away like a ghost. It is this behavior that makes them so much fun to fish. As the saying goes…the muskie is the fish of ten thousand casts. But really, good planning can make catching them easier than that.

Muskies prefer shallow water with a rocky bottom and heavy cover. They like thick weeds to hide in and ambush their prey. The diet of a muskie consists mainly of fish but they also eat frogs, ducklings, mice and other small animals and birds. They have been known to hunt in small packs. 

Some of the best muskie fishing in the Upper Midwest is late summer and late fall. Some of the largest muskies caught the last few years in Minnesota have been during late November. Bucktails, crankbaits and wooden lures are great for fishing muskies. Most anglers release the fish they catch and pay close attention to using barbless hooks or lures that have fewer hooks so releasing the fish is easier.

Muskie fishing has been popular for decades now and it is not unusual to find “seasoned” muskie anglers with serious rotator cuff issues. Casting lures, especially large ones, can be harmful to anglers in the long run. Most diehard muskie anglers like to cast so they can watch the fish follow the lure to the boat but trolling is just as effective for catching them and much easier on the body.

The world record muskie weighed 67 pounds, eight ounces. It was caught in Wisconsin in 1949. Anglers in Minnesota believe that record would have been broken during the past two years from fish caught at Mille Lacs Lake but they were released so no attempt was made to break the record.

The catch and release ethic that exists in most areas where muskies are found has helped create some real monsters. If you are looking for some real exciting fall fishing, try your luck at the mysterious muskie.

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