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Scott M

56 inch minimum?

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Outdoornews.com

January 9, 2013

Rob Dreislein

A fun muskie debate might just unfold in Minnesota this year. Per a discussion at the Fisheries Roundtable in St. Paul last Friday, some folks are suggesting that perhaps the state needs to increase the muskie minimum size from 48 inches to 56 inches.

Just for a baseline (more of my comments below), here is what Javier Serna reported in this week’s print edition of Outdoor News.

St. Paul — The Internet has changed the way people fish and has broadcast secret spots to the world. That was the impetus that John Underhill gave for suggesting Minnesota raise the minimum size limit on muskies.

Underhill’s suggestion was just one of several topics that came up during the DNR Fisheries Roundtable last Friday, when representatives from four committees, each centered around a different fish species, gave short presentations.

Underhill, who along with being a member of the committee that looks at pike and muskie issues is a co-chair of the Minnesota Muskie Alliance, suggested that the state’s 48-inch minimum on muskellunge is not enough to protect the state’s trophy fishery.

“There’s big fish coming out of the lakes being harvested,” Underhill said.

He said pictures of trophy fish appear online, along with locations, and it’s drawing anglers from far and wide.

“Those fish are vulnerable,” said Underhill, who suggested the DNR expand the minimum size to 56 inches.

That would turn muskies into an almost complete catch-and-release fishery, though a state record fish likely would exceed 56 inches.

Let’s reiterate that last point. For practical purposes, this would create an entirely catch-and-release muskellunge fishery in Minnesota. One could even make the case that a super-thick 551/2-inch state record might end up being released. (OK, maybe a stretch, but work with me here.)

Did a little comparison shopping, and I can’t find another 56-inch minimum size limit for muskies anywhere. Wisconsin’s minimum size for muskellunge is a remarkably small 40 inches. It’s 42 inches in Michigan and 36 inches in Indiana. Illinois, which is relatively new to the muskie-managing game, stocks 40 of its lakes with muskies and has gradually increased its minimum length limits over the past two decades. The limits vary from lake-to-lake. The largest minimum length limit in the state is 48 inches.

New York’s general statewide reg is a mere 30 inches. On the St. Lawrence, known as a water that could hold a new world record fish, the minimum size is 48 inches. Ditto for the Upper Niagara River and Lower Niagara and Lake Ontario. On the New York waters of Lake Erie, New York Outdoor News Editor Steve Piatt tells me, it is 54 inches. Mike Moore, Ohio Outdoor News editor, says his state has no minimum muskie size.

Ontario varies by zone, with the extreme western portion of the province at 40 inches, 36 through most of the central portion of the province, with some 40- and 44-inch zones along the eastern Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

I’ve generally supported trophy regulations that demand catch and release. I wish Minnesota had more stringent rules for northern pike, but folks who argue this with me have said that muskies provide the esox trophy-fishing opportunities in Minnesota, while pike are the common man’s fish. If you buy that, then there’s probably a case – if we are indeed killing a lot of big muskies – for a 56-inch minimum size.

On the other hand, a 48-inch muskie probably has spawned multiple times. Though I would personally release bigger fish, and hope others would too, I can’t imagine harvesting 50-inchers hurts the resource. It does, however, hurt the ability of someone else to enjoy catching and releasing that monster fish.

Watch Outdoor News this spring as our writers try to put some biological data meat on the bones of this discussion. In the meantime, I hope readers will comment below and in the letters to editor section of the print version of Outdoor News. Email me your letters.

********************************

Penny for some thoughts...

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My thought is that there are fish to "fish" for and fish that you eat.

I'm sure Muskie can be prepared well, but just not a fish I want (or need) to eat.

The Muskie community has worked long and hard to make MN a world class fishery.

I see nothing wrong with a virtual catch and release regulation. We pretty much do with with Sturgeon, why not other large sport type gamefish?

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Anyone planning a trip to Wabagoon for a giant Muskie? Or Ohio? maybe Illinois or Indiana; possibly Michigan is tearing @$$ up your short list to get this giant.

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I don't eat fish just love fishing and replicas look better and last longer for all I care make fishing as a whole catch and release heck unless I'm with someone that wants them I CPR everything anyway

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We all ready have it at 48 inches it was at 40 not that long ago. My dad and his friends are musky nuts and release all the fish, but I think 48 is a good min length for them. Why because it gives a chance for someone to catch one and get it mounted. Most serious musky people will put them all back even if they got a 70 incher my dad and his buddies would take a photo and toss it back. I dont fish for muskies but have caught them fishing for other fish, If I caught a 54 incher I would mount it because it is a fish of a life time to me. At some point most fish will only get so big then die anyways RIGHT.

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I donate to muskies inc so I can get the opportunity to catch AND release the fish of a lifetime. I would love to see muskies become a 56" minimum in MN. Muskies take over 12 years to get into the trophy range. If I catch a musky at 48" and kill it just so I can brag to my friends about how big of a fish I caught, that fish will never grow to be a nice 53" musky that could be somebody else's personal best. Muskies are sort of like your grandfather's hand me down rifle; the joy in having it is being able to one day pass it down to your son to enjoy, not to sell it out of the family.

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Outdoornews.com

January 9, 2012

Rob Dreislein

I think you meant 2013 smile

And as far as his 'little comparison shopping' goes for similar restrictions, I believe most ON lakes are 54" with a couple being all catch and release

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I have a column of my own in this week's ODN on the subject (shameless plug) so I'll let that speak for itself, but as far as Ontario goes...

Ontario has several different size limits depending on the system you're on. It's based on a very science-based assessment of what the system's reasonable maximum size potential is. This was the result of the Ultimate Size at Age cleithrum bone research done by Drs Crossman and Casselman.

The thinking behind ON's limits is that not all lakes will produce giants, and size limits should reflect that. So some lakes have a 36" minimums, while a system a few miles away might have a 54" minimum. This isn't to say a lake with a 36" minimum can't produce a big fish. I have a picture of a 49-inch 39 pounder out of a lake with a 36" minimum. But the framework acknowledges the difference between reasonable expectations and outliers.

Some of this really came about because of what happened on lakes like Lac Suel and Wabigoon in the early 1990s. Both of them got hammered by trophy hunters, and lots of big fish were killed out of both of them. One very well known celebrity muskie fisherman was bringing guide clients to Wabigoon and guaranteeing they'd go home with a 30-pounder (at least until Customs busted him for guiding without a license and kicked him out of Canada for 10 years).

On Lac Suel, basically one person convinced the OMNR to protect the fishery - Steve Voight from Worthington. He woke them up to what was happening to a low density population of giant fish, and they made it C&R only. Wabigoon wasn't so lucky. It continued to get hammered, and at one point the MNR wasn't sure there were enough adult muskies left to rebuild a viable population.

Obviously, times are different now. More fish are released for sure. But plenty do get quietly carried home. With low density populations (even on a 'good' muskie lake the actual number of adult fish is shockingly small) removing even a few can really affect the population as a whole, and limits the overall potential of that fishery to produce a true giant. As someone else already mentioned, a fish kept at 49 doesn't get to 54.

Bottom line for me I guess is if the DNR is managing the muskie program as a trophy fishery, protect them until they get to trophy size.

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Personally I think mounts are dust collectors. Both skin and replicas.

I'll take a picture or a video instead.

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Frankly, I wouldn't care if they made it 100% catch and release. It's already been stated, but it's awesome to release a giant and know that it's still swimming and somebody else still has a chance to catch it. What I would really like to see is some kind of a program where either the DNR or Muskies Inc, or any other group, for that matter, would subsidize some of the cost for a replica on a legal fish, which would eliminate some of the desire for skin mounts. The replicas look better, last longer, and allow the fish to continue swimming. I obviously don't know what the financial side of this would look like, but it seems like it would be a relatively cost effective way to increase the opportunity to continue to catch big fish.

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OMG really...

So, you're saying that there should be a monetary incentive for you to put a big fish back into the water so it can get bigger and you can enjoy it again?

Really...

Aren't we taxed enough????

Doesn't MI spend enough to stock our lakes???

Now you need money from a non-profit organization (which you probably don't even belong to) in order to release a 50" fish???

Really?

I feel like gouging my eyes out after reading this last post and wonder if I've been wasting my time over the last decade...

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I'm just saying if replicas and skin mounts were closer in cost you'd see more fish released. I personally have no desire to keep a fish no matter how big. I'd just like to know the economics of that versus stocking. And I bet you don't throw a fit when the DNR throws money at putting more fish in. Again, I don't know all the numbers, but it is my understanding that some of the fish that are stocked can cost as much as $10-$20 a piece. How many of those fish ever live to see 50"? I'm not thinking of this as and additional cost, but rather a reallocation of funds. Picking an arbitrary number of a $200 subsidy on a replica, that may equate to 20 or so less fish being stocked. I would think the fishery would benefit better by having the fish released versus having 20 stocked. I don't know the answers to all these questions, just thinking outside the box.

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Very interesting discussion. I will add that many of these large fish have been caught multiple times - giving multiple anglers incredible memories.

The limited number of muskie lakes and the growing numbers of muskie fishermen all add to the decline. There are not enough fish for everone to put on the wall.

Is the fishing good right now-YES but if we are to keep it that good we need more waters and more restrictive length limits to keep our fishery the best in the US.

Thank you MN DNR and Muskies Inc

As for Muskies Inc picking up the cost of the replicas- It is happening right now with both the Twin Cities Chapter and the North Metro Chapter for some lucky / skilled anglers. The North Metro chapter gives away a Lax Replica of the longest muskie caught by and adult angler and a Junior angler.

Thank You Rick Lax- because of your support of MI I have one on my wall that looks awsome.

Come to the North Metro Muskies Inc banquet (Feb 23rd I think) and see them in person. The junior anglers reactions are incredible. Huge Smiles all around the room.

I am for an increase in the size limit. I do not buy the fact that a big fish is to old to spawn or is done growing.

Everyone muskie angler needs to practice sound catch and release. I need to do a better job handling the fish I catch so the next lucky angler can share the experience.

I need to take some new muskie fishermen out and share the experience and to teach proper handeling of these fish. If you are on Vermilion give me a pm and maybee we can spend some time on the water together.

Good Luck to all

Lets keep this discussion civil

Steve Sorgenfrei

If you catch a world class fish are you willing to spend the money for a world class taxidermist????? I bet that bill would be double the cost of a top notch replica.

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The cost of a replica vs skin mount is about $1-2 and inch if you're talking a good fish mount. I would hazard to guess that most people who bonk a fish to get them mounted throw them away once they see the $500+ price tag. A size limit of 56" would eliminate that waste and get people to start thinking bigger (both of themselves and the fishes maximum size.)

I do know all the numbers concerning costs and mortality as I'm the one that negotiates the private stocking for the TC Chapter of MI which does the most private stockings of muskies in the state. I also know all the numbers when it comes to the DNR and MI budget and the thought of either entity giving away free money to some dude who decided to release a 50" fish is ridiculous.

For the record I would guess that around 2-3% of all fingerlings stocked have a chance to make 50". That's why it's so important to raise the limit. So you can either protect the resource our start giving away Muskie Inc Foodstamps.

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I'm not trying to argue, I'm just thinking that maybe it's cheaper to try to keep the big fish swimming than trying to replace them.

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I think it should atleast go to 54". I would love catch and release but that would probably never fly. Those 50" fish are memories for everyone who has the chance to catch them. The DNR, muskies inc, and many of our states muskie anglers have all contributed to our world class fishery. We should do what ever possible to keep it that way.

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56 inches is a little extreme. It's not like 52 inchers are being hauled out left and right and put on the wall. Over 95% of stocked fish will die before they hit 48". For most of the smaller lakes, they might only have 1 fish for every 5 fishing seasons that actually made it to the minimum length. I understand the desire to protect the investment in fingerlings but at some point the diminishing returns effect makes it kind of pointless.

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Give it few years and then it will be the 56 inch min is not enough and it will get pushed for total catch and release. The thought is a little at a time is easier for some to swallow than the whole ticket. 2c

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The only downside I see is the occasional large fish that dies from the hookset or in the fight and doesn't make it, but there are likely far more fish saved from the 56" size limit than those lost by hooking mortality. Those big fish could go home for a mount, but if smaller than 56" back in to the lake.

But like Mufasa says "circle of life" The snapping turtles will be happy with us!!!

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trophy fish are great thats what people dream about, problem is peoples perspective of trophy fish are different. a 48 is an awesome fish not a trophy. a 50 was the standard trophy, that has changed here in minnesota.

still a great fish to catch. what the 56" law will do is protect alot great big fish from being bonked. knowing what it takes to be a state record fish may not be recognized by everyone, girth is the important factor here, almost 30" with some good length (around 56") there has been alot of claims in the recent years about state record fish, some have been caught but most fall way short of the mark, still nice fish.

i say realease them but i think keeping 49s and 52 swimming gives all better shot at a 56" plus...... a true giant

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