Fall musky fishing heats up, along with chance to set new state record

MADISON — While Wisconsin’s first catch and release record has been established for musky, there’s plenty of time left in 2017 for anglers to better that mark and enjoy some of the best fishing for the famed fighter and Wisconsin’s official state fish.

The northern zone musky season runs through Nov. 30 on inland waters north of U.S. Highway 10 excluding Wisconsin-Michigan boundary waters. The southern zone musky season stays open another month beyond that, closing Dec. 31, 2017, on inland waters south of U.S. Highway 10.

Jacob Holmstrom claimed the first catch and release musky record in Wisconsin with this catch last June.
Jacob Holmstrom claimed the first catch and release musky record in Wisconsin with this catch last June.
Photo Credit: Submitted

Jacob Holmstrom of Danbury reeled in his place in Wisconsin fishing history by claiming the first catch and release record in Wisconsin for musky. Holmstrom caught the 53-inch musky on Warner Lake in Burnett County on June 24, 2017, around 6:30 p.m.

The fish was measured and photographed with Holmstrom before being released.
The fish was measured and photographed with Holmstrom before being released.
Photo Credit: Submitted

The fish was measured, photographed on its side on a measuring board with Holmstrom, and released, according to Karl Scheidegger, the Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist coordinating the catch and release records program and the traditional by-weight records program.

“We’re excited for Jacob and excited to have our first record established for one of our marquee species,” Scheidegger says.

“It’s a big fish but there are bigger fish out there. We want anglers to know that just because there’s a record, don’t stop fishing. Late fall fishing is some of the best for musky and records are made to be broken!”

Zachary Lawson, inland fish biologist for Iron and Ashland counties, says recent weather patterns have now ‘flipped’ many lakes, creating conditions where anglers may want to turn attention to deeper rock structure, hard bottom areas, and steep breaking shorelines.

“Anglers are taking advantage of prime time for trophy specimens, with muskies up to 50-inches being reported,” he says. Lawson himself caught and released a heavy 48.5-inch musky earlier this fall.

Zach Lawson caught and released this 48.5-inch musky this fall in northern Wisconsin in an area with steep slopes, hard bottom, and adjacent to very deep water.
Zach Lawson caught and released this 48.5-inch musky this fall in northern Wisconsin in an area with steep slopes, hard bottom, and adjacent to very deep water.
Photo Credit: DNR

Wisconsin has about 775 lakes and streams with thriving musky populations. The statewide regulation sets a daily bag of one fish with a minimum length of 40 inches but special fishing regulations are in effect on some waters in an effort to bring back the trophy muskellunge Wisconsin is clearly capable of producing.

Find a list of all musky waters and trophy musky waters by going to dnr.wi.gov and searching “musky.”

To see fish biologists’ forecasts for musky for 2017 based on fish survey results, read the 2017 Wisconsin Fishing Report.

Live catch and release records recognize anglers without killing the fish

DNR’s live catch and release record program started earlier this year to promote the conservation of fisheries resources and quality fishing by encouraging the careful release of trophy-size popular sport species.

To see the application to fill out and the procedure to follow to submit a possible record, go to dnr.wi.gov and search “record fish.”

Anglers interested in pursuing a record are encouraged to follow these live release tips to minimize stress on the fish as much as possible during the photo process.

  • Keep the fish in the water as much as possible before releasing it.
  • Gently place the fish back in the water. Do not hang the fish on a stringer or hold heavy fish by the jaw as this may damage the jaw and vertebrae.
  • Hold large fish horizontally and support its body. Use wet hands or wet cloth gloves to handle the fish.
  • Have the camera ready before landing the fish to minimize air exposure. If necessary, revive the fish by holding it upright in the water and moving it back and forth, forcing water through its gills.