If only it were like this back in Louie Spray’s day.
In the fall of 1949, Spray landed what still stands as the world-record muskellunge, or musky — 69-pounds, 11-ounces.
According to John Dettloff, a historian for Sawyer County in northwestern Wisconsin and now owner of the resort within view of where Spray tangled with that massive musky, folks in the immediate area at the time knew something big was happening on the Chippewa Flowage when they heard the gunshot.
“That’s how you got big muskies (in the boat). Nets were no good. There was clubbing, but shooting (the musky) was the preferred method in Wisconsin back then,” Dettloff said. “They’d shoot them with a small-caliber gun.”
The story of that record musky, as well as a new youth movement on the musky front, just miles from where Spray got his fish in musky-crazed northwestern Wisconsin, are chronicled in the upcoming fall issue of Northland Outdoors magazine (subscribe for free for future magazines at http://www.northlandoutdoors.com/subscribe/).
That youth Musky Hunt is a far, far cry from the brutality of fishing muskies back in Spray’s day, as that magazine story indicates, instead stressing education, the experience, and respect for the species over even catching muskies.
Fortunately, musky fishing as a whole has gone that kinder, gentler route in the last decade-plus. It’s a reason a lot of those old, long-standing records — the Minnesota musky record, for instance, has stood since 1957 — remain today. Because record fish are dead fish.
Well, not necessarily. At least not nowadays in parts of the Northland.
This year, Minnesota started a catch-and-release record book, and its first entry for muskies came late last month, when Andrew Slette of Hawley caught and released a musky that measured 56-7/8 inches with an estimated girth of 25-1/2 inches on Pelican Lake in Otter Tail County. Fishing with him was Josh Karch, who not only witnessed the record, but caught and released a 52-inch muskie that same day, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
“We now have our first muskie catch-and-release state record, and it certainly sounds like it came out of a memorable day of fishing for both these anglers,” Mike Kurre, who manages the Minnesota DNR’s record fish program, said in a release announcing the record fish.
Also, the catch-and-release flathead catfish record was broken just a few weeks before when Jacob Robinson of Shakopee caught and released a cat that measured 49 inches and had a girth of 32-1/2 inches. It was two inches longer than the previous record. Robinson landed the fish from the shore of the Minnesota River in Scott County using a live bullhead and 100-pound test line.
Through this program, anglers can pursue state records for certified weight for most fish species or catch-and-release length for musky, lake sturgeon and flathead catfish. Guidelines differ for each type of record and application forms are available at www.mndnr.gov/recordfish.
In addition to the DNR’s record program, anglers have the option to participate in the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame’s Master Angler Program, which recognizes 60 fish species. Information about that program is available at www.fishinghalloffamemn.com/master-anglers.
Yes, if only such programs were available back in Spray’s day. No saying how big that musky could have gotten.