The Next Trophy Muskie by James Smith
Frequently I listen to one of our fishing talk shows on Saturday mornings. Every guest they have on, from Al Linder to me they ask, “Where do you think the next World Record muskie will come from?” This same questions hits the bulletin boards every so often also. The answers are mostly Georgian Bay. But, now I have to get you out of your typical stereotype myopic view and ask you to look around. There are probably surprising large numbers of lakes and rivers currently holding potential world record muskies.
Stop and think about it. The celebrity guests on this radio show will offer, in addition, to Georgian Bay, Lac Suel, Chippeau Flowage, The Manitou, Green Bay, Nipissing, etc. Why? Because this is where they have been caught and/or reported by some Natural Resource biologist. They are factual, for sure. But, why does that have to eliminate consideration for literally hundreds of other lakes, reservoirs and rivers?
Just as an example, here in Colorado the current Tiger (Hybrid) muskie state record is held by Colorado M.I. Chapter member, Jason Potter with his 53”, 40#- 2 oz record from Quincy Reservoir in 1994. This fish is the only 1” less in length than the current World Record caught by John Knobla in 1919. That one was 54” x 25 ¼” and weighed 51# 3 oz. A little over 11 lbs. more than Jason’s record. Is it not possible for a fish similar to Jason’s to have gained 11+ pounds over the last ten years? If so, there could be a new world record right here in Quincy Reservoir.The Louis Spray world record true muskie was 69# 11 oz and 63 ½” x 31 ¼”.
So let us assume that it is you who draws the long straw and catches a potential new world record muskie. The fish is now in the boat and where do you go from here? Hit the waypoint button on your GPS. Check the time and write it down. In the excitement of the event you may forget the correct time if you don’t write it down immediately.
Now get all your photos and don’t spare the shots. You want all four sides (for identification purposes-show scars and any defects i.e. broken fins, etc.) Take photos of comparison, i.e. holding a tape measurer or measuring stick next to the fish. Get close-up shots of the numbers on the tape at the tail and show where you held the tape at the mouth. Measure your fish’s length and girth multiple times until you are satisfied that each measurement turns out the same each time. Lay the fish down in the bottom of the boat and with a lead pencil or felt tip pen mark around the mouth and tail. Measure that length and make sure it is similar; it won’t be exact, but very close. Then get the fish into your live well. Make sure you have plenty of fresh water running. It will be best to keep your trophy alive as long as possible. This will maintain the weight for a longer period of time.
Look around and contact anyone who witnessed your catch. Have them write down their names, addresses, phone numbers, Email address, date of birth, and any other identifying items you or they can think of.
Next head for the dock and get your boat on the trailer. Do not stop to discuss your fortune with anyone at this point. You are on a mission; you can B.S. about your fish later. Call the local warden or wildlife officer from your state Game & Fish Department. If you can’t reach anyone contact the State Patrol and ask them to make a contact for you. In most states the State Patrol and Division of Wildlife are on the same radio channel. Make sure the dispatcher understands the importance of reaching a Division officer immediately. Arrange to meet the warden or wildlife officer along the way so they can verify your fish. They will normally be very helpful and quite possibly they will remain with you to witness the entire process. They may also have special requirements to validate your world record. Check to be sure.
Find out where the nearest “certified” scale is located. If no one knows, find out where the nearest U.S. post office is (make sure you can get there before noon on Saturday or during working hours the rest of the week.) Otherwise look for a meat market or grocery store. The State is required to certify those scales on a regular basis and they will provide you with a receipt also. I think it would be best to call the store or market before driving over there as you want to make sure their scale is large enough for your fish. It would be a waste of time to drive to a meat market to weight a 60-pound fish on a 50-pound scale. I would personally get a second certified weight. Compare the two weights for similarity. They may not be exactly as the fish may have died and began drying out. This is to be expected. This way the challenges will be minimized. Again, be sure you get all the weight observers to fill out their personal information and a statement to the effect that they “personally” witnessed the weight and make sure they specify what weight they witnessed. If you’re at the post office have the postal person date stamp everyone’s signature and form. It is very important to keep each individual persons information on one, separate sheet. Do not have more than one person use the same sheet for their information. Make sure you get receipts from the post office, grocery store or meat market showing the weight and signed by who ever actually weighed the fish and manipulated the scale. It would also be good to make a note of the certification sticker number and date last certified.
Take photos of all persons involved with the weighing, including group photos of observers standing around the scale. Make notes of whose photo it is and place a name with each photo.
After you have returned your fish back into the live well. Get your rod and reel and remove a minimum of the first 25’ feet of line. Wrap it around a piece of cardboard and identify the manufacture, type of line, line weight, lot number and any other identifying features. This will be required for testing, especially for line class records.
Now sit down somewhere and make a log of your events since landing the fish. List chronologically by time of each activity. Witness’s names, photos taken, etc. Be absolutely sure that everything jives. All weights must match. Witness’s figures must match the scale weight they witnessed. Times and dates must all match. You cannot document too much. The more you document the less challenges you’ll get from the doubting public. Remember the next world record “true” muskellunge will make the person that catches it a very popular person and financially comfortable, if marketed correctly. I don’t think that catching a hybrid will offer the same level of notoriety.
It is now time to call a taxidermist and make sure he is home before you drive over and find out differently. Keep calling taxidermists until a satisfactory one is found. It is very important that you stay with this fish until you can pass it to some reputable taxidermist. You will be watched by many folks who would just love to permanently “borrow” your new World Record fish and claim it for themselves. The more you have documented the better your chances are going to be for recovery. Once you get home check with your insurance agent to possibly purchase a policy to cover loss or damage to your fish.
I am well aware that this article goes way beyond the requirements of National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame (NFFHF) and International Game Fish Association (IGFA) requirements. However, I feel that the next world record muskie will be scrutinized scale by scale with individuals and groups attempting to see it disqualified for some innate reason. Further I doubt that any of us go out fishing with the thought in mind, “Oh, I am going to just catch sub-legals today”. Deep down we’re all looking for that one-in-a-million chance to have our fifteen minutes of fame.
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