Catch-and-release of muskellunge: Philosophy and methods

Organized fishing clubs, such as Muskies Canada and Muskies Inc., feel very strongly that the future of the muskellunge is in doubt. Serious muskellunge anglers feel an obligation to help protect and study this valuable predators, so they are concerned with environmental changes that affects its biology and habits. The dedicated muskellunge angler is also concerned that trophy fish remain available. Since it is the largest freshwater predator, it is hoped there wiol be a new world record. Current conditions indicated that, if trophies of more than 35 pounds are to be expected, most of the smaller fish must be released. Voluntary live release is the most direct and unselfish act an angler can practice to aid this species.

Muskellunge fishing clubs practice and promote live release extensively. Annual records of release and related statistics are share with resource management authorities who in turn share their biological expertise with anglers. Anglers are being taught the sensitivity of the muskellunge and the need to handle it correctly. The fishing public is being made aware of the release concept and proper methods of live release through the media, sports shows and direct demonstration. Achievements by fishermen in this program are publicly acknowledged.

At the present time, anglers have shown a willingness to practice “catch-and-release” and to use one of more of the general release methods which are best described by the handling technique or equipment employed in each. The ten categories are: net, stretchers, hand, lip lock, pistol grip, vice grips, tailing, stunning and two gaff methods. Each technique requires special care, consideration and practice. To ensure future survival of the muskellunge it is the hope of Muskies Canada that fishery agencies in Canada and the U.S. undertake studies to document the best release-handling methods.