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muskiedreams

Musky Catch and Release - Reasons, Tips, Questions and Experiences

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I realize that many of you are aware of catch and release procedures and their importance but I thought I would start this thread for the benefit of those who are new to musky fishing or are thinking about trying it.

 

Without musky catch and release practices that are commonly practiced today, considering that fishing pressure has increased on many bodies of water, partially due to the internet, we would not have the musky fisheries we have today. Just because a body of water is stocked with muskies or tiger muskies, doesn't mean that catch and release is less important. Since they take many years to become trophy size and with the increased pressure, we need to be as diligent as we can about releasing them to fight another day and spread the word about this subject if we want the prospect of catching trophy fish in the future.

 

Good catch and and release practices have been proven to be significant in maintaining a quality musky fishery including all of the following.

 

1. Using more than adequate rod, reel, line and leader and keeping them all in top condition in order to keep the fight short and to minimize the possibility of the line breaking and the fish swimming off with a lure in it's mouth.

 

2. Have all the release tools you may need to release the fish with minimal trauma.

  • Large coated net: this is your boatside live well for the release process.
  • Jaw spreaders: sometimes they are needed
  • Quality hook cutter: Knipex is the best
  • Heavy duty long nose pliars: best for hook removal. the longer, the better. Available at any hardware store.

Keep the fish in the net at boatside and keep its head below the surface as much as possible while removing the hooks. You can attach wrist straps to the tools to keep from dropping them in the water. Be careful to avoid being impaled by a hook if the fish starts to thrash. Especially with multiple treble hooks. Always be ready to get your hands out of the way. It is no fun if you and the fish are hooked to the same lure. This is one of the reasons to have a good set of hook cutters. The other is if there are multiple hook points embedded in the fish, it is easier to cut the hooks and then remove the pieces from the fish. Have some replacement hooks handy to replace them. Use jaw spreaders when needed to aid in gaining access to remove or cut the hooks. If the fish has been overly stressed, you might want to consider releasing it without removing it from the water. If this is the case and you still want to get a picture and/or measurement, letting it rest for a few minutes and moving some water through it's gills first would be a good idea. It can be a judgement call though, under these circumstances.

 

3. If you want to get a measurement and take a picture, it should be done as quickly as possible to minimize the amount of time the fish is out of the water. The girth can be measured in the water with a flexible measuring tape made for tailoring. If you only want an approximate length measurement, a floating measuring stick can be used. To get an accurate measurement with minimal trauma to the fish, a bump board is best. There are many commercially available ones and you can easilly make your own. It is best to have one where the length markings show up well in a picture. Wet the board before you put the fish on it to keep slime loss to a minimum. It takes planning and practice but you should be able to measure on the board and take a picture or two in 20 sec. or less. Before you remove the fish from the water, have the camera ready and position the boat with the sun position in mind for best picture. Remove the fish from the net with one hand holding the gill plate (being careful not to damage the gills) and support the body of the fish horizontally with your other hand. Never hold the fish vertically by the gill. That can damage the gills or rip the jaw. Get in position and have your partner snap a picture or two. If you want to get an accurate measurement, position the fish squarely on the board to make the measurement and snap a picture if desired. Never lay the fish on a carpeted floor or any similar type of surface as it will remove the protective slime from the skin.

 

4.Now it is time to get the fish back into the water. Support the fish in the same mannor as above and and carefully lower it into the water. Hold onto the tail and slowly work the fish forward and back to get water flowing through the the gills. Another(and probably better) way is to face the fish ino the current (if you are in current) or get the boat moving very slowly forward. Ideally you want to feel the fish kick its tail to let you know it is ready to go. Be patient.it may take some time, depending on how stressed the fish is. Please do the best you can and try not to let it go until you are sure it can swim away strongly. If you are not able to revive the fish, it happens sometimes but if you have done your best, the only thing you can do is think about what you can do the next time to keep it from happening again.

 

Always check the condition of the last several feet of your line and leader after catching or loosing a fish. Replace the leader or cut and re-tie the line if either are even slightly questionable.

 

I have heard of several cases where a tagged fish or a fish with a distinctive marking from an old wound was caught again by one or two other anglers. Very often it is still in the same neighborhood. Even a year or two later. So practicing good catch and release techniqies really does provide angling pleasure for others in the future.

 

I would like to encourage others to post any information, pictures, videos, questions, experiences, etc. pertaining to this subject.

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Excellent post, but its one thing to read it and another entirely to do it.  I would add that anyone who will hopefully be attempting this for the first time should practice all of the above with other species of fish that are easier to catch and handle so that when you get your chance you don't have to try it for the first time with a large musky or tiger.  This is even more important if you are fishing from a pontoon ( and more people are fishing from pontoons now than ever) as your feet are well above the water level and it is along way down and the back platform is often very small and the ladder is in the way and there is nothing to keep you from falling in as you lean way over as you cant just lean over the gunwale.  I would also add if you are trolling with other lines out get them ALL in so you can stop.  this will allow you to work the fish around to the larger side gate where you could lay down and just lean your head and arms over.  Cant stress it enough to try the above procedure ahead of time.  Ive handled quite a few and I wasn't ready at all.  Also when water temps are up over 80 you have to work faster and it takes longer to revive them.   The thing I don't have and would have helped the most is the plastic coated net, but it still takes practice.  Ive always left the other lines out and moving and this is VERY challenging in a pontoon.  Also explain and show the others on the boat BEFORE you fish.  Wish I had video footage of what I did then you would know what you will be up against if you aren't ready...chaos!  I would also recommend immediately cutting the leader as soon as the fish is in the net as the line and rod both get in the way.  I didn't cut the hooks as I thought I didnt need to right up until the fish thrashed in the net and rehooked its self and I had to start over.  They are also very heavy to lift if you cant lean on something and you are forced to lean out and lift. Im 6' 3" 210lbs and fit and I struggled mightily.  PRACTICE  PRACTICE  PRACTICE  you are the fish's only chance at survival and it is your job be more prepared than I was  I was successful but it was lucky we couldn't measure the fish as Im certain if I had one more task to do the fish wouldn't have survived.  Ive never measured one since the very try last summer was a failure. I decided to skip the measuring entirely on every one we've caught since, and I didn't really care as they were all smaller than the first, a 42".  When you get a big one tho you will want the measurements. 1 last thought, all of these tools, mat, cutters etc need to be handy as you wont have time for searching and tidying up the boat to clear an area for the mat and fish.  Its hard to always be ready when you are fishing, but you have to be.

justin

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great read all,

when you dont catch the big girls often, once you do , it is a grave reminder how unprepared we are for them!

 

I managed a nice tiger a few weeks back over 40" and over 15 lbs and was bymyself in my little boat.

 

Everything went well, except I didnt not have the pole to handle her. I didnt fight her hard (actuially I couldnt), and she just stayed near the bottom in 15 ft of water for a while before I landed her.

However she was out of the water for maybe 30 seconds for a pic and a quick measure

After a revival time she swam away well so hopefully all is good.

 

I know one things for sure, the cheap 36" basspro measuring stickers aint no good in Otisco!

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I'm glad you all appreciate this post. I just thought it would be an important topic to cover on this forum. Thank you Chad, for pinning it to the top.

 

Justin. I understand what your are up against with catch and release from a pontoon boat. I admire you persistancty to do the best you can considering the circumstances. With a good net, you should be able to do better. You can always hold the fish in the net for a few minuets to give it (and yourself) a little breathing time if it has been overly stressed.

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Excellent post Steve! I may add to look at the muskies eyes before removing it from the water for a picture, if they have a glossy cateract starting to form the fish is stressed to the point that revival must start right then, picture in the water only.When the surface water is over 78 degrees get in the habbit of bringing along 3 frozen milk jugs of water to put in the net with the fish to cool the water down and help with a faster revival.If you have a livewell with airator, bring a fexable CPap hose that can slip over the airator end and reach the water with the other end to airate the water near the fishes gills.

Sent from my SCH-I200 using Lake Ontario United mobile app

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I think Ill be in good shape next time around...thanks Capt. Larry I like the glossy eye trick, and Im ready with the hose and mat.  Tracy and I were joking that we'll probably never get another now that we are prepared.  Most of our tigers don't come in the boat anyways and its only been 2 fish that we've struggled with, but I like to get a routine so things go smoothly, and a routine that works with any size fish is what I was after.

justin

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Got myself a rubber coated musky net and while I haven't had a tiger last couple times out it is awesome with the walleyes....no more tangled mess...this is gonna make the difference I think.

justin

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try fishing with the barbs of your hooks pinched down. most of the fish you net will get off the bait on their own in the net. safer for you and the fish.

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Mike:  Awesome video.  I have never seen that way of getting a hook removed, but it looks a lot cleaner and easier than any other way I have been witnessed!

 

--Joe

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I hooked a monster in the lower niagra a few years ago off the platform with having no chance to save the fish I took the risk and cut the line knowing that if I fought the fish and brought it up there was no way to revive it ..

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-N900A using Lake Ontario United mobile app

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Excellent information and breakdowns.....everybody!.....Makes me think we should make fishing for muskie a required elementary school course universally. Kids everywhere learning how and why to think and act with care, depth, regard, and respect towards anything around them. Reading...writing...arithmetic...muskies...Maybe muskies right after reading......

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Interesting trick with the orange;can't wait to try it. Back to my barbless promo:post-142867-14038750430554_thumb.jpg i took this shot off my gopro. There is a tiger in the net and as you can see i am picking the spoon out of the mouth of the net,where most barbless baits end up as soon as slack is given.

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no need to net the lil ones, just unhook em in the water. why bother measuring a lil guy anyways?

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Unless its a tournament Id rather not measure any if possible with water temps beginning to soar. Reviving them is hard enough without additional handling.

Sent from my SPH-L710 using Lake Ontario United mobile app

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Well written post and very informative thank you

Sent from my XT907 using Lake Ontario United mobile app

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Use your fishing rod for a measurement tool.  It is right in your hand. 

 

Nice post.  Should bump it to the top every spring.

 

Hero shots are nice (to share) but if it is likely going to kill the fish maybe you should just take a quick mental pick for reflection later.  I have discovered that summer is the hardest season for reviving any species of fish.  Colder liquids hold more gas so maybe this is why warmer water may have less O2 making the fish stress more?  I never asked a fish, I just notice the difference.

 

Good luck to everyone this season.  I saw a nice tiger this past weekend looking for crappie in the stumps.

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Thank you for bringing my attention to this string again.

 

It reminded me about the great and extensive compilation of information from The Next Bite that Todd Cook had put together. The "Magazine & Books Snippets" PDF has many extremely interesting articles that provide a great deal of insight into the complex nature of the balance of freshwater fisheries. I have only read about 20% of them so far but had a hard time pulling myself away. I will have to work at reading the rest of them.

 

Thank you, tmag for giving us the link to this. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THAT EVERYONE ON THIS FORUM READS THEM.

 

I'd like to get in contact with Todd Cook to thank him for putting it all together. So if anyone here knows him, please ask him to contact me.

 

Good luck to everyone this season. And as always, please be kind to the fish.

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I am a big fan of knowing the weight of fish. Length is great but if you have length and weight measurements you can really understand the size and heartiness of the fish.  If a fish is at a low stress level and will allow it I like to put them on the scale.  But I don't like hanging them vertically regardless.  Does anyone have a tried and true method of weighing the beasts?  I have thought about some kind of bag like the bass anglers use to transport fish in, with drain holes added obviously.  Any have any experience with this? 

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I would say weigh it in the net and then subtract the weight of the net (weigh it after release). That should get you a close measurement. Knowing that you have an accurate scale also helps. With a digital scale, you have to make sure it zero's properly when you turn it on (turn it on with the hook hanging straight and freely). I think some digital scales just don't give consistent readings. A good mechanical scale might be better.

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I bought a Frabill cradle last winter just to weigh fish in.  I haven't used it yet, but I'm sure it will work well and nothing will support the fish better.  I also just intend to use my 60lb Boga as the scale.  I'll wait for one that appears to be over 40lbs to test it out...be nice if I got that chance over the next couple months.

 

Another easy way to get an approximate weight is to just put a bathroom scale in your boat.  Weigh yourself holding the fish and then weigh yourself without the fish and subtract.

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