Muskellunge are found in a wide variety of habitats, typically thriving in large rivers, lakes, and flowages. Good musky waters usually contain both deep and.
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Preface This booklet is reference to waters. It provides essential attributes of these waters, including approximate location, access type, size (acres or miles ), and classification. This booklet would not be possible without t he substantial contributions of all the dedicated WDNR fisheries biologists and technicians throughout the state. Their knowledge of these waters is the basis for this guide. It is a revision of WDNR publication PUBL – RS – 919 – 96, edited by Terry Margenau, Dennis Scholl, and Melinda Carr, which was updated during the summer of 1995 and release d as a publication of the Bureau of Research in 1996 . I n its original form, this booklet was produced in as early as 1968 (Publication 237 – 68; and perhaps even earlier ) as a publication of the WDNR Fisheries Management program . It was revised and released sporadically from approximately 1973 through 1982 as Fisheries Management p ublication 1 – 3600. This 201 8 internet version contains minor revisions (shown in bold) t o the 2012 paper edition. The printing of this booklet was made possible , in part, through the generous financial support of the Musky Clubs Alliance of Wisconsin, along with its individual member – clubs. Funding was also provided by the Federal Aid in Sp ort Fish Restoration Program. This information is also on the internet at dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/musky/ . More information about Wisconsin l akes can be found at dnr.wi.gov/lakes/ . Contour maps of many lakes are available at dnr.wi.gov/lakes/ m aps / . Information on lake and shore access is available at dnr.wi .gov/topic/Lands/BoatAccess/ . For m ore information about the Musky Clubs Alliance of Wisconsin, go to w ww.muskyclubsalliance.org . The WDNR provides equal opportunity in its employment, pro grams, services, and functions under an Affirmative Action Plan. If you have any questions, please write to Equal Opportunity Office, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C. 20240
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1 Wisconsin Muskellunge Waters The muskellunge ( Esox masquinongy ) is o unique trophies. It wa s so highly valued that the Wisconsin Legislature proclaimed it the official s tate f ish in 1955. Arguably, more world record muskies have been landed in Wisconsin than anywhere else in North Amer ica . The current state and world record is a nearly unbelievable 69 pound, 11 ounce fish taken from the Chippewa Flowage , Sawyer County . Also credited to Wisconsin is the world record hybrid muskellunge, at 51 pounds, 3 ounces, landed on Lac Vieux Desert , Vilas County in 1919 . Muskellunge are primarily sought by anglers as trophies. It takes the average angler more than 50 hours to catch an adult almost as much as actual catches . Wisconsin. Knowledge about the fish itself will increase an appreciation for the much – sought trophy and will provide some tools to make the quest more successful. A list of inland waters containing muskellunge, along with a few of their characteristics, is presented in order to describe what to expect from muskellunge populations in specific waters. Not all waters containing musky are classified as “musky waters”. W aters that do not have fishable populations are not included, even though an occasional muskellunge may be caught there. In addition, t he WI Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) , along with the Musky Clubs Alliance of Wisconsin and its member c lubs, ha ve been working to re – Michigan . To date, these efforts have focused on Green Bay and connected waters (including the lower Fox , Menominee, Oconto and Peshtigo Rivers), as well as the Lake Winnebago System. The s tocking of this muskellunge strain, which was once native to these waters, began in 1989. Classification Wisconsin muskellunge waters listed in this booklet have been classified ba sed on two separate criteria. First, a rating of the overall angling quality is made by fisheries biologists based on surveys, observations, and discussions with angler s familiar with the waters . The second criteria used to categorize muskellunge populat ions is reproductive status . anglers. One angler might consider a lake with an abundance of muskellunge water, whereas another might view a lake with larger are further separated into two divisions to more specifically describe the waters. This general classification is intended to help musky anglers select specific
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2 waters, b ut is subject to change as the natural conditions of these waters change. For more detailed information on specific waters, contact a local WDNR fisheries biologist. Classification of a ngling q uality is based on the following criteria: Class A – These a re the premiere muskellunge waters, considered by most to provide the best muskellunge fishing. These waters are broken down into two categories, depending on population numbers, size – structure, and angling quality of the water. Class A1 – These waters a re best known as “trophy waters” for their ability to consistently produce a number of large muskellunge, but overall abundance of muskellunge may be relatively low. Angling action can be inconsistent in these waters, but the fish that are caught have a la rger average size. At certain times when conditions are right, however, these waters can also provide good action. Class A2 – These waters are best known for providing the most consistent angling action, and they may have the potential to produce som e larger fish, as well. They generally have the best overall numbers of muskellunge, but big fish make up a small percent of the total, compared to the Class A1 waters. Class B This is an i ntermediate class of waters that provide good fishing. In gener al, angler success and catch rates may be somewhat less than in prime Class A waters. Class C – These waters have muskellunge present, but they are not of major importance to the o verall fishery. About 31 6 (47%) of the 66 7 classified muskellunge lakes in Wisconsin are Class A waters, while the rest are either Class B or C.
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4 Access The primary type of access on each classified muskellunge water is listed. Many waters have more than one type of access, but only the most developed of the following access types is listed . For more information on boat and shore a ccess on the internet, go to dnr.wi.gov/topic/Lands/BoatAccess/ . Ramp pubic roadway to water with public launch ramp NP no parking is available) Road public roadway to water with no launch ramp Walk – in walking trail over public lands Water public access via navigable waterway Canoe public access via navigable waterway suitable only for a canoe or similar lightweight boat Comm (Commercial) no public access is available, but re sorts, private launch ramps, or boat rentals may be av ailable for a fee None no public or commercial access is available Muskellunge Life History The muskellunge is a member of the pike family, Esocidae. Its closest Wisconsin relatives are northern p ike ( Esox lucius ) and grass pickerel ( Esox americanu s ). The muskellunge is elongated, cylindrical, and about 6 times as long as it is deep. It is best distinguished from northern pike by the pattern of scales on the cheek and gill cover; muskellunge hav e no scales on the lower half of the cheek and gill cover whereas the cheek of northern pike is fully scaled. The tips of the tail fin in fin is rounded. Muskellunge typically have dark brown vertical bars or spots on a light silver to brownish or olive green background whereas n orthern pike ha ve irregular rows of light yellow horizontal spots on a dark green background. Distribution The pre – settlement range of the muskellunge in Wisconsin wa s believed to be confined to lakes and rivers of the following drainage systems: The Chippewa River ; the upper Wisconsin River (above Wausau ), the Black River, the Amnicon River, and the lower Fox River, including Green Bay . The distribution has been ex panded, particularly to the south, through stocking. Fishable populations are now found in approximately 66 7 lakes and 48 streams in 53 counties; the largest concentration s are found in the upper Chippewa, Flambeau, and Wisconsin River systems.
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5 Distribu tion of Muskellunge in Wisconsin Ecology Like most large predators at the top of the food chain, muskellunge are usually not very abundant. An average muskellunge lake has about 1 adult fish for every 3 surface acres. Expanding this average to all mus ky waters provides an estimate of about 200,000 muskies statewide. Muskellunge are found in a wide variety of habitats, typically thriving in large rivers, lakes, and flowages. Good musky waters usually contain both deep and shallow basins, with thriving beds of submerged aquatic vegetation. B road – n indicator of excellent musky habitat.
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6 , lurk ing along vegetation, rocky bars , ledges or shoals. In some waters, muskellu nge move off shore and remain suspended over deep water, usually in association with open – water prey populations such as cisco, yellow perch, or crappie. They are opportunistic feeders that will eat whatever is available. Adult muskellunge generally ea t other fish, but may occasionally consume muskrats, ducks, or other organisms associated with water. S oft – finned fishes , such as suckers and cisco , are important prey species, as are yellow perch and various minnows. These, along with unidentified fish , make up over 70% of the diet. Other panfish species (sunfish, rock bass, crappies, bullheads) are also eaten on occasion, making up about 15% of the die t . Gamefish species (bass, northern pike, other muskellunge, and walleye) are of less importance, to taling about 8% of the diet . Summer home ranges of muskellunge are usually less than 20 acres in size; movement is much reduced in winter but in spring, increased movement occurs with migrations to and from spawning grounds. Reproduction The spawning p eriod in Wisconsin extends from mid – April through mid – May. Optimum water temperature for spawning is about 55 F and ranges from 49 to 60 F. Spawning generally takes place in shallow water (1 to 3 feet in depth) over a variety of substrates ranging from m uck to sand to gravel. Spawning activity is often associated with vegetation, such as bulrushes, or with scattered coarse wood y fragments. During spawning, fertilized eggs are scattered over several hundred yards of shoreline. A male and a female swim s ide by side, releasing milt and eggs together at regular intervals over the bottom. Adult muskellunge provide no parental care to the eggs or young. Many adults are believed to return to the same spawning grounds in consecutive years. Eggs hatch in one to two weeks, depending on water temperature. Excessive cold, fluctuating water levels, predation on eggs and young by other fishes, lack of suitable food, and suffocation of eggs in bottom muck can all seriously limit reproduction and survival of young m uskies. Sexual maturity typically begins in some females by age 6 or 7 (about 33 inches); nearly all females are mature by the time they reach 40 inches. Most males mature by age 5 or 6 at about 28 to 30 inches. Age and Growth Muskellunge growth is ra pid through the first 5 years. Thereafter, growth rate (in length) is reduced , but weight continues to steadily increase ( see below ) . Muskellunge have been known to live 30 years or more. Male and female muskellunge grow at different rates throughout ad ulthood ; mature females can be anywhere from 1 to 10 (or more) inches large r than males of the same age. Factors that can influence growth include food availability, type and size ; lake type ; seasonal water temperatures ; and genetics. Lake area alone e xplains nearly 70% of the variation in growth seen among different populations.
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7 Disease s Muskellunge can be infected by a number of diseases and parasites ; protozoan, bacterial , fungal and viral infections are all known to afflict musk i e s . L ymphosarcom a , a malignant cancer of the lymph system , is usually fatal. It is commonly spread among fish in spring. blister – like growths or pinkish – white lesions, usually found on the sides, fins, and head. Esocid herpesvirus appears as bluish – white blotches on the back and fins, usually during spring. It is unknown how i t may affects survival. Muskellunge appear to be particularly susceptible to Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) virus, a recent invader to the Great Lake s ba sin. VHS causes internal bleeding and is believed to be fatal. Another recent usk y p ox ( p iscirickettsia ) , which results in red , rounded skin rashes up to one inch in diameter . So far, surveys of infected waters do not indicate substantial negative impacts on populations. M uskellunge have also been infested with flukes, tapeworms, and horny – headed worms (Acanthocephala). Many diseases are passed from fish to fish. If you catch what looks like an infected fish , spray y our landing net with a mild bleach solution (1 tablespoon/gallon of w ater) and allow it to soak for 10 minutes before rinsing . Allowing the net to dry thoroughly (5 days) will also work . Contaminants Mercury tends to accumulate in the muscle tissue of m uskies because they are l ong – lived , top – level predator s . Mercury concentration generally increase s with the size or age of t he fish , and tend s to be highest in fish from northern Wisconsin .
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