The Curious Case of the Missing Muskies


It’s not new to hear older anglers talk about how good fishing was “back when I fished in the day.” Typically, I hear these anglers cite how the fish are smaller now as evidence of the declining fishery. I’ve never heard anglers complain that there aren’t enough small fish.

Well, that’s exactly the problem that’s happening in the famed fishing lakes of Minnesota in the muskie fishery. A vigorous hatchery stocking program and the raising of the take limit to 54″ inches are some of the reasons guides and biologists are saying there are more big trophy-sized fish to be caught, but less fish overall. Is this a bad thing? Read this article from the Twin Cities Pioneer Press and form your own opinion.

muskie_joebucherWhen Minnesota muskie anglers take to the water this weekend, they’ll be chasing bigger and bigger fish — but apparently less and less of them.

That’s the emerging suspicion of state biologists monitoring populations on a number of Minnesota’s roughly 100 lakes with strong populations of muskellunge. What they’ve seen is that as the population of muskies ages and fish grow larger — a trend almost certain to continue as the state adopts a 54-inch statewide minimum next year — densities of muskies are falling.

The phenomenon — suspected to be the result of big muskies eating smaller ones — is eye-opening to researchers because numbers of the fast-growing, voracious fish are naturally low to begin with.

For example, 6,581-acre Lake Bemidji is now believed to have a mere 500 to 600 adult muskies in it, according to a two-year population estimate completed last month by the Department of Natural Resources. “You’d think there’d be room for more than that,” said Gary Barnard, the DNR’s Bemidji area fisheries supervisor.

Photos: Twin Cities Pioneer Press (top); Joe Bucher (above)

SOURCEPioneer Press
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Joe Sarmiento
Joe is an avid saltwater angler. He grew up in Washington State on the south end of Puget Sound where he first started fishing as a boy catching perch, flounder, rockfish, and occasionally salmon. Today, Joe lives in Southern California where he fishes off beaches and jetties, kayaks, and sportfishing boats. Joe writes about his saltwater adventures in the SoCal Salty blog, and for Western Outdoor News.