CLEAR LAKE | Attention, muskie hunters.
A 49.3-inch female muskellenge netted by state fisheries biologists was recently released back into Clear Lake.
Better hurry up and grab the fishing pole, though.
At age 15, the old girl's getting pretty long in the tooth.
"From our other years of collecting this data, I would say pushing out there to that 15-16 years old (age range) is what we see about nearing the lifespan of what we see in Clear Lake," said Scott Grummer, an Iowa Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist.
The more than 4-foot-long fish was the largest of the 312 muskellunge, or muskies, netted this month during the annual walleye spawn in Clear Lake.
The Iowa DNR's primary focus of the spawn is to collect walleye eggs for state stocking efforts, but biologists also measure muskies and walleyes caught in the gillnets.
Steve Young muskie 1
Kid catches muskie
Houston muskie in East Park
Logan Conway and Muskie
Steve Ibarra 2
Sea Wall muskie
Clear Lake muskie
Redig's big fish
12th Street cat
Tom Caswell's Muskie
Big fish in St. Ansgar
Santee's northern pike
Richards' river monster
Mike Uhlenhopp's northern pike
Lenz lands a big one
Georgia Hanford cat
Frank and the fish
Echelbarger's northern pike
East Park walleye
Mom and son muskie
2 for one on Clear Lake
Big muskie caught on Clear Lake in January, 2016
Jeff Lutcavish with giant northern
Catfish in Clear Lake
Fall Classic walleye
Jensen's Fishing the Midwest: Fall can be the best time for trophy fish
Depending on where you live, the young people and their teachers are getting ready to go back to school, football season is either here or just around the corner, and the fall fishing season is not far off. Some folks may not like this progression of seasons, but many anglers do. They know that autumn can provide the best fishing of the year for both numbers of fish and trophy fish. Many anglers have caught the biggest fish of their life in the fall. If we want to take full advantage of fall fishing, now is a good time to make preparations to do so. Following are some things to keep in mind as we prepare for fall fishing.
Whether you’re fishing a lake, river, or reservoir, at some point in the fall the fish will school up. In the summer they’ll be loosely schooled more of the time, but when the fish feel the water temperatures drop and notice the days getting shorter, they’ll group up. Therefore, it works well to keep moving with an eye on your sonar until you find where the fish are hanging out.
The importance of paying attention to your sonar was once again driven home on a fall trip to Lake Kabetogama a couple of years ago. Kab is known for its walleyes, but it’s also a world-class smallmouth fishery. We were fishing for the smallmouth on deep structures. We located the structures on the maps in our sonar units, then cruised over them looking for fish. The first two spots were fishless, the third showed fish.
We dropped jigs and dropshot rigs to them and had immediate action. Just for the heck of it, we tried similar looking structures that didn’t show fish on the sonar, and that’s what we caught: Nothing. The fact that you’ve got to fish where the fish are if you want to catch fish was reinforced that day. We were using Raymarine sonar at the time: I can’t remember which units we had, but the Axiom series of sonar from Raymarine that we’re using now does an amazing job of showing fish, and they have the other features necessary that make fish-catching so much more consistent.
Start the autumn season off with fresh line. Just as we start the season with fresh line, we want to be sure our connection to the fish is in good shape in the fall. Be sure that when that fish-of-a-lifetime eats your bait, your line will be ready to handle it. There are lots of line choices out there, and they all have a purpose. With that said, day-in and day-out, I use P-Line CX or CXX Premium. These are kind of like monofilament line, and I’ve developed a lot of trust in them. If I want more sensitivity and better hooksetting ability, I use XTCB braid with a Tactical fluorocarbon leader. This set-up provides the ultimate in strength and minimal stretch, yet allows for a very natural presentation.
In the fall, fish like larger lures. Even the smaller fish eat bigger baits in the autumn. Mother Nature tells the fish that it’s better to eat one large meal instead of several smaller ones. Use big bait for big fish.
There are lots of options for recreation in the fall. Football and hunting take up lots of folk’s time. But if you like to fish, reserve some time for doing-so. The weather is pleasant, the scenery is nice, and the catching can be outstanding. Discover that for yourself when the leaves on the trees turn colorful.
Muskies: Mitchell County Conservation intern explains 'the mystery fish' (with photos)
OSAGE | Local anglers had an opportunity to hear about the “mystery fish" -- also known more commonly as the muskie, from Levi Nettleton, recent naturalist intern with Mitchell County Conservation.
Nettleton, who will be a senior science education major at the University of Northern Iowa this fall, told attendees muskies are known as the mystery fish because of their unpredictability.
“Muskies are very unpredictable,” he said. “You can find them in waters that are 6 inches to a 100 feet deep. They look like a pike, but they have six teeth instead of five teeth like northern, and northern are spotted.”
Nettleton said a female Muskie can lay up to 265,000 eggs, but their survival rate is very low. They spawn best in water temps of 55 to 65 degrees, laying their eggs randomly in shallow waters where predators can consume the eggs.
“Many fishermen believe the muskie is a major consumer of other game fish such as bass and walleye, but they are apt to eat softer fish like bullheads and minnows,” Nettleton said, noting they also eat insects, crayfish, small mammals and waterfowl.
"Many believe they are aggressive, but that isn’t true, unless they are feeding," he said. "They are complicated for naturalists to study.”
Nettleton said Muskies’ habitats also vary, meaning they can be found in weeds like tobacco cabbage or 30 feet deep in open water. He said fisherman can find them in different places throughout the year.
Nettleton shared his enthusiasm for catching the large game fish, something he started four years ago.
“Once you do it, it can become an addiction," he said. "There's a lot of skill in muskie fishing, and sometimes, muskies are called the fish of a 100,000 casts.”
Nettleton’s study has rewarded him well, as he caught and released 36 muskies last year and 12 so far this year.
Fishermen seeking muskies typically use 7- to 10-foot rods, according to Nettleton. He uses a 300- to 400-foot reel with 22 pounds of drag, with 50-100 braid line and steel or fluorocarbon leaders.
He also carries needle-nosed pliers longer than 8 inches and a rubberized net, so he doesn't harm the Muskie.
He gave some additional pointers:
• Leave the catch in the water and support and release it when the fish is calm.
• Cut the hook if the fish has been deep-hooked.
• Don't fish over 80 degrees.
• If trolling, start at 2 mph, increasing to 4 mph.
• Do figure-eights to attract muskies.
Nettleton, who whose biggest catch was 53 inches long, said there are Muskies in the Cedar, Iowa, Shell Rock, and Winnebago rivers, as well as in Clear Lake.
The largest populations of muskies are in Minnesota, according to Nettleton, where the largest caught was 56 inches long and weighed 54 pounds.
Each animal is scanned for an electronic chip. Those that don't have one get one.
The chips allow biologists to track each fish's growth, which is how staff knew they'd caught the 49.3-inch muskie a few times before.
Hatched in 2002 at the state hatchery in Spirit Lake, the fish spent her first winter at another state hatchery in Lake Rathbun near Centerville and was released into Clear Lake in May 2003.
Back then, she would've been about a foot long.
Biologists didn't see her again until April 11, 2007, which isn't surprising considering fish don't get caught in the Iowa DNR's gillnets until they're about 26 inches long.
Then age 5, she was 42 inches long.
She'd grown to 44 inches by April 20, 2008, when she got snagged in the state's gillnets for the second time.
The fish managed to avoid the nets every spring until April 11, when she once again got lodged in gillnets set up for the walleye spawn.
The Clear Lake muskie's third recapture — and large size — prompted the Iowa DNR to post her picture on their Facebook page with a caption, "Hello, old friend."
At 49.3 inches, she's reached a size that's getting close to the 52-inch state record muskie caught in 2000 on Big Spirit Lake.
“Of course, everyone would love to catch a fish that big,” said Jason Anderson, of Crazy Minnow Bait and Tackle Co. in Clear Lake. “That’s getting up to the size of muskies they’re catching in Minnesota and Canada."
Over the years, a big muskie caught on Clear Lake has generally been in the mid 40-inch range, although anglers do catch bigger specimens, Anderson said.
He credited restoration and water-quality improvement efforts by groups such as the CLEAR Project with creating good habitat for muskie and other fish.
“There’s a lot of forage, a lot of different species of fish that are thriving in Clear Lake now,” Anderson said.
Biologists get a scientific picture of the lake health through data taken during the annual fish spawn.
"It gives us a really good chance to get a look at the fish populations," Grummer said.
He said the 2017 data is still being analyzed, but preliminary numbers indicate fish are doing well in Clear Lake.
"We have a good muskie population, good size structure," said Grummer, of the Iowa DNR's Clear Lake office. "So, that shows the stockings that we put in are surviving well and growing well."
CLEAR LAKE | On the ready with a wet towel, Michael Wentworth went to work walleye after wal…
Clear Lake is stocked with muskie every other year.
Baby walleyes, or fry, are released annually.
About 16 million walleye fry collected during spawns at Clear Lake, Lake Rathbun and the Iowa Great Lakes chain earlier this month will be released in the next week or two.