Muskie season begins Saturday

Here are the basics

Anglers can begin fishing for muskellunge on Saturday, June 3, in Minnesota – a state well known as a muskie fishing destination, according to the Department of Natural Resources. 

While committed muskie anglers might cast large lures all season and be happy with a small number of encounters with trophy fish, casual anglers may not be in-the-know about muskies in Minnesota.

To help set the stage, Chris Kavanaugh, northeast region fisheries manager, discussed some muskie basics.

Q: Where did muskies come from?

A: Muskie are native to Minnesota waters, and they were present historically in many lakes and rivers, mainly in the north-central and northeast part of the state in waters connected to each other in the Mississippi River watershed. They were actually found in all the major watersheds in the state.

Q: What different kinds of muskies are present in Minnesota?

A: Presently, the fish we consider pure-strain muskies are descended from the fish that lived here historically, and are referred to as the Mississippi River or Leech Lake strain. We also have a small number of waters with smaller-growing native muskie from Shoepack Lake in what’s now Voyageurs National Park, although this strain has not been stocked since the 1980s. Finally, tiger muskies are hybrids of northern pike and muskie.

Q: Where in Minnesota can you fish for muskie now?

A: Some well-known muskie lakes include Leech, Cass, Winnibigoshish, Vermilion and Mille Lacs, and the St. Louis River estuary. Muskies are also found on many smaller lakes. Contact a local area fisheries office to ask about local muskie fishing opportunities, and learn about lakes to fish on the DNR LakeFinder at www.mndnr.gov/lakefind.

In all, there are 99 waters managed for muskie and they’ve also been found in small numbers in another 50 waters. The 99 waters make up 21 percent of the total surface area of all the waters managed for fishing in the state – which means they’re here in very low density considering we have 5,500 fishing lakes and several large rivers.

Q: Does the DNR stock muskies?

A: Yes, of the 99 waters where we manage for muskie fishing, we stock pure-strain muskie in  50 waters, and tiger muskie in 11 waters in the Twin Cities metro area. Some waters are stocked every year. Others may be stocked every other year or less frequently. The number stocked in any given water varies from as few as 63 fingerlings to 4,000 fingerlings. In any given year, about 30,000 fingerlings are stocked across the state.

Q: How many people fish for muskie?

A: Our estimates tell us that about one in six Minnesota resident anglers fish for muskie at least once per year. The popularity and interest in muskie fishing seems to continue to grow.

Q: Can people eat muskies?

A: Yes, although the minimum size to keep a muskie on inland waters is 54 inches. On specific lakes in the metro area, the minimum size is 40 inches for tiger muskies. There is a strong catch-and-release ethic among muskie anglers, so fewer anglers choose to harvest these large fish compared with some other species. That’s one reason we included muskie in the catch-and-release length category of our state record fish program. The record length for a caught-and-released muskie is 56-7/8 inches from Pelican Lake in Otter Tail County