A Fanatical Few
a whole lot of them out there compared to other fish, so they put them back so the rest of the muskie anglers, including themselves, have a chance to catch them again.”
Boone, an avid muskie angler whose name appears frequently on the “Fish Caught” section of the club’s Web site, said out of the thousands of muskies reported through the years as part of the Conservation Department’s Show-Me Muskie Project, only a few were reported harvested.
“And those were just the fish that didn’t revive after release attempts,” he said.
Hammond agrees. “Pretty much everybody in the club releases all the muskies they catch. I believe muskie clubs were the first to start catch-and-release.”
Club members also refrain from targeting muskies during the peak summer fishing months. That’s because muskies caught in water warmer than 80 degrees, even if they are handled carefully, might not survive after release.
“The muskie anglers know this and promote it more than we do,” Boone said. “They called their 2006 June tournament off because the water was warmer than normal and a few fish caught early in the tournament died. And, most of the time they’ll fuss at each other if they find someone out there muskie fishing when it’s too hot.”
Fortunately, Pomme de Terre has plenty of good crappie, walleye and bass fishing to feed the members’ fishing appetite during the summer, and, of course, there’s the chapter’s annual Kids’ Fishing Day.
“I don’t know who has more fun at Kids’ Day, the kids or the adults,” chapter president Neely said. “We tell our people to go borrow the next door neighbor’s kids if necessary, and we take them over to a local dock and supply them with worms and we measure anything and everything they catch. They all go home with trophies and fishing rods. It’s quite a program.”
“We do more than just fish,” Neely said. “We have a great working relationship with the Conservation Department and devote what funds we can to different projects that help the cause of muskie fishing and fishing in general.”
Neely said chapter members have volunteered to install and map brush piles, helped with an ongoing lake revegetation project and even walked the banks of the lake to scare away herons preying on young muskies that had recently been stocked. The club has also contributed funds to construct nets to protect fish in hatcheries and has pledged a large chunk of money toward building a disabled-accessible fishing pier on the lake.
“We do this because we figure there has to be a purpose for your club,” Neely said. “Otherwise you are just a group of people going fishing.”
The state record muskie is 49.5 inches long and was caught in the 1970s. Since then, state anglers have gone without “a 50,” even though muskies of this length are recorded in most states where muskies are found.
The difference may be a matter of genetics. In the early years of the muskie program, the fish stocked into Missouri waters have for the most part come from whatever sources were available, usually states to the north of us. Those strains of muskies may be better adapted to cooler climates and have an upper limit to growth here in Missouri.
The Conservation Department has been experimenting with the Kentucky strain of muskies, which in Kentucky lakes reach lengths of up to 53 inches. The first Kentucky strain muskies were stocked in Pomme de Terre and Fellows lakes in 2002. Those fish were 10–12 inches long when stocked and may soon provide a way for Missouri muskie anglers to break the magical 50-inch mark.
Download Missouri’s Muskie Management Plan, or you can request a copy by writing MDC Muskie Management Plan, PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65120, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.