Lake of the Woods Muskie Season Opens Saturday
Any muskie hunter knows that Lake of the Woods is one of the best fisheries of muskie. Anglers come for miles around to fish our trophy waters. So make your plans as the 2017 muskie opener on Lake of the Woods for both the Minnesota and Ontario sides of the lake begins this weekend, Saturday, June 17th.
Lake of the Woods is a world class muskie fishery with over 65,000 miles of shoreline and 14,552 islands.
The majority of muskie anglers are catch and release. Many resorts, especially at the NW Angle specialize in muskie guides. These muskie nuts keep a good handle on fish movement, lure preference, colors and areas muskies are prevalent. It is also a great way to save time really learning the nuances of becoming a better muskie angler. Check out a list of NW Angle Resorts who can set you up with some of the best guides in the business.
For those that just love the sport, here are some tips on safely practicing catch and release:
Careful handling makes catch-and-release work.
A big muskie is an old muskie. Females require 14 to 17 years to reach 30 pounds. Northern pike grow even more slowly. Once taken out of the water and hung on a wall or carved into fillets, a trophy is not soon replaced by another fish of its size. So, the key to creating trophy northern pike and muskie fishing is catch-and-release angling. Unfortunately, some fish are mortally injured by improper handling and cannot be successfully released.
All northern pike and muskie are difficult to handle because of their slippery hides, lack of good handles and sharp teeth. Big fish are particularly troublesome because of their great size and power.
The first step to successfully releasing fish is to use artificials rather than live bait. The second step is to keep the fish in the water if at all possible.
Caught on artificials and handled carefully, nearly all fish can be returned with no permanent injury. Here are some effective methods, courtesy of Muskie Canada, for handling large northern pike and muskie:
- Hand release. Grip the fish over the back, right behind the gills (never by the eye sockets!) and hold it without squeezing it. With the other hand, use a pliers to remove the hooks, while leaving all but the head of the ;fish in the water. Sometimes hooks can be removed with the pliers only; the fish need never be touched.
- Landing net. Hooks can be removed from some fish even as they remain in the net in the water. If that’s not possible, lift the fish aboard and remove the hooks while the fish is held behind the head and around the tail. To better restrain large fish, stretch a piece of cloth or plastic over the fish and pin it down as if it were in a straight jacket.
- Stretcher. A stretcher is made of net or porous cloth about 2 to 3 feet wide stretched between two poles. As you draw the fish into the cradle and lift, the fold of the mesh supports and restrains the fish. This method requires two anglers.
- Tailer. Developed by Atlantic salmon anglers, a tailer is a handle with a loop at one end that is slipped over the fish’s tail and tightened. The fish is thus securely held, though the head must be further restrained before the hooks are removed.
If you must lift a big fish from the water, support as much of its body as possible to avoid injuring its internal organs.
Never grip a fish by the eye sockets if you intend to release it. By doing so you abrade its eyes, injure the surrounding tissue and may cause blindness.
Muskie anglers are a very passionate breed, often fishing from dawn to dusk. They also have the deepest respect for muskies and overall do an excellent job of making sure these ultimate predators return to the water unharmed.
Best of luck to all muskie anglers not only this weekend but this year. The muskies have been active this spring, are in good numbers and should be active.