Welcome to Panfish

Part Twenty-five


"Selective Fish?"

Excerpt from Fly Rod Gamfish By Dick Sternber
Thanks to Cowles Enthusiast Media for use permission.


"Compared to pike, muskies are considerably more selective as to what they eat. They're known for their habit of following a fly, then turning away at the last second. But muskies can afford to be choosy; pike can't. Since muskies aren't as numerous, they face less food competition from other members of their breed. Pike must eat whatever they can whenever they can or be outcompeted.

Due to their finicky nature, muskies are commonly billed as "the fish of 10,000 casts." Stories often describe how an angler fishes for years to catch a single muskie. Such tales discourage many anglers from trying for muskies. It's true that muskie fishing can be tough, but it's not nearly as difficult as many writers would lead you to believe. Some muskie specialists land dozens each season.

Because pike aren't as selective, they're much easier to catch. In a creel survey conducted on a Wisconsin lake, anglers removed 50 percent of the pike crop in a single season. Another reason pike fishing is easier: the fish don't seem to learn from past mistakes. Many anglers have caught a pike with a distinctive marking, released it and then caught it again the same day. Rarely does this happen with muskies.

The relative ease of catching northern pike makes them extremely vunerable to overfishing. In most heavily fished waters, pike exceeding 10 pounds are unusual. But in remote areas, they commonly reach 25 pounds or more. Muskies are less affected by fishing pressure and frequently attain in excess of 35 pounds, even in waters pounded by anglers.

The largest pike taken by fly fishing weighed 33 pounds, 8 ounces. It was caught in Nejanilini Lake, Manitoba, in 1994. Surprisingly, the largest fly rod muskie weighed only 18 pounds, 9 ounces. It was caught in Pike Lake, Wisconsin, in 1989. A tiger muskie caught in the St. Lawrence River, Quebec, 1985, weighed 30 pounds, 6 ounces.

All Esocids are excellent food fish, with lean, white, flaky, mild-tasting meat. They're often belittled because of the Y-bones in the meat, but the bones can easily be removed. Muskies, however, are too scarce to kill for the meat. Release them to fight another day."

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