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Sarley: A vote for muskie proposal

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It’s been a long time since I’ve mentioned the current world record muskie that has been accepted by the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wis. The fish, caught by Louis Spray in 1949, purportedly measured 631⁄2 inches and weighed 69 pounds, 11 ounces.

This record fish has been disputed and argued about for many years. The International Game Fish Association doesn’t accept Spray’s fish. Instead, it counts Cal Johnson’s fish, caught in 1949 on Minnesota’s Lac Court Oreilles. This fish allegedly weighed 67 pounds, 8 ounces and measured 5 feet, 1⁄2 inch in length with a 33-inch girth.

Incredibly, the record changed hands nine times between 1939 and 1949. Unbelievably, Spray put in claims that he had caught three of these fish. That is akin to somebody winning the Powerball lottery three times.

There have been only a few fish caught and reported that were weighed in at more than 60 pounds since Spray claims to have caught the most recent “record fish.” No record fish have been caught in the past 63 years after nine in just a decade. That seems preposterous, doesn’t it?

A group called the World Record Muskie Alliance spent a lot of time and a lot of money to fund a scientific study of the photographs of Spray’s fish. The study was based on photogrammetry, which is well-accepted in the scientific community and is often accepted in court cases. The study proved Spray’s fish was nowhere near its claimed size.

The Hall of Fame wanted no part of this report and said that Spray’s record would stand. The fact that Spray allegedly caught his fish in Hayward and that the Hall is located there supposedly had no bearing on the decision. Experts pleaded with the hall to reconsider its decision, but to no avail.

I requested that the Hall institute a new record. I thought they could keep Spray’s record on the books but should create a new category for modern-day fish because of advances in technology in photography and weighing devices. They rejected the idea, saying, “We already have a record. We don’t need another.”

This controversy really riled up Larry Ramsell. Ramsell is from the Hayward area and is without question the world’s No. 1 expert on big muskies – the records, the anglers, the fish, the waters and the lore and legends surrounding it all. Larry’s “A Compendium of Muskie Angling History” is the bible on the history on muskie fishing. The publication is a two-volume set that looks like a pair of phone books. Believe me, it is comprehensive.

In 2006, Ramsell had the idea of establishing an organization that would attempt to establish a new, legitimate record. He called it the Modern Day Muskellunge World Record Program and invited a number of well-respected names in the angling world to comprise its board of directors. Members included Jim Saric, Ron Lindner, Joe Bucher, Pete Maina and Gord Pyzer. I am quite humbled to say I am also a member of this esteemed 22-member panel.

The original announcement stated, “The bar has been set at 60 pounds minimum for initial muskellunge application to prevent numbers of large muskellunge from being kept ‘just to set a record.’ With these weight criteria, few fish will be ever be kept for record purposes. This new beginning will constitute a highly credible ‘International’ program with realistic and obtainable minimums as a starting point, and very credible but attainable records once they are established.”

This made a lot of sense to me. Nobody wants to see big fished killed. A 60-pound minimum for record consideration is a tough standard to meet. There would be no consideration for catch-and-release fish because there is too much of a chance for tomfoolery there.

The problem has been that since the establishment of the Modern Day Muskellunge World Record Program, not a single fish has been presented for consideration. Either there are no 60-pound fish swimming in North America’s waters or the news that the program exists isn’t known by enough fishermen.

A few weeks ago, 41-year-old Joseph Seeberger of Portage, Mich., was fishing for smallmouth bass with his brother Chuck and friend Jason Orbeck. They were using light tackle on Antrim County’s Lake Bellaire, part of a chain of lakes that comes off Lake Michigan. They were shocked when Seeberger hooked into a big, big fish. It came to the boat quickly and was obviously a huge muskie.

When it saw the boat, the fish became belligerent. It left the water one time and then stripped line and began to run. The anglers followed the behemoth around the lake, keeping light pressure on the line. They tried netting it with a pair of small bass nets, one from the front and one from the back. Both nets snapped when they tried to lift the fish. They tried cradling the fish in a pair of life jackets – no dice. Another boat pulled up and an angler boarded their boat with a more suitable net. He wasn’t able to do the job, either. After 30 minutes, they finally slipped a rope with a noose on the end around the fish and were able to hoist it aboard. The monster was 59 inches long and weighed 58 pounds.

You can hear Seeberger tell the tale of his amazing catch on the replay of my radio show, “The Outdoors Experience,” at www.oexperience.com. Just click the radio show button and click on the Oct. 28 show.

The Modern Day Muskellunge World Record Program is considering lowering its 60-pound minimum to 58 pounds so Seeberger’s fish can be proclaimed the new record fish.

I voted “yes” to the proposal. I think we need to get a new record on the books so it creates a buzz and makes the world aware that the program is in place. Muskie fishing fever is at an all-time high, and it would be a shame to learn that a gigantic, record fish had been caught and released or eaten and that the fisherman had no idea what he had, only that his fish was smaller than Louis Spray’s dubious world-record fish.

Northwest Herald outdoors columnist Steve Sarley’s radio show, “The Outdoors Experience,” airs live at 5 a.m. Sundays on AM-560. Sarley also runs a Web site for outdoors enthusiasts, OExperience.com. He can be reached by email at sarfishing@yahoo.com.

Outdoors notes

Hunting/fishing report

Northern Illinois: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “This weekend should see bucks on their feet right behind the does. I like to watch the doe to see if she looks back behind her. This may mean a buck is on her trail and may give you a shot. Always check the solunar times. They may fall in the middle of the day. Most of my big bucks were shot between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. during major solunar times.” Call 815-455-2040 for updated reports.

For up-to-the-minute water conditions on the Fox Chain and Fox River, visit foxwaterway.state.il.us/ or call 847-587-8540.

Lake Michigan – Southern Wisconsin: Root River water clarity is improving but becomes cloudier with rainfall. Anglers have been fishing the entire stretch of river to the Horlick dam. A few Chinook were caught on flies just upstream of the steelhead facility, but most anglers were struggling to catch fish. Most anglers were using flies or spawn sacs with only a few Chinook being caught. Anglers were concentrating mostly in the holes in Island and Lincoln parks with the largest amount of fishing pressure just downstream of the Steelhead facility.

Geneva and Delavan: The lakes are virtually boatless with the foul weather that was a by-product of superstorm Sandy. Still, this is a great time to get out for some big fish if Mother Nature allows it. Big baits are in order. Use the biggest suckers for both Geneva and Delavan monster pike. Catch your own bluegills and perch to use for bass. Remember that this is only legal if you use the fish on the same water that you catch them. You cannot transport these fish for use as bait. Call Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan Fishing Hotline at 414-382-7920.

Deer season

Through Sunday, Illinois archery deer hunters harvested 30,956 deer. Last year’s harvest for the same period was 28,198, and the five-year average was 29,381. The harvest for this season consists of 56 percent does and 44 percent males, with males comprising about 59 percent of the past week’s harvest. The top five counties to date are Pike (1,309), Fulton (998), Jefferson (685), Peoria (671) and Adams (656). The totals for local counties showing 2011/2012 are: Kane 157/142; Lake 173/179; McHenry 284/334; and Winnebago 201/234.

Boat sale scam

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued a Crime Alert Network Bulletin concerning a fraudulent boat sale scam. “A Tennessee resident responded to a local Craigslist ad for a boat for sale with a Wisconsin title. The boat was advertised as being stored in Brookfield, Wis. The sale also involved a Wisconsin law firm that would handle the transaction. The “seller” stated that it was a mix-up that the boat appeared for sale nationwide on Craigslist. The seller wanted the asking price to be held by a Brookfield law firm. A copy of the title was provided to the buyer. The title is fraudulent. The Brookfield law firm does not exist. The buyer became suspicious and did not complete the transaction. If you are aware of a similar scheme, please contact the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network.”

Substandard tree stands

Lone Wolf, a large manufacturer of tree stands has recently been made aware that rejected Lone Wolf product that was originally manufactured overseas in 2010 is currently being made available for sale by XOP, Inc. of Dubuque, Iowa. All of the items being sold by XOP as Lone Wolf tree stands failed to meet Lone Wolf’s standards and were rejected. These rejected products are in no way under warranty or supported by Lone Wolf and they will not be held liable for any damages incurred by those choosing to purchase or use the rejected product. The tree stands in question can be identified by their gray stand straps and black stand tubing. The products are being sold unboxed and without fall-arrest systems. The tree stand products do not meet TMA standards for sale.

Rejected product models may include the  Alpha Hang On Stand; Assault Hang On Stand; Elite Hang On Stand; Mini-Climbing Stick 1 and 3-pice models;  and  Climbing Sticks 1, 3 and 4-piece models.   
Top hunting counties

In commemoration of its 125th anniversary, the venerable Boone and Crockett Club has released a list of the top 125 trophy hunting counties across the United States. The list is based on Boone and Crockett‘s big-game records compiled from trophy data going back to 1830 and long used by conservationists to gauge outstanding habitat, strong recruitment of game animals into older age classes, sustainable harvest objectives and other elements of sound wildlife management and fair-chase hunting. The top five counties are: Carbon County, Wyo., for 282 pronghorn; Mendocino County, California for 190 typical Columbia blacktail deer; Trinity County, California for 185 typical Columbia blacktail deer; Sweetwater County, Wyoming for 183 pronghorn; Fremont County, Wyoming for 153 pronghorn.

Illinois and Wisconsin had counties placing much lower on the list including: #23 - Buffalo County, Wisconsin for 86 typical whitetail deer; #70 - Price County, Wisconsin for 38 black bear; #74 - Trempealeau County, Wisconsin for 36 typical whitetail deer; #81 -  Bayfield County, Wisconsin for 34 black bear; #82 - Sawyer County, Wisconsin for 34 black bear; #85 - Buffalo County, Wisconsin for 33 non-typical whitetail deer; #90 - Jo Daviess County, Illinois for31 typical whitetail deer; #99 -Baron County, Wisconsin for 30 black bear; #10 - Pike County, Illinois for 28 non-typical whitetail deer; #109 - Fulton County, Illinois for 26 non-typical whitetail deer;  #114 - Adams County, Illinois for 24 non-typical whitetail deer. 

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