How Many Casts???...

How Many Anglers??
Craig Sandell 200

The old characterization of the Muskie as the fish of 10,000 casts persists even though we have modern equipment meant to better these odds. The stated goal of the Wisconsin DNR for a healthy fishery is to:

"Maintain populations that provide a catch rate of 1 fish per 8 muskellunge angling trips, and insure that 35% of those caught will be at least 32 inches."

This goal is further amplified by the DNR assertion that the "typical" Muskie angler expends approximately 135 hours to catch 1 legal Muskie. In order to put the 135 hour number in perspective, you must characterize it in the form of an "angler day".

An angler day is the amount of time the Muskie angler actually spends actively casting for Muskie. It cannot include the travel time from spot to spot or the time it takes to set up a drift or a motorized approach.

[ It should be noted that we are discussing fishing on class "A" Muskie lakes and, therefore, motorized trolling is not a consideration. ]

A typical Muskie fanatic will rise before sunrise, prepare his boat, and get out on the water to catch the morning bite. Obviously, the size of the body of water and structure of a body of water will dictate travel time. Whether successful or unsuccessful during the early morning excursion, the typical angler will take a food break and then start the cycle all over again. This "fish-travel-prepare-fish" cycle will continue throughout the day. When you take into consideration the aforementioned, it is easy to conclude that an angler day (actual casting time) is between 8 and 10 hours. For the purpose of this article, we will adopt the 10 hour angler day. That means that at the rate of 1 legal Muskie per 135 hours, it will take an angler 13.5 days to achieve a legal Muskie catch assuming that you are not fishing on water that has an upper 40 or 50 inch size limit.

Well, how are YOU doing? Do you catch more than 1 legal Muskie every 13.5 days? Are you fishing for Muskie more than 13.5 days per Muskie season? There are probably as many different answers to these questions as there are visitors to the website.

Here's an additional thing to consider. What about fishing pressure? How many anglers are competing for the same population of Muskie on a body of water? Typically, the DNR relies upon creel surveys as an indicator of fishing pressure. Creel surveys, however, are NOT a very accurate assessment of fishing competition. The Wisconsin DNR creel survey, for example, for the Chippewa Flowage for the 1990 Muskie season reported that there were 250,000 angler hours asserted by the creel survey that were focused upon muskellunge. When you consider that the typical season is 165 days in length and you then apply the 10 anglers hours to each of those days you get 1,650 angler hours per season. If you apply 1,650 angler hours (aforementioned) to the 250,000 muskellunge angler hours, you find that it would take 152 muskellunge anglers fishing non-stop for 10 hours a day for 165 days to accumulate the 250,000 hours asserted by the creel survey. This does not appear to be a realistic angler capability. For further perspective, consider that in 1990 the registered aggregate resort catch for the Chippewa Flowage was 1192 legal Muskie, that would equate to 7.2 muskellunge being caught each day of the 165 day season, meaning that 144.8 fishermen were unable to catch a muskellunge each day of the 165 day season even though they fished non-stop for 10 hours (assuming that each of the 7.2 daily Muskie catches was by a different Muskie angler). This would mean that every day of the season 1,448 hours were logged fishing for muskellunge that were non-productive for a season total of 238,920 non-productive muskellunge angler hours. The 250,000 muskellunge angler hours equates to 1 muskellunge being caught every 210 hours, meaning that a muskellunge angler fished for 21 season days before he caught a muskellunge. For most of you who fish the Chippewa Flowage, your success rate is likely much better than 1 Muskie every 21 days.

You can begin to see that assessing fishing pressure and angler success on the water is by no means an exact science as conducted by the Wisconsin DNR using creel surveys. To be frank, it is not science at all. It is a matter of anecdotal information being used to establish a statistical baseline; a practice that leads to reckless assumptions about fish populations, pressure and regulation.