Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake caused a sensation this spring (2019) when biologists from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe found a potential world record musk during a fish survey.
The fishing teams were conducting a routine pike perch assessment when a 61½-inch musk was hit by electrofishing shock waves and rose to the surface. The fish was immediately networked, measured, photographed and successfully released. It wasn’t weighed because biologists didn’t have a scale big enough to weigh it. This huge fish is shown here in a photo courtesy of the Mille Lacs Band from Ojibwe.
NOTE: The world record for an addictive musk is 60-1 / 4 inches, caught near Hayward, Wisconsin in 1949.
Minnesota is known as one of the best muscle fishing destinations in the country. Those looking to try to catch this potential world record fish or any other in the state’s many musk lakes should know:
- Minnesota’s nationwide muscle lung season begins in early June and ends in early December. The season dates vary in waters bordering other states. So check the fishing regulations depending on where you plan to fish.
- Muscle lung fishing typically only “heats up” in mid or late summer, when the water temperatures are warmer and this species is more active. Autumn is also the main fishing season. At this point, before the long winter and the spawning season of the next spring, muscle lungs tend to feed on larger prey. Many of the largest muscle lungs are caught in October and November.
- The most popular technique for catching muscle lung is by casting large artificial baits, typically five to ten inches long or longer. This usually happens while standing in a boat that is moving slowly or drifting along preferred habitat. This technique enables anglers to cover a lot of water in a short period of time. It is best to stay away from prime muscle lung holding areas when fishing in shallow water. Instead, make long throws in these areas as this will frighten the fish less.
- Trolling is another popular way to fish for muscle lung. Usually this is done with large diving crank baits that wobble a lot. They are trolled along weed lines, rocky spots, underwater reefs, and other preferred habitats.
- Common pieces of equipment include a sturdy rod with a reel for baiting and a heavy braided line with a 50 pound test or more. Many muscle lung anglers prefer reels with a fast gear ratio so that their bait can be found quickly. You’ll also want a foot-length steel or fluorocarbon leader between your line and your bait, as muscle lungs have razor-sharp teeth that are easily cut by your line.
- Other things you want in the muscle lung fish are a large net, needle-nose pliers to remove hooks, and even a small bolt cutter to break off a stubborn hook. With polarized sunglasses you can see fish below the surface.
- Muscle lung and pike look similar. A reliable way to tell the difference between the two is to count the number of sensory pores on the underside of the jaw. A muscle lung has six or more on each side. The pike has five or fewer per side.
Would you like to start fishing for muscle lungs? Get Your Minnesota Fishing License Today!
CB Bylander is a longtime Minnesota angler with extensive angling experience throughout the state. He is a former field editor for outdoor magazines, outdoor editor for daily newspapers and fisheries communications specialist for the Ministry of Natural Resources.