Muskellunge: The importance of pardon

Maskinong: The Importance of Pardon


Many followers and associations have long promoted the fishing and release of our greatest aquatic predator.

“  It takes nearly 7 years for the muskellunge to reach sexual maturity. In most streams, this stage of development will be reached when the fish is about 40 inches tall. It will sometimes take more than 20 years for a muskellunge to reach 50 inches in length ”, can we read on the site of

A recent study, supported by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, called Catch is predicted by behavior and size, not metabolism, in muskellunge, has just been published in English in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management. It is therefore a very serious work.

Authors John Bieber, Michael Louison and Cory Suski wondered why the muskellunge is nicknamed the fish with 10,000 throws. Here is a brief summary of what they discovered:


These scientists kept 68 young muskies in laboratory tanks, then they transferred them to a body of water in nature. Their goal was to assess their traits in behavior, activity, aggression, boldness and exploration. 

As soon as they were moved to the natural environment, the workers actively fished them, every day, for more than a month. At the end of the 35th day, after having tried all kinds of lures, in different ways and at all times, they corroborated the popular belief that 10,000 casts for a catch were necessary. In fact, in that whole time, they only caught seven fish and the success rate dropped drastically after the first few days.

“They are very tough waiting predators, which means they will simply camp under a log or on the bottom of the river until an interesting prey passes by. So the enthusiast has to cast where they are,” says Bieber. “When the time is right, these sedentary ones will dart forward to seize a potential food source. More exploratory muskellunges will react less as they wander around the lake trying to find shelter or feel more comfortable in their element. ”


The authors found anecdotal evidence that these fish become educated and that when anglers exploit their surroundings, they simply avoid their offerings. It would also appear that fish behavior can be passed down from parent to offspring.

So if a rod handler catches a large specimen, it is in their best interest to gently release it . In the future, he will be more likely to come across a fighter like this one, rather than wandering and less aggressive muskellunges. 

The authors also explain that by capturing and keeping many muskellunges, vulnerable fish are removed. We must then face a population of much more educated and difficult to catch predators to which we must present decoys thousands of times before having the desired reactions.

Maskinongé: The Importance of Pardon