Moving forward on catch-and-release

Moving forward on catch-and-release
Maybe, just maybe, I’ll change over to musky tournaments now that the survival rate is almost guaranteed 100 percent.
A customer of mine, Jim Groves, asked me to be his partner at a musky tournament at Cass Lake, Mn. But knowing the survival rate was low, I refused his invitation.
His answer only “Why?”
I told him of the low survival rate that was experienced on Lake of the Woods during a Musky Inc. tournament held a few years ago. But he countered that this would not be the case at Cass Lake because the release is right on the spot.
Each boat has to have a cellular phone aboard and a map with listed locations. When a musky is caught, you just call in with your location and within five minutes or less, a judge boat there.
The landing net and fish is lifted aboard the judge boat and measured for length only, then released back into the water immediately with absolutely no time needed to work it back to recovery.
The fish never leaves the water prior to measurement unless the angler wants a photograph taken.
The fish also never leaves its habitat, unlike the bass and walleye that are hauled back to the weigh-in station in livewells from different fishing areas.
With this catch-and-release method, I changed my mind and agreed to go. As my partner was not able to go pre-fishing, I went alone for three days.
Cass Lake was a different structured lake compared to ours, with countless pencil reed bars ranging on four and five-foot flats with very sharp drop-offs close by in some areas and as far as eight blocks from another.
I was really amazed at one particular area while trolling as I was able to come almost onto the beach that had a 40-foot drop not more than 12 feet from shore.
The lake is clear and holds good muskies as told by resident anglers.
Took all my hooks off my surface lures as not to hook them. While there, I hooked a 46” fish (approx.) that came fully out of the water and threw the hookless Heddon Flat Tail right back at me.
And I had a possible 60-incher come after my lure with gills flared and mouth open (a sure sign of a strike). But with a little luck, I pulled my lure away just in time, and hopefully angered it enough to strike at tournament time when it counts.
I was able to raise a dozen more of all sizes before leaving for home.
The first day of the tournament, we caught a 43.25-inch and a 48.5-inch musky that put us in third place out of the field of 150 boats entered, with the top 10 taking home cash prizes.
On the second and last day, we knew we had to catch a good musky or a couple of smaller ones to win the tournament. But it was not in the cards as we caught one musky that was just a quarter-inch short of the minimum length of 40 inches.
The fishing was tough for most on that last day but we did spot the 60-incher, which followed Jim’s Believer to the boat, as well as four others but no takers.
When we got in, we found out that we needed 18 points to win it all, which made me sick as a legal 40-incher receives 20 points, which would have put us two points over and the win.
The top prize was $18,000 (U.S.), and dropping from third to fourth place netted us $4,000.
The winner also picked up a fishing week trip to Northern Ontario, a $300 musky fishing rod and reel, and, yes, a beautiful plaque.
Besides the top 10 cash prizes, $400 was awarded each day for the largest musky and $1,000 for the largest of the tournament, which also included a replica of it.
“Oh so close and yet so far away!”
Another rule that was a large plus at Cass Lake was that you could go to the 10 designated resorts anytime during the tournament fishing to have a hot cup of coffee, tea, etc. or to use the biffy.
This was welcome because of the frigid weather, especially in the mornings.
Since the start of tournament fishing, where there was absolutely no catch-and-release (thus weighing in dead fish on stringers) to catch-and-release right on the spot, this shows we are going in the right direction on conserving our fishing stock for the future.

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