Maciulis: Just no denying muskie ‘The King of Fish’
By Bob Macuilis For Sun-Times Media May 2, 2014 11:34PM
Chris Anchor, Chief Wildlife Biologist for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, puts a muskie into a recuperation holding tank | File photo
Updated: May 3, 2014 4:39PM
There are many wonderful species of fish found in close-to-home waters throughout the Southland.
There are sunfish, bass, walleye, catfish and gar. There are white and yellow bass and huge ocean stripers that have been stocked in nearby cooling lakes.
Large fish can be found in very small housing development ponds close to home these days because the Illinois Department of Conservation and local Soil & Conservation Districts have worked hard to stock them to provide good fishing close to home.
Yet, none of them rival esox musquinongy — the muskie.
The muskie — the King of Fish — is called “The Fish of 10,000 Casts” because it is so difficult to catch. Muskie can grow to more than 60 inches. The largest muskie caught in Illinois weighed 38 pounds, 8 ounces. It was taken from below the dam at Shelbyville from the Kaskaskia River in central Illinois in spring 2002.
Why is the muskie such a prized fish, one worthy to be called the King of Fish? The reasons are many.
The muskie has a sleek, long, powerful body similar to the barracuda. Some refer to its shape as the “living torpedo.”
Designed for speed, it can accelerate quicker than a NASCAR racer to grab its prey, able to burst to more than 35 mph in a matter of feet.
Its head is flattened, much like a duck’s bill or the flattened jaws of an alligator, and it is filled with sharp, back-sloping teeth. Once the needle-sharp teeth grip something, it’s virtually impossible to pull free. The teeth of a large adult muskie can be more than a half-inch long.
Originally preferring the cool waters of the upper Mississippi watershed in the northwoods of Wisconsin and Minnesota, the muskie has been stocked extensively because of its popularity and because of the mystique surrounding it.
Today, it is found from Virginia on the east coast clear to Colorado in the Rocky Mountains and south as far as Tennessee, Missouri and Kentucky. Muskie can be found in upward of 40 bodies of water in Illinois.
Like its cousin the northern pike, the muskie is a ferocious feeder and eagerly strikes artificial lures, spoons and spinners as well as live bait.
Muskies can be found in many local lakes and rivers. Some of the best muskie fishing in the Midwest is available on the nearby Fox River, on the Fox Chain O’Lakes and Illinois’ southern reservoirs.
Some years ago, a state record tiger muskie (a cross between a northern pike and a muskie) was caught at Beaver Lake, a strip pit east of Morris.
The Illinois state record northern pike, weighing 26 pounds, 15 ounces was caught in 1989 from Monster Lake, in the Mazonia Lakes state area near Braidwood.
Muskie have been stocked in nearby Shabbona Lake, which has produced four consecutive Illinois state records, as well as in many private lakes and strip mines throughout the area.
While some surprisingly large bass, catfish and crappie are caught from neighborhood retention ponds and Forest Preserve Lakes, for many of the anglers just getting into fishing, the lore, mystique and lure of the “King of Fish” remains the stuff of summer dreams.