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Excitement and pride echoed through the Iowa Great Lakes fisheries netting crew last week. “It is amazing that this male musky is alive and doing well in West Okoboji Lake 25 years later,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of the Iowa DNR’s Fisheries Bureau.
The fish was purchased by the Upper Great Plains chapter of Muskies Inc. in 1991 and stocked into West Okoboji Lake in April 1992 at an average length of 12.7 inches.
“Every muskellunge stocked in the Iowa Great Lakes was batched marked with a freeze brand so we know what year and lake it was stocked,” said Larscheid.
A few years after being stocked, the muskies grow large enough to be caught in the gill nets set out by fisheries staff at night in the spring. All muskies caught during the gill netting season are tagged with a Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag which uniquely identifies these fish for life. “Every time this fish is caught we record all information in our database which allows us to look up the individual recapture histories of each fish over time,” added Larscheid.
This 41.6 inch, 17.5 pound fish was originally tagged in 1994 and was recaptured in 1998, 2000 and 2006. It is one of the first groups of muskies held over the winter at the hatchery then stocked in the Iowa Great Lakes in the spring. “Based on the success of these fish we switched all of our musky stockings to spring yearlings which dramatically improved the survival and health of our musky populations in Iowa,” Larscheid said.
“To my knowledge, this fish is the oldest known-age muskellunge ever recaptured by fisheries crews in the Midwest,” said Jonathan Meerbeek, DNR fisheries research biologist. Last year’s crews were impressed with their recapture of a 21 year-old, 41 inch male muskellunge. “Recapturing a 25 year-old fish of known age is almost unheard of,” Meerbeek said.
The anal fin and right pelvic fin taken from this fish will be used in a known-age muskellunge research project that will assist managers interested in estimating muskellunge age across the country.