The Record Tiger “Hybrid” Muskellunge
By Edward Kalinowski
New Meadows, Idaho
It was Tuesday afternoon after work. My fishing buddy and I had decided to hit the Little Payette Lake for some Muskie fishing. The week before Jeff (Lund) had caught a really nice size Tiger Muskie and felt that it might be worth while to give it another try. His catch was 4 inches off the state record. We had decided to go in the evening after I had finished work. We departed for the Lake around 4:30 PM and had the boat in the water a half hour later. As usual, we wasted no time as we are pretty serious fishermen. We went fishing specifically for Tigter Muskie, but always keep our options open. We each put out 2 lines and began the process of dissecting the lake. Our goal was to spend two hours on the water and then head home. We both went through a series of lure changes without much luck. It was toward the end of our two hours on the water when we decided to go back over a particular spot before heading for the boat ramp. We were in a spot near shore when this whole story begins.
It is not unusual for our lures to get hung up on logs, stumps or the bottom. We both had most of our line stripped from our reels before we noticed that we were stuck on other occasions. This seemed to be what was happening to me this time. As the line disappeared from my reel, we cut the engine. I thought I was stuck but Jeff reminded me that I was in pretty deep water. My lure was only supposed to stay at a depth of 6-8 feet at the speed we were moving. It didn’t take but a couple of head shakes before I realized that it was more than a log. It seemed like a blink of an eye and all the rods were out of the water and Jeff was on his camera. My rod was pretty much bent in half and my reel was not exactly a top end device. I played the fish for about 15 minutes before I had an opportunity to see it. It was pretty much shock and awe when the Tiger Muskie surfaced.
The girth was amazing. The length was questionable at that time. This Muskie headed for the bottom a couple of times and proceeded to turn the boat in 360 degree circles a number of times. There was one point in time where he headed under a log. Everything stopped, including my heart and breathing. The pole was bent, no movement. Mentally, I was prepared to lose the fish. I had flashbacks to a fishing trip on the Salmon River but that is another story. I gave it some slack by gingerly pulling some line from my reel and I slightly lowered the tip of my rod and “game on”. By now it was my goal to get it to the surface and into the boat. As he surfaced, I noticed that this big guy had only one barb of the treble hook in the top tip front jaw. My stress level went up considerably. This fish was pretty smart. It moved towards the back corner of the boat and tried to rub the hook off its jaw. When I saw what it was trying to do, all efforts focused on getting it out of the water. The camera was shut off and landing this monster was my priority. We rarely fish under prepared, but with this fish we were. There was no gaff or net to get this behemoth into the boat. After numerous attempts of trying to use a rope around the tail (which kept slipping off), we just grabbed it and hoisted it into the boat. Was this a record? Not sure. We had markings on the boat bench for 40 inches. This one definitely surpassed that marking. It looked heavy but I was also physically spent from the fight. Picking up anything seemed like a chore at this point.
My dog Leia is also a pretty good fishing partner and is normally curious about the fish I catch. She took one look at this fish and proceeded to use me as her human shield. We headed to shore to take some pictures and gather my wits. After a short respite, we headed to the boat ramp. At the boat ramp, we met a local resident who offered a scale at his house. When we got there the scale was zeroed and the fish weighed in at 50 lbs. The scale was a standard scale so I took some pictures. I was unable to get a printed out weight until the next day at the UPS store in McCall. The fish was placed in the freezer until the next morning. At the time it was weighed in McCall it came in at (44.26 pounds) 44-pounds 4-ounces. Fish and Game was present to record the vital information check the scale and have witnesses verify the information. The application for State Record was filed with their Boise Office. A press release was generated and the story went viral.
Mr. Dale Allen, Fish and Game Regional Manager for the Southwest Region, McCall Sub region was very familiar with the Tiger Muskie population in this region since he was responsible for their release into the local lakes. He stated to me that the first years’ release (1998) had a very characteristic jaw deformity. Based on this fishes size, girth and other characteristics, this Tiger Muskie met the criteria for the 1999 release.
My friends encouraged me to have it mounted for everyone to see and many have asked me when and where it will be on display. It is currently with the taxidermist and will be on display at the school for all enjoy.