very similar responses from all of them. Not that any single lodge was expecting a great windfall crop of muskies or anglers, but they were all optimistic. In addition, what was most interesting was that they all equated this trend to better muskie management, an expanding user group and quality catch and release practices exhibited by today’s muskie anglers. Eric Brown, Jr. felt the fishery for all game species in the area around Wiley Point was on an upward trend, both in quantity and quality. Randy Tyran felt Osbourne and Niven’s Bays on Eagle Lake had been experiencing good spawning seasons over the past few years, which could very well be the result of more spawning females in the system, yet another derivative of quality management. The Pehrsons responded with the following: “Our fishery here at Lake Vermilion is on track to becoming one of the top muskie lakes in the Midwest. It offers size, Canadian Shield structures, a variety of lake sections (big water, bays, islands, channels, etc.) and a wide variety of forage including cisco and whitefish. We are very optimistic that it will sustain the quality of muskie fishing we are enjoying today, contingent on sound management (continued stocking, population monitoring and angler support of catch and release)”. When asked who they were targeting in their current marketing programs, the responses varied based on geographical settings. However, the client list always included muskie fishermen, or should I say muskie anglers. This is, in my opinion, where things get interesting regarding trends of the past vs. those of today. Only ten years ago, there was much less interest in the muskie angler as a whole and almost no consideration given to marketing to their needs. I found it very interesting that Randy was aware of the water conditions, such as stained vs. clear, and was incorporating that information into their marketing. He was also quick to point out that Wiley Point’s location on an island creates a sense of remoteness that adds to muskie anglers’ enjoyment. Ed Tausk, on the other hand, tends to market season by season, keeping Vermilion Dam Lodge open year round and campaigning for different clients during different seasons. He was very conscious of the specific needs of the muskie angler, regarding such things as meal times, dock services, package plans and guides. Eric Jr. simply stated it this way: “Wiley targets everyone. Wiley is a full service facility and can fulfill the needs of all anglers including the muskie angler, which also includes those wishing to fish very late into the night”. All of the owners were conscious of family issues, and were quick to point out they are run by families that truly understand the value of a family atmosphere. All welcome kids and adults alike. When asked how they would rate the muskie angler in terms of importance on a scale of 1 to 10, both Eric Brown and Eric Hanson ranked the muskie angler at 6-8 in terms of marketing importance based on the number of muskie anglers frequenting their respective facilities today. Both seemed to feel that muskie anglers account for about twenty to thirty percent of their total business and agreed the core of muskie anglers is growing at a remarkable rate and should be accommodated to the fullest extent. Randy, on the other hand, feels the muskie angler is “a 10, definitely a 10”. As he says, “although we have excellent fishing for a number of species (walleye, northern, smallmouth, and lake trout), Century Lodge on Osbourne Bay is notorious for its incredible muskie fishing. This is our premier fish and a passion to us and the muskie fisherman who enjoy it with us year after year. To us the muskie angler is number one”. When asked how many muskie anglers each lodge would like to accommodate each season, the response was predictable - as many as they could. The real standout response came from Ed Tausk of Vermilion Dam. Although he would like the business anytime, he really favored the fall periods. The physical makeup of Vermilion is that of a shield lake, and as perhaps the southernmost muskie shield lake in the country, its location allows anglers a few extra weeks of access to its precious bounty, the muskie. The lake has less boat traffic in the fall, and the muskie fishing is exceptional, in fact, the later the better. Eric Jr. also favored the 54 inch minimums, and during a conversation this past summer he indicated the quality of muskies being caught each year is visibly better than the last.
When asked about current fish management in place on their systems, Randy Tyran summed it up very well. “This is an area we would like to see continue to change for the better in the future. The size limit for muskie on Eagle Lake was raised from 48 inches to 54 inches in 2000, which was an increase we have pushed for for some time. This increase did not affect our lodge directly, as we put all muskies back regardless of size, but it does help others realize how important and how fragile every muskie resource is. We would like to see all of Eagle Lake go to total catch and release”. Eric Jr. also favored the 54 inch minimums, and during a conversation this past summer he indicated the quality of muskies being caught each year is visibly better than the last. “It is in the hands of the lake’s management team, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and the muskie anglers that utilize the resource. With the number of muskie anglers growing each season, we will need better fishery management to maintain the angler’s expectations”. Eric Hanson responded by stating that he strongly feels Lake Vermilion has two key assets that contribute to the quality of fishing for muskies and other species alike. Those are a dedicated fisheries manager and a local sportsmen’s club that work very hard in maintaining the quality of water, habitat and fish populations on Vermilion. His only concern is whether there will be a continued effort on the part of the DNR to maintain the level of stocking of muskies necessary and not to underestimate the mortality rate of released adult fish as fishing pressure increases. When asked about harvesting muskies, everyone concluded the muskie angler was for the most part a catch and release angler, and if he or she practiced catch and release properly, including trophies, there would be minimal adverse effects regarding the overall muskie population in their respective systems. All agreed that greater minimum size limits seem to work very well, and based on today’s trends, should be continued as a resource management tool. Ed Tausk of Vermilion Dam went on record saying he personally opposed any harvesting of muskie at any size, stating the need for the presence of mature genetically proven adults to insure recruitment of future generations. He, like most other lodge owners, has come to realize there are limited funds for future stocking programs and feels proper management can be greatly enhanced by proper angler catch and release practices. As I tell viewers each week at the close of the Simply Fishing television show, “please practice C.P.R.: Catch, Photo and Release. The future of fishing depends on it”. Ed went on to say that he feels the muskies have enough things going against them with more educated anglers and increased technology in equipment, marine radios and GPS units. He also believes that the chance for a given fish to be caught many times over its lifetime has substantially increased in the past fifteen years. That being said, he feels that even with catch and release we can expect some mortality rate as the result of poor handling, and that allowing recreational harvest would only make things worse. If we don’t control the harvesting of muskies with regulations we will see the quality of muskie fishing in lakes such as Vermilion decline rapidly. As important as it is to educate people on proper C.P.R. techniques and practices, it doesn’t stop there. We must also embrace and promote businesses such as Artistic Anglers of Duluth, Minnesota and others for their efforts and contributions in graphite reproductions. To quote Ed, “I have yet to see a mounted fish reproduce”. Randy of Century Lodge put it this way. “The harvesting of muskies is just that, harvesting - not conserving. Some of these fish are twentyplus years old, and it is a shame to kill such a majestic fish or one that has a potential to become one. Muskies in our area do not spawn until they are approximately 35-40 inches. Many of the eggs don’t get a chance to hatch because the pike fry oftentimes hatch first and eat many of them. With these two strikes already against them, keeping a muskie adds the third, and they are “out” literally. If you desire to have a mount to remember your catch, please get a replica. The alternative, a graphite reproduction, not only lasts you your whole life (skin mounts dry out) but gives someone else the chance to have the thrill of a lifetime”. And then there’s the hot topic of meat, live or dead. In the world of muskie fishing outside some very confined circles, there seems to be a consensus that this form of muskie fishing is not accepted overall. In fact, Minnesota just rejected a proposal to allow multiple lines during open water seasons. This was, in my opinion, a direct response to the practice of dragging live or dead bait. There truly does seem to be a line