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Here's a great article on sucker rigs for muskie.
Let's stop using killer muskie rigs
By Gord Ellis
Some angling myths just won't go away. "Brook trout never bite after a lightning storm" is a personal favourite, but one of the most outlandish is that a deeply hooked fish will survive "because the hook will dissolve in a day or two."
In the muskie-fishing world a debate has raged for years over the ethics of a simple, yet effective, fall technique used on both sides of the border. You place a big single hook in the nose of a sucker, usually over a foot long, and allow it to swim freely on a long line in deep water. Muskie that grab the sucker are allowed to swallow it, usually for about 30 minutes, before the hook is set. Many large muskie are taken this way and, increasingly, released.
Proponents rely on the dissolving-hook theory to rationalize the use of single-hook sucker rigs, but other anglers question whether any fish could survive having a huge hook ripped into its stomach. It's an important question, especially in light of Ontario's move to maximum muskie size limits so that many more fish are released to spawn and grow larger.
In Wisconsin, alone up to 2,000 legal-size muskie are caught on single-hook sucker rigs each year. In 1998, the Chippewa Flowage Musky Study took a step towards answering questions about mortality of fish caught on sucker rigs.
In the study's first year, 47 muskie were caught, nine of which were hooked deeply on sucker rigs, and radio-tagged. Of the nine, due to injuries from swallowing the hook, four died and were recovered by the research team. The fate of the other five muskie is unknown, but they were alive when batteries on the short-term transmitters quit. A muskie caught on a jerkbait as part of the study died later and was also recovered. An autopsy revealed a single hook in its belly. However, 33 muskie caught on artificial baits and then released had a 100 per cent survival rate. This surprised even the most optimistic of Wisconsin's muskie hunters. (Five other tagged muskie were netted, not angled, and were alive when their transmitters died.)
In 1999, the Lac Courte Oreilles tribe, the group that funded the original study, decided not to continue tagging muskie caught by sucker rigs. However, Wisconsin guide John Dettloff was concerned about the four dead fish from the previous year. He felt the results from the study left room for doubt. He wanted to prove conclusively that single-hook sucker rigs did or did not kill muskie that were released. Dettloff raised $5,000, thanks to grants from the Hayward Lakes and the South of the Border Chapter of Muskies Inc., to continue radio-tagging deeply hooked fish.
In fall 1999, Dettloff's study team caught 14 muskie on single-hook sucker rigs. This time, radio transmitters fixed to the fish had a battery life of at least 400 days, with the potential of going 600 days. Three of the tagged muskie died fairly quickly when released.
In spring 2000, Dettloff and his team began tracking the remaining fish. The news was not good. "By late May at least half of the tagged fish were dead," said Dettloff. "There were about four or five of them still moving around, but...by July they were all dead." Using an underwater camera, Dettloff and his team located several of the fatalities on the lake bottom. Two others washed up on shore and bears dragged them into the bush.
Anglers caught two of the tagged muskie early in 2000. A 34-incher (86 cm) was released by an angler who noticed it was tagged. "That fish looked okay, but was a little on the thin side," said Dettloff. " It ended up dying about a month and a half later." The other muskie was a 42-inch (106-cm) beauty, which Dettloff said weighed about 21 pounds (9.5 kg) when tagged in 1999. When re-caught July 4, 2000, it was emaciated. Although released, it died two weeks later. Dettloff said, "We knew (gut-hooked muskie) were dying, but we hadn't had a chance to see a live fish and observe its health. That fish was as skinny as a rail."
The deaths of those 14 muskie - 100 per cent delayed mortality - convinced him the single-hook sucker rig has no place in an ethical angler's bag of tricks.
"On some lakes, you may have as many as 100 fish per year being caught and released on sucker rigs, because people think they're surviving," said Dettloff. "Usually when we tell people about these results, they quit using the single hooks immediately.
"I'm an old-school muskie angler," said Dettloff. "I used single-hook sucker rigs for years and hooked many record-class-sized fish on them. So I was shocked to discover the reality of this method. I've quit using it forever."
Unfortunately, there are few effective alternatives to the standard single-hook rig when you fish suckers. Circle hooks, designed originally for large saltwater fish like halibut, have become the rage among some muskie anglers. But Dettloff says circle hooks are not what they're cracked up to be. "What we've found...is that it's a very poor way of hooking a fish. The fish swallows the bait and then you slowly reel and hope that the hook finds lip on the way out. Most of the time the hook doesn't catch and you lose the darn thing. Of the ones you do catch, some are gut hooked. So there really is no benefit to using circle hooks."
Although Dettloff claims not to be a big fan of quick-strike rigs, he says they're the best option for live-bait muskie anglers. "The minute you get a bite, you set the hook," he said. You don't gut-hook the fish.
Some anglers believe the extra hardware on quick-strike rigs (usually a single hook and a treble on a leader) scares off muskie and causes the sucker to die sooner. But Dettloff says a quick-strike rig was responsible for catching one of the world's largest muskie. "The world record caught by Louie Spray back in 1949 was caught on a special harness rig that was basically a quick-set rig," said Dettloff. "He (Spray) tried to market it, but he was ahead of his time." How times have changed.
Clearly, as the results of Dettloff's study show, single-hook sucker rigs have no place on Ontario's precious muskie waters either.
Is it worth It ?
April 29, 2007
Quick strike rigs are the way to go! Tie your own or buy them. I'd like to use them more for muskies. Interesting article, reading that part about letting a fish swallow a bait for several minutes before setting the hook seems kind of obvious to me that the fish will be belly hooked, duh 😉 I was out fishin stripers for the first time this past weekend and for live bait they use a rig with the treble hook up front and a single stinger hook in the back. It worked out so that I actually hired two captains who had extensive fishing experience fishing fresh and salt water, great learning experience for me. We were fishin stipers, for live bait, they said most fish (stripers) are caught on the stinger hook. But, the general rule is...you get a strike you set the hook! And one of the striper guides I hired guides muskies too. Imagine that....a musky guy (me) learning something from a striper and saltwater (tuna/marlin) guy 🙂 I don't have a whole lot of experience live baiting suckers for muskies, but I definitely don't want to have a musky swallow a sucker!! that would really suck!
Nothing wrong with live baiting for muskies in my opinion, just do it right, and it's a very effective technique. If someone wants to catch and keep muskies...fine that's not my business to say anything about it. But, if you practice catch and release on the muskies, the quick strike thing seems the best way to fish muskies with live bait.
I actually have not heard of a fish hooked anywhere other than in the corner of the mouth by those who fish live bait for muskies (or stripers) using a quick strike rig, that's just what i have heard, fish on!
April 29, 2007
April 29, 2007
January 19, 2009
to each his own but i get more out of it when i can get a fish to react to something im throwin or what ever i might be doin to make him react. i bust my father in laws balls some times about huntin over or with bait also. of course your gonna get them to come, its natural stuff. but to each his own, right? Right! Fish ON!! wow its thunder and lightning out real bad!! see ya Ron
We have to be careful to educate the public so if they do live bait, they do it properly.. People are live baiting for our muskies already.. http://gsseagle.proboards.com/.....038;page=1
March 22, 2004
January 19, 2009