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Muskies make their home at Fellows Lake

spectr17

Administrator
April 3, 2002

Charlie Farmer, Outdoors columnist, Springfield News-Leader

Muskies make their home at Fellows Lake

Fisheries management biologist Larry Martien had little doubt that the toothy muskellunge — muskie for short — would fit in well at Fellows Lake.

The clear water was a plus for stocking muskies from the Hazel Creek strain at Kirksville in Fellows in the 1990s. There is plenty of woody vegetation for the big fish and enough depth to maintain cool water in midsummer.

Even better, said Martien, is the presence of gizzard shad that inhabit the lake.

“The gizzard shad is the favorite meal of muskies,” Martien said.

“That’s why many of the artificial lures for muskie are patterned to look like live shad. At first, some anglers at Fellows were afraid that muskellunge would eat crappie, bass and bluegill. While there might be some predation on those fish at times, the gizzard shad population in the lake is healthy and muskie take advantage of their favorite source of food.”

The muskie population has prospered so well at Fellows Lake that a crew from the Missouri Department of Conservation Lost Valley Hatchery at Warsaw traveled to the lake last week to electro-shock and net muskies in order to procure eggs from the females and sperm from the males.

After those procedures, the fish were released back into the lake unharmed.

Those muskies stocked in the early 1990s are now 36 inches to 42 inches long. Martien is proud of the success at Fellows Lake.

“Anglers have a new fishery,” he said. “Last year fishermen were catching muskies that ranged from 30 inches and better. The legal minimum length limit is 36 inches and daily limit of one fish.

“The muskie season is open all year. Some keep their legal muskies and that’s fine. Others take pictures and release them. This season we hope to have a creel census taker to keep statistics on muskies caught.”

Bill Pflieger, in his “Fishes of Missouri” book, says that the muskellunge is not native to Missouri, but the first introductions were made in Pomme de Terre Reservoir in 1966 and additional stockings have been made on an annual basis.

Survival from these stockings was good and muskies began appearing in the creel in 1968. A few fish were stocked in Lake of the Ozarks. The fish exhibits a definite affinity for clear water and dense growths of aquatic vegetation.

Pflieger says the majority of fishermen interviewed would prefer to catch muskies over any other species in Pomme de Terre. However, muskies are not expected to achieve the abundance of other game fishes and will remain “trophy” fish.

Muskellunge are caught by a variety of methods, including casting, trolling and still fishing. Large spoons, plugs and bucktail spinners, fished on or near the surface, are effective. Suckers up to 12 inches long are popular bait in northern states.

Heavy tackle and wire leaders are uses by most anglers. However, some are caught in Pomme de Terre by bass and crappie fishermen using light tackle.

Muskie fishing requires a great deal of patience because the time between strikes is often long. But the large size and sporting qualities make the wait worthwhile.

Martien has caught one legal muskie. He says April is a good time to fish for them. However, he considers fall the best time, around Oct. 15. Temperatures around 70 degrees are good. He also feels that fronts coming through the area spur good fishing.

Martien recommends heavy action rods and casting reels spooled with 30-40 pound test. An extra large landing net is a necessity for the health of the fish and the angler. Sharp teeth and gill plates can inflict serious cuts. He advises side-cutters or needle-nose pliers when taking muskies off the hook.

The Ojibway Indians of the Great Lakes area called the fish mashkinoje, which means great pike. The Native American name was transformed into muskellunge, the seldom-used proper title for the saw-toothed gamester most commonly called muskie.

For anglers in the Springfield area, a relatively new, hard-hitting game fish should make a day on Fellows Lake exciting.
 


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