By Ray Johnson
Readers comment: The Tiger Musky story by Mr. Ray Johnson is nothing by a mans fish STORY. All fabricated and anything but close to the truth. The world record Tiger Musky caught in 1919 was 54". So why isn't HIS 54 1/4" TM the new world record. Why isn't this fish even listed as a Utah State Record oh he has 53 1/4" as the record...Give me a break. I'm not buying for one red nickle anything Mr. Johnson has to say about Pineview TM fishing...8# test line give me a break. Alls he wants is his name in the record books. We extensively fish for Tiger Muskies at Pineview and reading his story I have to laugh as he has no clue what he's talking about. Just great at telling whopping fishing stories. Thanks for your time.
Mid-October through the mid-December ice-up at Pineview produced tiger muskie over three feet long every single day.
The smallest all year long from our favorite 100-yard shoreline stretch was 34 inches. The very smallest all year from that entire half-mile long shore was 32 inches. The majority were only 35 to 40 inches, but many others were 42 to 47 inches…and more than a dozen were longer that 47 inches…and more than a half dozen caught were longer than 50 inches.
Three over 50 inches were landed one morning from the same porpoising pack on Dec. 11, 1999: 54 1/4 inches, 53 1/2 inches, and 54 inches. They were rolling like crazy in dense fog and brutal cold, just after daylight until the fog lifted. Two other big ones were also caught that same day, later in the evening.
Two weeks earlier, on Thanksgiving weekend, 1999, our daughter Lisa, age eight, casting and retrieving her lure all by herself, had a 54 incher follow her lure in and grab it…right close in front of us, all luckily standing there all together.
Seeing Lisa and her older brother Kirk, age nine, catching the big tiger muskies all by themselves, while casting and retrieving their lures off the shoreline banks, was easily the biggest highlight of the entire year. Catching more than one all-tackle world record sized, and Utah state record sized tiger muskies were also memorable.
Most days we fished only during the early morning and/or late evening since bright sunshine hours only produced occasional big tigers.
A majority of the days, we caught three fish. On most other days, two were caught. On a few, only one was. We hit zero on only a couple of days all year. And on one very rainy day we landed 21…on another 19…and on another 14. Numerous days produced 8 to 12 landed fish. Invariably, all of these days were cloudy, rainy, snowy, or foggy, not sunshiny.
All of these big tiger muskie were caught casting from shore (not boats or float tubes). And all were caught on very small two-inch size plugs (not on large standard muskie lures, nor spinnerbaits, nor jigs).
The best catches all year came on days in small rocky spots, when lots of little 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inch long crappie and yellow perch were floating to the surface circling, slowly dying, many cleanly bitten in half.
This occurrence has been witnessed repeatedly so often that we are confident that many of the big tigers routinely not only eat such small baby crappies and perch, but often attack schools of the little panfish, grabbing more than just one at a time (mouthfuls), many of which are not swallowed but float to the surface and die from their injuries.
Many of the larger tigers bite on our small lure size very gingerly, softly, carefully, obviously feeling whether it is real or not…likely from having been hooked before.
On our light eight pound test line and small reels and rods mostly jump one to three times (some even more times; one jumped 11 times).
Many dive to the bottom and try to rub the lure loose on the bottom or snags. Many resurface with their mouth full of sand, mud, weeds, or gravel. Most of the truly big ones swim far out from shore and dive way down deep before coming back to the surface and shore.
We use leaders made of ultra low visibility monofilament, 20 pound line… doubled as a leader 12 inches to 24 inches long, to prevent teeth bite-offs, with no swivels or wire leader for the tigers to see (just a very small snap on the lure).
Making long casts down the bank close to shore results in most strikes. Very few result from casting way far out from shore.
Shallow tigers close to shore spook easily and refuse to bite if they see people on the bank move. We try to prevent them from seeing us move, and from associating our lure with moving people. We don’t walk close to the water except when casting, and then move very little, just a couple of slow steps between casts, without kicking rocks or wading/splashing.
All this late summer and fall has been a shore caster’s dream come true… with the exceedingly low water there have been no snags to lose lures nor hooked fish on.
Spring and summer are a bank tosser’s nightmare, due to so many flooded bushes, sticks, trees, and weeds, at both Pineview and Newton.
Newton produced tigers daily until ice-up, casting from shore. But they average much smaller there than at Pineview (only two over 40 inches).
Many little, small, and medium sized tigers are also caught at Pineview in a few places, such as the shallower parts of the bays in Middle-Bay, Spring Creek and Mid-Inlet…but not any at all along our favorite deep-water shoreline stretches elsewhere on the reservoir.
We are convinced most Utah tiger muskie, especially larger ones, stay 15 to 20 feet deep most of the time all year, often much deeper. Also, that they often attack crappie and perch schools down 25 to 50 feet deep often when hungry, not just lone single prey in the shallows. They usually go eat down deep and then some, but not all, go sleep or rest in shallower water during part of the year.
Most of the tigers lying in the shallow water, often only a couple of feet deep, are merely sleeping when the temperature is comfortable–not waiting for anything to eat to pass by. Many look dead lying on their side. Also a great many lie on the bottom in completely open, coverless water, not in or by any cover at all. These resting fish often are reluctant to strike (they’re just sleeping).
The easiest ones to consistently catch are the ones rolling, poroising, and swimming on the water’s surface and along the shoreline…on the prowl (especially early mornings).
The ones likely to strike a lure are those that leave a moving bubble trail, whether visible on the surface or not. Seeing bubbles "moving" is a sure give away of a highly susceptible prowling tiger below.
Most Utah anglers "bass fish" for them. That is, cast to every form of snag cover in the water. Most people fish prominent shoreline points and floating boat docks. We have caught an awful lot in totally different places, however. The best places we’ve found are: small, isolated rock slides and rock piles; small, often barely noticeable underwater rock, gravel, pebble or even sand bars surrounded by deep water; also the first curve or cove inside or alongside shoreline points; underwater islands, hill tops, drop-offs and points.
Look for a little shallow water immediately adjacent to deep water. More extensive shallows are good for younger, smaller tigers (and occasionally a large one), as are weedy or brushy areas where small ones hide for fear of being eaten themselves.
Outer weed edges dropping into deep water can be good. Most of the largest tigers in Utah have been caught from areas where deep water is close to shore. Big fish can frequently be seen swimming on the surface far out from shore, even clear out over the deepest part of the lake, where water is 55 to 60 feet deep.
The slow growth shown by some fish that have been caught more than once suggests that about 54 inches may be close to the maximum attainable length in Pineview. For instance, the all-tackle world release record fish was 53 1/4 inches when first caught in 1998 but only 54 inches when last recently caught in mid-December, 1999, a full year later. Weight is a different matter, however. Most of the smaller tigers are very slender/skinny, like northern pike. Some of the larger ones are also. But most of the very biggest ones look totally different from all the rest. They are so fat, deep, thick and heavy that they look like a completely different species altogether. So it may be that they keep gaining weight even after they stop growing any longer.
Some fish clearly have larger fins and tail than others. Males commonly do, as well as being much skinnier.
Why do big muskie (and large lake trout and other big species) bite on very small, two-inch sized lures? They are used to eating even very small baby fingerling baitfish, like kokanee salmon, crappie, yellow perch, bluegill, carp and chubs. They may not expend the energy to go swim out of their way very far to grab just one…but they continually gobble up even one-inchers that swim close in front of them, and they attack schools of small fry. It is proven beyond doubt that large fish will routinely eat a very small baitfish or lure that swims close to them much of the time when they will not take a larger size fish. The theory is that big fish will only strike large lures when they are really hungry and searching for a large meal. They will strike an attractive looking little fella that swims right in front of its nose, whether hungry or not, whether it’s because it is an easy opportunity, involuntary killer reflex or normal habit.
It is only thanks to Utah biologists like Kent Sorenson (DWR Northern Region) and Tom Pettengill (DWR sport fishing coordinator) that we Utahns have this wonderful opportunity in our home state to fish for these huge, unique, toothy critters, revered and prized highly throughout all the muskie lands of Canada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc.
Many Utah tiger muskies longer and heavier that the listed "dead" state record have been caught. It is a shame to kill them.
(Published in Utah Outdoors magazine, Feb., 2000)