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Otisco Lake Tiger Musky Ice Fishing

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Tom Boise with his 27 lb 5 oz tiger musky
Tom Boise with his 27 lb 5 oz Tiger Musky

The winter of 2009 was a banner season for ice anglers looking to catch big tiger musky at Otisco Lake. For proof, look no further than what should be the new ice fishing world record tiger musky that was pulled from the lake on February 14, 2009. The record fish measured 46 inches long and weighed 27 pounds 5 ounces. Two other impressive tigers were also caught that same day, the bigger of which weighed 24.7 pounds and the smaller 17 pounds. Just a week later, two more 20+ pound tiger musky where also caught. If all those big fish aren't enough, anglers fishing in a tiger musky tournament on the weekend of February 7th reportedly caught and released nearly a dozen legal tiger muskies in addition to what was kept.

Improving tiger musky fishery

The Otisco Lake tiger musky fishery has always been considered one of the best in the state, but it has had its ups and downs. The size and quality of tiger musky raised by our South Otselic Hatchery has always been excellent, yet despite refinements in culture techniques that led to even larger fish at stocking, the Otisco Lake tiger fishery declined though the 1990's. The decline was evident in the number of tigers caught by cooperators in our Angler Diary Program, the number captured during routine sampling events, and in the number of word-of-mouth reports we received. The most likely cause for this decline didn't become evident until we saw an improvement in survival of stocked tigers beginning in the late 1990's. The upswing in the number of young tiger musky coincided with the decline in the walleye population, which we had built up through stocking in the early and mid-1990's. Angler harvest teamed with an absence of natural reproduction combined to drive walleye numbers down. We believe that walleye predation on newly stocked tiger musky finally declined to the point where enough were able to survive to generate the improved tiger fishery we see today. Good numbers of tigers, in the 20-35 inch range, have been caught for the past three to four years, and they are now getting old enough to reach true trophy size.

How old are those large tiger muskies?

Analysis of scales from the potential ice fishing world record tiger musky revealed that it was 11 years old (stocked in 1998), while scale examination of two 24 pounders revealed that one was 9 years old and the other 10. Scale analysis of the 37 inch, 17 pound tiger musky mentioned earlier indicated that it was 8 years old (stocked in 2001). We anticipate that the tiger musky fishing should be good for at least several more years, but resumption of walleye stocking in 2002 may have some implications for the long term quality of the fishery. We will continue to monitor the abundance of both species and try to make adjustments to stocking policies, as necessary.