How to Properly Handle and Release Tiger Muskie


It is no secret that Tiger Muskie are one of the most wanted fish to catch in both Emery and Carbon counties. The large fish can be found in Joe’s Valley and now in Scofield.

A Tiger Muskie is a large and sterile hybrid cross between a Northern Pike and a Muskellunge. The fish is expected to grow approximately 50+ inches long and weigh over 30 pounds. Due to the Tiger Muskie being a hatchery-produced hybrid, it does not occur naturally anywhere in the world.

According to the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR), all these large fish want to do is eat. This can be a plus to anyone wanting to catch a muskie.

However, with all the hype surrounding the fish, many people may not know how to properly handle and release a Tiger Muskie. This was brought to attention after having multiple individuals comment on a fishing photo contest on Facebook that ETV 10 News is conducting.

So, what should you do when you feel the big fish on the end of your line?

First off, it is important that individuals reel the fish in quickly and try to leave it in the water. According to the Department of Wildlife Resources, it is important to try and reel in the large species quickly so that it doesn’t get too exhausted, especially during the warmer times of the year.

It is also important to try and not take the fish onto a boat due to the fish possibly flopping around on the bottom. This can cause serious injury to the fish.

If a muskie is caught on shore, it is important that it is not taken into the sand. Therefore, go into the water with the fish.

How should you unhook a Tiger Muskie?

According to the DWR, muskies that are 30 inches or less in length should be grabbed by the tail and turned sideways. By doing this, it will disorient the fish, which will then make it easier to unhook the fish. It is also very important to grip the fish over the top of the gill plates, all while remembering not to squeeze hard while removing the hook.

For any Tiger Muskie that may be more than 30 inches in length, the fish should be given time to calm down. After this, anglers can then slide their fingers under the gill cover with their thumb on the outside, and move their hand forward and getting a firm hold of the gill plate. But remember, it is important not to grab the gill due to the possibility of it being torn, which would then cause a fatal injury.

If the hook happens to be in a spot that could cause serious injury, it is better to cut the hook off by using a pair of heavy-duty wire cutters. If the fish is hooked deeply, anglers can use jaw spreaders to help hold open the fish’s mouth will unhooking it.

It is also important to remember that the fish should be kept in the water during the unhooking process. The DWR recommends using long-nosed pliers to help assist in removing the hook.

Anglers can wear leather or rubber gloves to help with the unhooking process. However, one should not rely on a thin glove, such a surgical glove.

How should a Tiger Muskie be properly measured? 

Due to the Tiger Muskie being very large, heavy and slimy, it is easier to have someone assist you in the measuring process.

Once again, keep the fish in the water while laying a ruler along its side. Measure the fish from the tip of the snout to the tip of its tail to revive the most accurate measurement. Anglers can then use a flexible measuring tape to measure the girth at the widest point of the fish.

If individuals are wanting to weigh the fish, it should be weighed either in a net or in a wet, lightweight sack. DO NOT hook the fish under its gills or hold it up vertically. If this happens, the fish is at risk of serious internal injuries.

How do you properly snap a photograph of the fish?

Of course fishermen and women will want to snap a few shots of their large catch. But how should one be properly taken?

According to the DWR, even though the best place to snap the photo is in the water, it can be taken out just for the photo op. However, if one decides to take it out of the water, there are steps that need to be taken to ensure the safety of the fish.

If the photo is decided to be taken out of the water, hold it by the gill cover with one hand while supporting the belly with the other hand. Please remember to not hold the fish vertically or under its gill. The photos can then be taken but should be done within 30 seconds.

How do you properly release a Tiger Muskie?

To properly release a Tiger Muskie, hold it horizontally in the water until it is able to swim away on its own. With a larger muskie, it may need help in supporting its body by holding the head and belly.

Just by knowing these steps on how to properly handle and release a Tiger Muskie, this can help ensure the safety of the species as well as continue to control Utah’s panfish populations and continue to excite anglers with great fishing stories and memories.

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