You don’t have to hit the upper Midwest for trophy muskellunge.
Case in point is this monster of a trophy muskie taken earlier this month from Melton Hill Reservoir near Knoxville, Tennessee:
The 43-pound, 14-ounce, 51-inch behemoth caught on March 2 is a pending Volunteer State record, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, but it almost never was.
Stephen Paul’s big muskie challenges one of the state’s oldest fishing records — a 42-8 muskie caught by Kyle F. Edwards on April 27, 1983, the TWA said.
However, the self-described catch-and-release fisherman said if the muskie had not died in the net following the 20-minute fight, he would have released it.
“I’m a really big catch-and-release guy,” Paul, a Nashville resident, told the Tennessean (read more here). “We got it in the boat and took some pictures real quick and then tried to let it go, but it just wouldn’t go. The fight had been just so extreme that I think it exhausted itself. It was only out of the water for a really short time.”
The fish’s demise was the only reason for Paul to weigh it in for record consideration, the TWA said in a news release.
After the catch was made, the angler contacted TWRA Fisheries Technician Paul Shaw who tried, but was unable to find certified scales near the area where the fish was caught. Shaw then contacted Reservoirs Fisheries Biologist John Hammonds and Regional Fisheries Coordinator Bart Carter, who met Paul in Dandridge about three hours later to weigh and verify the new pending state record fish. — From TWRA news release.
TWRA officials measured the muskie at 51 3/8 inches long with a girth of 23½ inches. That’s a size that would be a catch of a lifetime for most muskie anglers.
TWRA Fisheries Biologist Jim Negus estimated the fish to be between 12 and 15 years old, ” but Melton Hill musky have been known to reach 50 inches by age 10,” according to the release.
By comparison, a muskie in Wisconsin takes about 17 years to reach that size. Tennessee muskies, which are on the southern end of the species’ range, simply have a faster growth rate.
“The musky is an apex predator and a tremendous sport fish native to Tennessee,” Hammonds said in the TWRA news release. “They put on a remarkable fight, once hooked and are typically very difficult to catch. A musky over 50 inches in length is extremely difficult to hook and land, and is considered to be a ‘fish of a lifetime’ for most musky anglers.”
Pending certification of the fish in the TWRA office in Nashville, Paul’s fish is expected to be listed as new record.