Some of you may recall the story of the giant set of musky jaws found on the Chippewa Flowage on October 31, 1998 (story here). According to Frank Pratt, the Hayward Area Fisheries Manager of the Department of Natural Resources, the jaws were most likely from a giant musky which had for some unknown reason, died in the mid-summer of 1998. Pratt aged the musky at fifteen years old based on a particular bone that remained attached to the skeletal jaw. The jaw was enormous with a spread in excess of nine inches and featured a fearsome set of teeth, some of which exceeded 1-1/2 inches in length. What's most impressive is that Pratt, based upon a formula that is used to determine the length of muskie's based on their jaw dimensions, determined the musky to range in length from 58 to 70 inches! A potential world record musky? Who knows? But keep in mind that the current World Record Musky, caught by Louie Spray, out of the Chippewa Flowage, was 63-1/4 inches long. So the JAWS musky, which washed-up on shore in October of 1998, certainly was in the world class category. The actual JAWS are on display at Ran D's restaurant on highway B, near Round Lake. Do other such mammoth muskie's swim to this day in the mysterious, dark waters of the Chippewa Flowage? It appears so.
Just a few short weeks ago, on September 14th, Tony Wujek and Dan Olzoni of Shorewood, Illinois, guests of R & R Bayview Resort on the Chippewa Flowage, had an experience which few musky fishermen would ever imagine. They were fishing for muskie's at midnight with a sucker on a quick set rig, under a full moon, on the Flowage. Eventually, they had a hit on the sucker. Tony gave the fish a little line and then set the hooks. The battle was on! Tony, who has caught many catfish in Illinois, remarked to Dan that whatever grabbed his sucker was fighting like a catfish, rather than a musky. Catfish are rare on the Chippewa Flowage. Tony continued to battle the fish at the end of his line while making progress. Suddenly, without warning his progressed stopped. "I thought I was snagged" Tony said. "Until it starting jerking and yanking. Then I knew I had something big, but then my line kind of slackened a bit and a giant form appeared on the surface about twenty feet from the boat". "It was hard to see much but the full moon was out and there was a lot of sloshing. It was shaking whatever it had like a ragdoll." The whatever turned out to be a catfish that had grabbed Tony's sucker. Tony added, "suddenly it let go of whatever it had and I could reel my line in again. As I worked it near the boat we put the flashlight on it and I was right! It was catfish! A big catfish!" Dan chimed in: "I grabbed the net to bag the catfish and boom! This giant thing (musky) comes up out of nowhere and grabs it again, next to the boat! It kept shaking and shaking the catfish". "It wouldn't stop. It wanted that catfish. It was huge! There is no way our net could have ever handled it" Tony stated, "It tried to take the catfish down deeper, but I kept the tension on the giant musky. It eventually let go. We netted the catfish and brought it in to the resort, because we didn't think anyone would believe us. It was actually a scary experience to see something that big in the water."
Luckily Tony and Dan brought the catfish in, because the catfish was discovered to be a pending catch and release unlimited line class world record! It measured 36 inches in length with a 20 inch girth and weighed 18.3 pounds. The bite marks or wounds were clearly visible on the belly of the catfish and were compared to that of the JAWS on display at Ran D's restaurant. The verdict: It appears that the musky that grabbed Tony's pending world record catfish may have been slightly larger!
So how big was that musky? Tony and Dan both agree that the musky
that grabbed the catfish was so large that it could not have possibly
fit into the largest of Beckman nets. Tony said, "We had
the flashlight shining right on that monster and it was so long
that we were never able to see the end of the fish even though
it was right next to the boat! The length just seemed to keep
going forever! I couldn't believe what I was seeing."
According to musky guide and researcher Larry Ramsell, the bite mark on the catfish was so large that it appears that only the front third of jaw registered on the catfish. "The jaw most likely eclipsed the width of the catfish", Ramsell stated. A measurement of the width of the front third of the jaw exceeded 6-1/2 inches. That is slightly wider than the width of the front third of the JAWS musky on display at Ran D's. Ramsell added, "just to give you an idea of how large that catfish eating musky might be, consider that the jaw spread of my 44 pounder is about 5 inches wide at its' widest point. This musky is obviously much larger. What is most impressive about this musky is that it was able to place its mouth around the fat, twenty inch girth of the catfish. It would take a musky of world class size to do that."