They Shoot Musky...Well...They Used To

By John Dettloff 1994

John DettloffIn Wisconsin, until 1966, shooting Muskies was a legal and often recommended method of killing a Musky once brought boatside after the fight. During the "old days," before there was any significant release program, people rarely found it necessary to handle Muskies alive. Because of a Muskie's comparatively large head and ominous looking set of jaws, most people had an understandable fear of handling a live Musky. So, before handling a large Musky and bringing it into the boat, the logical thing was to first kill the fish in the water.

Pistol PackingShooting Muskies with a small caliber pistol seemed to be the most efficient way of accomplishing that task. Here's a few tried and true tips on shooting Muskies from the master - Louie Spray:

"Always be sure that the fish's head is at least a little above the water before you shoot, and watch out for your line as it might be rolled around the fish in the process of fighting. You might shoot the line off if you have a fish on and other boats move in to have a look, don't be afraid to ask them to move away. The bullet might glance off the water and pose a threat to the other fishermen. if you have no pistol a .22 rifle is alright. If you have neither be sure to take along a nice club, 30" to 36" long."

Spray recalled this hard luck story that happened to his friend, Alton Van Camp:

"Van was using a long cable leader & large sucker hook through a sucker 'S nose. When Van shot a Musky that had swallowed his sucker, the bullet went through the top of the Muskie's head, hit the wire leader dead center' and separated it! He lost the fish."

Stories about overexcited anglers shooting live Muskies in the bottom of their boats are common. There must have been a lot of leaky boats during those years! Although, if properly done, shooting Muskies was an efficient way of landing large Muskies, it's still a good thing that that method was outlawed. Imagine giving a loaded weapon to someone as potentially hysterical as a fisherman with a huge Musky on the end of his line.