Minnesota's most elusive fish now getting a start in New London (2024)

NEW LONDON — It’s taking more than 10,000 casts to land a big muskie these days, and those pursuing these elusive pike are urging the state to do more to improve their numbers in the waters where they are managed.

The New London fish hatchery operated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is looking to do exactly that.

For the first time in perhaps 25 to 30 years, the hatchery is once again raising muskellunge, or muskie fry, for stocking lakes throughout the state.

The hatchery is busy raising an estimated 50,000 muskie fry, none of them fatter or longer than the average pine needle. They arrived about two weeks ago from the Waterville Hatchery, where they were hatched from eggs, according to Hatchery Manager Jeff Tellock. The eggs were taken from Lake Plantagenet south of Bemidji in Hubbard Country.

Tellock and his helpers are feeding and tending to the young fry in two water-filled fiberglass tanks, also known as races, in which they will grow to between 2 ½ - to 3 ½ inches, and possibly up to 4 inches. Water from the Middle Fork of the Little Crow River is filtered and circulated through the tanks, and monitors assure that oxygen levels never fall below needed levels.


These fry are being fed a newly developed diet, and Tellock said it appears to be much better than the mix that had been used by hatcheries in the past. The newly hatched muskies are most vulnerable during their first two weeks of life, and the new diet appears to have significantly improved their survival rate, he said.

Minnesota's most elusive fish now getting a start in New London (1)

Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

Sometime this summer, the fry will be transferred to some of the 17 outdoor ponds at the hatchery property in New London. Instead of having human-made food sprinkled in front of their faces, they will prey on flathead minnows raised for them.

The young muskies will grow to fingerling size of around 10 to 12 inches in the ponds. This fall, the majority of them will be stocked in some of the 102 lakes managed by the DNR for muskies.

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Tellock will keep about 700 of the muskies over the winter by returning them to the tanks in the hatchery. The goal is to raise these muskie over the winter before returning them to the ponds again next year. These selected muskies will grow to as large as 17 inches before being stocked in lakes.

Recent research has made it clear. The larger the hatchery-raised muskie are when stocked, the better their odds for survival, Tellock explained.

The Waterville and St. Paul hatcheries also raise muskies for stocking.

The New London Hatchery raises anywhere from 30 million to as many as 60 million walleye fry each year. Muskies require more water per fish, and more feed, labor, and time for stocking, he said.

Minnesota's most elusive fish now getting a start in New London (5)

Contributed / Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

The New London Hatchery is well-equipped for its role. It has a newly-installed water filtration system, a separate ultraviolet light sterilization system, and a heat exchange unit to maintain the necessary water quality. The water filtration system on its own is capable of keeping the microscopic veligers of zebra mussels, which are so small as to be invisible to the human eye, from the waters in the hatchery tanks, the hatchery manager pointed out.


Local anglers who want a chance at catching these muskie someday will have to travel a little ways. There are no lakes managed for muskies in the waters managed by the DNR fisheries staff based in Spicer. Tellock said some of these stocked muskies could find their way to the waters of the Horseshoe Chain of Lakes near Richmond and waters in the Glenwood area.

By Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at tcherveny@wctrib.com or by phone at 320-214-4335.

Minnesota's most elusive fish now getting a start in New London (2024)


Minnesota's most elusive fish now getting a start in New London? ›

The New London Fish Hatchery is raising muskie

The muskellunge (Esox masquinongy), often shortened to muskie, musky, ski, or lunge, is a species of large freshwater predatory fish native to North America. It is the largest member of the pike family, Esocidae.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Muskellunge
fry for the first time in over two decades as part of an effort to improve fishing for the elusive pike in the state. These fry are shown on June 5, 2024, or about two weeks after their arrival in New London from the Waterville Hatchery where they were raised from eggs.

What is the size limit for tiger muskie in Minnesota? ›

Fish are usually calmer in the water than in a boat. You will likely have to release the muskellunge you catch. The statewide minimum size limit is 54 inches and 40 inches in Twin Cities' area lakes stocked with tiger muskellunge.

When can you fish for muskie in Minnesota? ›

Fishing Season Opener Dates
YearWalleye, Pike, BassMuskie
2020May 9June 6
2021May 15June 5
2022May 14June 4
2023May 13June 3

How big are muskellunges? ›

Muskellunge commonly reach lengths of around 37 inches. The world record was caught in Hayward, Wisconsin in 1949. The fish weighed 67 pounds 8 ounces and was 60 1/4 inches long.

Are muskie native to Minnesota? ›

Muskies are native to Minnesota lakes and rivers. Muskies can be found in 102 lakes. Muskie were introduced to 48 of those lakes through DNR stocking. Anglers can't keep a muskie unless it is at least 54 inches long.

How rare is a 50 inch muskie? ›

Before 1990, 50-inchers were caught only once a decade or so. Between 1990 and 2010, the frequency ramped up to every other year or thereabouts. Since then, it hasn't been unusual for several to be reported each year.

How old is a 50 inch muskie? ›

On average, musky are about 11 inches long after their first year of life, reach 34” in year 7, reach 40” in year 9, and reach 50 inches by age 17.

What bait is best for muskie? ›

Top bait for the summer includes bucktails, soft plastics, topwater plugs in open water, weed edges, and rock piles. Fishing for muskies at night is best during the summer months and done with the same baits, but retrieve slowly since they rely on their vision and can't see as well.

Why is it so hard to catch muskie? ›

The incredibly aggressive and carnivorous tiger muskie is both an achievement and a trophy for anglers in cooler climates. Tiger muskies are difficult to catch because they're large powerful fish that have frustratingly fickle feeding habits making them one of the most sought after freshwater gamefish in America.

What is the best month to catch muskie? ›

Some of the highest catch rates for muskies are during the summer months when the water is warm and the fish are most active. Fall fishing can also be very productive at times, and many of the largest muskies are caught during the fall.

What is the world record muskie? ›

For muskies, the world records for length and weight are held by two different fish. The maximum documented length is 72.04 inches (183 cm), and the heaviest documented weight is 70.10 pounds (31.8 kg), according to FishBase.

How fast do muskies swim? ›

The general consensus was about 30 to 35 miles per hour, but it was not based on fact.

How old do muskies live? ›

Adult muskies have no aquatic predators, but may fall victim to disease, large birds of prey, or people. Muskellunge can live to about 18 years old, but fish up to 30 years of age have been documented.

What is the muskie capital of the world? ›

Boulder Junction is known as the Musky Capital of the World®, so you know it's a great fishing destination, but when's the best time to hit the water? Well, that depends on what you're looking for.

Where was the biggest muskie caught in Minnesota? ›

(KNSI) – A Princeton man's muskie is officially a new record. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources certified Eric Bakke's 58.25-inch fish as the largest catch-and-release muskie in Minnesota's history. He reeled in the monster on June 11th on Mille Lacs Lake.

How many muskies can you keep in Minnesota? ›

Iowa–Minnesota Seasons and Limits
Muskellunge1 (minimum size 40")
Catfish8 combined total
Sunfish (bluegill, crappie, pumpkinseed, green, orangespotted, northern, warmouth, and their hybrids)25 combined total
7 more rows

What is trophy size for tiger muskie? ›

Like other hybrid species, tiger muskie are said to have "hybrid vigor," meaning they grow faster and stronger than the parent fish, and are also less susceptible to disease. Trophy specimens weigh about 14 kg (30 lb).

How old is a 40 inch tiger muskie? ›

A 40-inch tiger muskie is usually about seven years old and has spent its life serving an important purpose — to control nongame fish while providing anglers an enjoyable challenge. Daily bag and possession limits: One (1) tiger muskie 40 inches or longer.

What's the difference between a regular muskie and a tiger muskie? ›

Tiger muskies grow fast and are seemingly more durable than their full parent species. Tiger muskies can tolerate warmer water better and grow at a faster rate than most pure muskie or pike. Like other hybrid fish, tiger muskies are sterile and cannot reproduce.

How rare is it to catch a tiger muskie? ›

Tiger muskies are the rarest and most elusive of all North American esocids. In most settings where they occur naturally, they have a nearly mythical status. A mere sighting of a trophy specimen gets people talking. Catching a tiger over 50 inches puts you in select company.

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