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COMMENTS BY KIM: Muskie impact on Aubudon

This changes everything. I remember thinking that when the first muskellunge were released into Lake Audubon in 2011. Both pure and Tiger muskellunge have been released into Lake Audubon each year since then. Fishermen are taking notice.

It has been quite the transformation for the “little sister” to Lake Sakakawea. A few years ago you didn’t see guys with eight and nine foot fishing rods standing in a boat and casting 10-12 inch lures. You do now. The addition of muskies is a terrific success story.

The size is there now. The muskies have grown quite well with numerous confirmed catches of muskies in the 35 inch range. Some even bigger. A trophy fishery on the rise in the center of the state is a wonderful thing!

Muskies fill a void too. When other species virtually disappear and go deep during the heat of July and August, muskies behave quite differently. They can often be seen sunning themselves on the surface. They’ll hang out for several hours a day in fairly shallow water too. That means anglers can target them with regular crankbait-style presentations that run reasonably shallow, anywhere from four to 12 feet or so.

Big spinnerbaits and topwater lures work as well, and there’s few things in the fishing world that can match the excitement and surprise of a muscular muskie breaking the surface and attacking a topwater bait. Hang on!

Importantly, there’s no evidence to show that muskies have impacted other targeted species in Lake Audubon. Most notably that would be walleye, smallmouth bass and northern pike. Fishing for those species remains strong. In fact, say biologists, even if the pure muskellunge stocked into Lake Audubon bring off a year class of young, those fish would be heavily predated on by northern pike and have limited survival.

Tiger muskies, which are a cross between northern pike and muskellunge, are sterile and will not reproduce. They are, however, a fast growing and strikingly beautiful fish that is challenging and memorable for any fisherman fortunate to hook into one.

I always hoped to someday see muskie boats and anglers on Lake Audubon but never thought it would happen. Darned if it hasn’t. Congratulations to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department for seeing this project come to fruition. They did so cautiously with biologists carefully over-seeing the stocking program.

Muskies, they believe, are perfectly suited to Lake Audubon’s varied habitat and structure. Lake Audubon also has a large population of large ciscos, a preferred food source for muskies. So far, so good. Very good.

There is a problem though. If you haven’t experienced “muskie fever” beware. When it strikes, and it will if you spend many hours fishing Lake Audubon, it can be consuming. Happily, if you get bit by the muskie bug you won’t have to travel to Ontario or Minnesota or some other distant place to seek a fix. Lake Audubon will do just fine and is getting better all the time.

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