Lake Audubon’s muskies
Trophy fishery in the making
COLEHARBOR – Oh my goodness what fun it is! An incredible success story continues to unfold at Lake Audubon.
In 2010 the North Dakota Game and Fish Department cautiously introduced a small number of sterile Tiger muskellunge into Lake Audubon. Stockings of muskie, both Tigers and pure strains, have continued each year since then. Today the sporty fish of 10,000 casts is coming of age and Lake Audubon is well on its way to becoming a trophy muskie fishery.
“Audubon has the habitat and a big forage base. Given its size, we’ll probably continue stocking it with muskies,” said Scott Gangle, NDG&F Fisheries Management section leader.
This year’s plan is to stock 3,000 Tiger muskies, approximately 10 inches in length, into Lake Audubon. It’s a very small number of fish as stocking goes, but just enough to help ensure a future population of muskies in Lake Audubon.
“They are intended to be a trophy resource,” explained Gangle.
Tiger muskies are a cross between pure muskellunge and northern pike. They don’t breed but grow more quickly than pure muskies. Which type of muskies Game and Fish stocks into Lake Audubon is sometimes determined by availability. No matter if Tigers or pure muskie are stocked, it is important that the young fish be disease free. Fingerlings acquired from outside the state are raised at the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery and constantly monitored to detect any possible problems.
“We want to keep everything clean and train them a little bit on live feed rather than something dropped out of a bag,” said Gangle. “It makes them less vulnerable to bird predation.”
This year’s Tigers will once again come from a hatchery in Wyoming, a state that has an excellent history of working with North Dakota.
“We’ve always had a really good relationship with Wyoming as far as trading fish,” remarked Gangle.
As the Audubon muskies grow so to has the interest in catching them. Both established and new muskie fishermen have been launching boats at Lake Audubon in pursuit of the coveted fish. One man with a passion for muskie fishing is Kellen Latendresse of Minot who frequently travels to muskie waters in Minnesota and Canada.
“Most muskie days elsewhere are one or two bites a day. You can go consistently out on Audubon right now and, if you know what spots you are looking for, it’s not uncommon to have four or five in the boat. Last year I even had a seven muskie day.”
Lake Audubon muskies have so captivated Latendresse that he has started guiding for them, hoping to learn as much as possible about Lake Audubon muskies as the fish continue to get bigger and the fishery better. Like many North Dakotans, Latendresse grew up learning all he could about fishing walleyes but the lure of muskies became too much to resist.
“Over the years my passion has turned to trophy pike and now we’re blessed to have a muskie fishery in North Dakota,” said Latendresse. “With muskies it’s a learning game, looking at structure and realizing where they set up when it’s cloudy or sunny. That’s why I love them. They are definitely a fish that takes a little more learning. I want to share with other people.”
Latendresse likens muskie fishing to bow hunting for deer, explaining that learning his quarry’s habits and movements has a direct correlation to success. Successful muskie fishing is often the result of putting together daily patterns coupled with invaluable recall of previous experiences on the water.
Typical Audubon muskies are running in the 30-inch range but there’s been a number of 40-plus inch muskies caught too.
“I had a friend land a 46-incher and know of others over 40. A bass fisherman caught a 42-inch Tiger,” said Latendresse. “Some of those fish are probably in the high teens. That’s something special.”
Based on such catches, it appears Audubon is well on its way to giving up some giant muskies. Perhaps this summer. If not, certainly within a year or two and the fish will only get bigger. The potential impact of big muskies being pulled from Lake Audubon is huge with trophy opportunities that will be felt throughout the fishing community.
It’s not hard to imagine that a new crop of resident muskie fishermen will emerge and those muskie chasers that have become accustomed to traveling out of state in pursuit of their favorite quarry will have the option of pointing their vehicles at Lake Audubon instead. Some tackle shops are already recognizing the need to stock at least some muskie gear too, another indicator of the effect the developing muskie program at Lake Audubon.
(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Editor Mike Sasser at 857-1959 or Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.)