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How Much Does Your Musky Weigh?

.....A New Weight Chart

By: John Dettloff 2010


Back when how much meat a Musky would provide was of greater concern than how much the fish weighed, people didn't pay as much attention to a Musky weight or exact measurements. There were no contests or widely publicized world record listings. One early, possibly record class Musky catch whose exact size remains unknown was taken by pioneer guide Allison Drake.

Allison DrakeDrake who during the twilight of his long guiding career was said to have been the oldest guide in the world from point of service (63 years) - began guiding during the early 1890s at the age of 15, while his father, Fred Drake, was operating a stopping place on the West Fork of the Chippewa River near Hayward, Wisconsin. Being able to catch Musky practically from his hack door, young Allison learned to be a skilled boatman and was soon guiding - poling river boats from Radisson, up the Chippewa River and to the West Fork, giving guests who were coming up river a chance to fish along the way.

The huge Musky that Allison caught was said to have been taken around 1924 and, according to Allison, it was caught on a spoon in the West Fork of the Chippewa River, just up from where McGuire's Bar is now located. Allison's fish bottomed out his 50-pound scale but, not really being that concerned about what the fish's weight was, he just cut it up for the meat!

So how big was it? Well, with Allison known to be a tall man, standing around 6-2 or 6-3; from studying the photo of his Musky, it's evident that his Musky ranged between 56 to 58 inches in length. And, with the current world record Musky at the time weighing just 51 pounds 3 ounces, Allison's thick bodied fish would have been undoubtedly heavier and could have been a world record Musky (weighing possibly 55 pounds or more), had it been registered.

Back then, it really wasn't that big of a deal. Since the passing of those early days though, Musky fishing is now being done for sport, rather than as a means of providing sustenance. The catching of Louie Spray's much publicized first world record Musky, a 59 pounder from 1939, seemingly ushered in a new era in our sport - that of great rivalries over the world record Musky title and, ultimately, in fishing contests in general.

Since then. a Musky's weight has been considered to be the benchmark by which it is judged. A Musky's weight, and not its length, has always been regarded as being the more descriptive assessment of a Musky's size. Because the build of a Musky can vary greatly, a fish's length may not tell us that much about the Musky's true size. A fish that measures 50 inches sounds like it's a pretty impressive catch but, if it's a skinny one (in the 25-pound class), it doesn't have to be as big as it sounds. But if that same fish was super fat and thick bodied all the way through, it could actually be twice as big.

So it's the weight that is the true determiner of what you really have. And it's the weight that determines who the true world record holders are. For decades, it had been a long standing tradition to weigh, measure and record any muskies caught out of the many fishing camps scattered through out our north country's prime Musky centers. And. because contest prizes were often at stake. certified beam type scales were used by many of the serious Musky camps.

Being the 'weigh master" for our own resort ever since 1972 and having weighed over a thousand Musky myself, I can remember the hoopla that every Musky which was brought in created. Becoming a tradition at many of the Musky camps including our own to ring a bell, sound a siren or horn, or raise a special flag to alert guests that another Musky had come in, it was always regarded as an eagerly anticipated and festive occurrence.

In this age of release where more than 90 percent of all Musky caught are put back, how does one go about judging a Musky's weight? And how does one resist getting caught up in the excitement of the moment, upon catching a nice Musky, and try to come up with a realistic weight estimate? This is definitely one of the great dilemmas of the release program. And, while an experienced Musky angler can often judge a Musky's weight fairly well, they are not all immune from exaggeration.

All too often now, I'm hearing about 39 or 40 inch Musky which go 20 pounds, 45 inch Musky which go 30 pounds, and 50 inch Musky which go 40 to 45 pounds. While in rare cases these weight estimates are indeed possible, they are certainly not the norm. Fact is, it usually takes a 42-incher to make 20 pounds, a 48 to 49 incher to make 30 pounds, and a 52 to 55 incher to make 40 pounds.

Why be so knit-picky in the first place? Because, if we weren't and we just continued attaching wild weight estimates to our Musky catches, it would only serve to cheapen the values of the bona fide weights of Musky of various sizes. We would then have a distorted perception of the capabilities of our fisheries and would never be able to fully appreciate the sport for what it has truly given us in terms of our Musky catches. Well, don't these sportsmen who are releasing such big fish deserve the bragging rights that they claim? Yes they do, but only to the extent that reflects the true size of their catch.

So how can we best come up with realistic weight estimates on our released Musky? There are three basic ways: weighing the fish on some sort of portable scale before we release it; taking a length and girth of the fish and then plugging the data into an accepted weight formula; or, if you possess the proper skills, you can take an accurate length measurement and come up with a weight assessment, based on the build of the fish, which can be even more accurate than the formula will usually yield.

As far as which of these three methods would be the least stressful on a Musky, it would be the latter with the first method of actually weighing the fish being potentially the most stressful. Getting a good length and girth of a Musky can give you a good indication of the Musky's weight, once the data is plugged into an accepted weight formula, but keep in mind that these formulas have their limitations. A general formula that has been accepted for determining Musky weights is W = (G2x L) 800. The problem with this formula is that the bigger a Musky gets, the more the fish's shape comes into play in determining the Musky's weight and the less accurate the formula becomes. In fact, for Musky weighing over 55 pounds, the formula becomes all but useless.

I decided to check the formula against 947 Musky with known accurate weights, lengths, and girths (almost all of which I weighed and measured myself) and plug the data into the formula, leaving the divisor the unknown. With the average divisor coming out to be 754.5, I then had a more finely tuned formula for yielding Musky weights: W = ( G2x L) 754.5.

Musky with a "beer belly" - thick in the middle but not at the head & tail ends - throw many anglers. Their big bellies often makes people think they are heavier than they really are. If a fish's body isn't fat all the way through its entire length, it won't be able to carry the weight that some anglers may think.

Musky with short, blunt heads and stubby tails can be much heavier, relative to their lengths. Musky with long, menacing, alligator-like heads and long tails are probably the most deceiving fish to even the seasoned veteran. Creating the illusion that they are much heavier than they are, these long-headed fish often have their weights overestimated.

Based on my experiences, I have come up with the weight range estimates based on Musky shapes found on the table shown below. Use it for a quick and accurate weight estimate.

Length Thin Build/Long Head Average Build Thick Build/Blunt Head
36 9-10 Lbs. 12 Lbs. 14-15 Lbs.
40 12-14 Lbs. 16-17 Lbs. 19-20 Lbs.
42 15-17 Lbs. 19-20 Lbs. 23-25 Lbs.
45 19-21 Lbs. 23-25 Lbs. 28-30 Lbs.
48 22-24 Lbs. 29-31 Lbs. 33-36 Lbs.
50 24-27 Lbs. 32-35 Lbs. 38-45 Lbs.
52 28-31 Lbs. 36-39 Lbs. 43-50 Lbs.
55 33-38 Lbs. 42-45 Lbs. 47-55 Lbs.
58 40-45 Lbs. 49-55 Lbs. 58-65 Lbs.

Some Food For Thought:

A 60 incher...A heck of a big fish no matter how you cut it!
A 65 incher...Louie I think I've got you beat!
A 70 incher...Even skinny, this one should be a world record!
A 75 incher...I think you'll need a bigger boat!