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Tiger muskies offer the thrill of the catch

Dwarfed in a net sized for trophy tiger muskies, this 2-footer was released by Todd Reis at Silver Lake.  (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)
Dwarfed in a net sized for trophy tiger muskies, this 2-footer was released by Todd Reis at Silver Lake. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)

Todd Reis of Tacoma was almost giddy that his daughter was enrolling at Eastern Washington University.

“This is sweet,” he said, casting a monster-size lure into Silver Lake. “She’s picked a school that’s within bicycling distance of one of the state’s seven tiger musky lakes.”

The Reis family was in the Cheney area recently for freshman orientation, but it looks as though this dad won’t need much persuasion to drive cross state for visits throughout the year.

“From Spokane, you’re just a short drive to good tiger musky fishing at Silver, Newman and some lakes in Idaho,” he said. “My favorite is Curlew. I think it has some of the biggest fish.”

Other Washington lakes stocked with tiger muskies are Tapps, Mayfield, Merwin and Evergreen.

Hauser Lake produced Idaho’s 38- pound, 7-ounce state record tiger musky.

The Washington state record of 31.25 pounds was taken in 2001 from Mayfield Lake in Lewis County. Several researchers have indicated that a new Washington state record fish is likely to be caught in Curlew.

State fisheries managers stock the predators sparingly to provide trophy fishing and help control non-sport fisheries, such as suckers, northern pikeminnows, tench, carp, and sunfish.

Reis had a net aboard his boat that’s big enough to land a cow. And the plugs he was casting toward the critters at the top of the food chain were large enough to terrify 90 percent of the fish in Silver Lake.

Tiger muskies – a sterile hybrid produced by crossing muskellunge with northern pike – must be at least 50 inches long in order to be kept, but Reis encourages anglers to take photos and measurements and release all tiger muskies.

“There aren’t that many of them,” he said prompting the reporter to ask:

“You’ve been casting for an hour without a strike; what’s the attraction to fishing for tiger muskies?”

“You’ll know the answer when you get the thrill of a 40-inch fish following your lure and hitting it at the boat,” he said.

“And when it’s a 50-incher, you’ll wish you were wearing diapers.”

Reis is vice president of the Cascade Musky Association, a non-profit group established to work with the state to enhance tiger musky fishing, to promote catch-and-release fishing for the trophy fish and, as he put it, “to be with people who love to fish – for big fish.”

CMA has just 44 members as a spin-off group from the Muskies Inc. Chapter 57 Tiger PAC, Washington’s first tiger musky club.

“We’re more about fishing and less about picnics,” Reis said.

His tackle boxes have big slots for 6-inch plugs plus large spinner baits and bucktails.

“I buy my plugs from a guy on eBay,” he said. “But we’re starting to see more tiger musky tackle in Northwest stores.

“We use fluorocarbon leaders, which don’t weaken as much monofilament when they get a nick.”

He fished the shoreline and wind-blown points at Silver Lake, but mostly the humps and flats in open water.

“You’ll find them almost anywhere there’s deep water next to shallow water.”

Near the end of each retrieve, he would use the rod tip to swing the lure in a figure-eight pattern in the water beside the boat before making the next cast.

“You always want to do a loop or a figure eight when the lure comes to the boat because it’s not uncommon for a tiger to follow in for 50 yards without being enticed to strike until the last moment,” he said.

“Stopping the retrieve is usually the worst thing you can do when you see a tiger following,” he said. “Most of the time, it will veer off and leave.”

Reis said he’s fished for days without catching a tiger musky.

“Sometimes I go out and catch a bucket-load of panfish just to get back my mojo after being refused by tiger muskies,” he said.

“I’ll catch bass and stuff while I’m fishing for tigers, but the tigers themselves can be tough. Then one time I landed four in one day at Mayfield Lake.”

In two hours at Silver, he caught one 24-incher that looked like a midget in his 36-inch-wide, 46-inch-deep net.

“That’s only a two-year-old,” he said. “It’s better to have a net that’s too big most of the time than to have one that’s too small when you really need it for a trophy tiger.”

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