The trophy tiger hunt is on at North Idaho lakes.
Three tiger muskies larger than the listed state record have been turned in to Fish and Game Department officials in the past three weeks.
Rod Sala of Rathdrum caught the current record on Sunday, a 21-pound, 8-ounce bruiser from Hauser Lake.
Going into this fishing season, the record was 17 pounds, 4 ounces. Sala’s fish topped the 18-pound, 9-ounce tiger muskie taken in Hauser lake last month.
“We’re not sure where it will end, but this appears to be the exciting year for this new fishery,” said Ned Horner, Fish and Game regional fisheries manager in Coeur d’Alene.
The record for northern pike similarly was broken numerous times in 1992.
Sala and his wife, Debbie, were trout fishing from shore on the east side of Hauser Sunday when a thunder storm pummeled them with rain. Lucky for them, they didn’t run for the nearby car.
“Fish bite good in the rain,” Debbie said. “We had an umbrella.”
During the downpour, the Sala’s saw the lunker tiger muskie swirl at the surface. Rod could see the striped back and knew the fish wasn’t a northern pike. Tiger muskies, a sterile cross between pike and muskellunge, were planted in Hauser, Shepherd, Dawson, Freeman and Blue lakes specifically to provide trophy fishing.
Rod, who had experience fishing for pike, rigged his 8-pound Spider Wire line with a steel leader and a black and orange spinnerbait.
On the fifth cast, the 41-inch-long trophy took the bait.
“He could see it coming for 15 feet before it hit the lure,” said Debbie, who was thrilled to describe the battle while her husband was at work.
“It made a big run, then Rod got it in and it ran again and jumped three or four times. My heart was pounding!”
The couple didn’t have a net. “Rod knew the fish was going to start rolling when he got it to shore, and it did,” Sala said. “But he was able to get it by the gills and lift it onto the bank.”
Horner said the fish was 7 years old, one of the original 8-inchers stocked in Hauser in 1990.
“The other record fish that have been brought in were kind of snaky looking,” Horner said. “But this one was a real fish.”
Although it was the same length as the 18-pounder caught it June, Sala’s fish had an extra three pounds of girth.
For every 1,000 tiger muskies Fish and Game can acquire, 600 go into Hauser, which has the size and forage base to support them, Horner said. The smaller Shepherd, Dawson, Freeman and Blue lakes get the rest of the tiger muskies, about one per acre.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
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