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Muskie mannerisms are peculiar

Doug Kelley happened to be taking wildlife photos on Mantrap Lake and encountered this muskie slithering along the surface. The behavior is fairly common with muskies and though they appear injured, the fish submerge and swim away after several seconds. (Submitted photo)

Muskies are definitely bizzare creatures. Their habits are sometimes predictable but often times the opposite.

We know their spawning cycle, that they reproduce in shallow areas as the water temperature nears 50-degrees in the spring. Though northern pike generally spawn about two weeks ahead of muskies, there are times when the two species overlap slightly in the reproductive process. If a northern pike and a muskie spawn together, the result is a tiger muskie. However, since a full-grown female muskie can lay up to about 200,000 eggs, it's likely that multiple tiger muskies reach adult size.

Muskies will grow 12-14" in their first year of development, but many are picked up by birds or eaten by other fish in their early stages of growth.

To become the trophy size that every muskie angler hopes to catch, it must have good genetics, an ample forage supply and if ever caught by an angler, a short battle and quick release to ensure survival. A 48-inch or larger muskie is typically 15-years-old or more.

Mantrap Lake, one of the area's best muskie destinations, didn't always have huge muskies. Most of our other lakes didn't either.

According to the Fuller's Golden Book, in 1976 there were 36 muskies entered in their annual fishing contest. Only ten were over 8-pounds and the largest for the year was about 17.5lbs.

Now even the largest from that year would be considered small. Back then the minimum size for keeping a muskie was 30." In addition, the introduction of Leech Lake strain muskies, which grow larger, didn't happen until several years later. Today, the vast majority of anglers no longer keep muskies. Their management is based upon creating opportunities for anglers to land a trophy and releasing them is imperative for a lake to produce the truly big ones, greater than 50-inches.

Yet muskies can be maddening when their peculiarities get in the way of catching one. It's frustrating when a muskie follows a bait up to the side of the boat so close that the hairs of your bucktail spinner are actually tickling its lips...and then the fish disappears. Witnessing muskies surface, then disappear without any interest in your successive casts is equally appalling. But it's that one cast when a muskie finally hits and you cradle such a magnificent creature that drives muskie anglers to return to the water again.

One unique behavior that anglers may have witnessed is when a muskie will slither along the surface with a gentle waggle, with their mouth and eyes above water. I've personally seen this a number of times and though I immediately cast at the fish, I've never had one even follow a lure. After several seconds they simply submerge and swim away.

Doug Kelley did capture one of those surface snaking muskies a few weeks back, but with his camera lense. Luckily he was in the right spot with his camera ready when the muskie emerged, offering everyone, muskie hunter or not, a view of such a strange mannerism.