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  #1  
Old 01-25-2016, 10:02 AM
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UglyStick UglyStick is offline
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Default Safe Handling Tips for Pike & Muskies

With everyone getting ice fever lately and so many wanting to target pike (and possibly musky) I figured it was time for a refresher on how to properly handle these toothy critters. Unfortunately, these fish are easy targets for most anglers through the ice when they would have little success targeting them in open water. I've already seen some pics on here that make me cringe...

The below information is just a few of the concepts any angler should practice when hunting these fish.

First, if you are fishing in pike or musky waters, make sure you drill a large enough hole - at least 8" diameter so the fish can fit through and doesn't get all scraped up.

Use proper gear - braided line (60 - 80lb) and a steel or strong (like 80lb +) fluoro leader to be able to get the fish landed fairly quickly. Fighting these fish to complete exhaustion can often be a death sentence, even in the winter, especially since it is near impossible to revive them the way one can in open water. Add to the fact the freezing temperatures and any other injuries incurred during landing / unhooking and even if it swims off, there is a good chance the fish will die later. Get the fish in as quickly as possible and not get bitten off.

Landing - Since one cannot use a net like in open water, hand landing is required. Learn the correct technique to grab the fish by the jaw via the edge of the gill plate near the tip of the jaw without putting your fingers in the gills. Never, EVER, grab the fish by the eye sockets as this definitely causes damage to the fish. Minimize out of the water time and NEVER lay the fish on the ice. Both of these will "flash freeze" the fish and result in damage anywhere from hurting it's protective slime layer to killing it. The best solution is to leave the fish in the water in the hole while unhooking it and only remove it for a few seconds for a quick picture if desired. Also be sure to have the proper tools such as long needle-nose pliers (for hook removal), jaw spreaders, and small compound bolt cutters, such as Knipex, for cutting hooks if deeply embedded or hooked near sensitive areas like the eyes, gills, etc. It is better to cut a hook than either injure the fish trying to remove a hook or keeping the fish out of water for an extended period of time. If hooks are cut, be sure to remove as many pieces as possible while trying to limit tissue damage. If you do use a lip grip tool, please only use it while the fish is completely in the water except for the head so the water is supporting the fish - never use it to lift the fish. Also, please no gaffs, or anything else that can pierce the fish.

Handling - Never lift a pike or musky vertically by its jaw. This has the potential of causing severe injury to the fish especially if it's a big one. When lifting the fish for a photo or any other reason, always wet your hands first and lift the fish horizontally using your other hand to support it under its belly in a horizontal manner. A quick Google of “muskie handling technique” will provide some good articles and video examples.

Good luck fishing and please make sure to help protect our resources in the process.
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  #2  
Old 01-25-2016, 11:45 AM
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Default Re: Safe Handling Tips for Pike & Muskies

Great information, I carry a tackle bag or load all the tools in my pockets but where I know where they are and can easily access them to minimize the time out of water.

Hold the gill plate and support the body. Make sure you hold on to the tail and let the fish recover in the hole before sending them on their way
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Old 01-25-2016, 12:16 PM
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Default Re: Safe Handling Tips for Pike & Muskies

Ugly Stick / Delawareriver great points and great post. It's awesome to see NJ with such a healthy pike / musky fishery, I think everyone would agree time spent learning proper handling whether it be during the winter or summer will go a long way to maintaining the health of that fishery. These fish are special and any fish you handle could in a few years be the trophy of a lifetime. Leave the gaffs home, I'd rather lose a trophy than kill a dozen others in the process of trying to find one.
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Old 01-25-2016, 02:10 PM
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Default Re: Safe Handling Tips for Pike & Muskies

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Originally Posted by dakota560 View Post
Ugly Stick / Delawareriver great points and great post. It's awesome to see NJ with such a healthy pike / musky fishery, I think everyone would agree time spent learning proper handling whether it be during the winter or summer will go a long way to maintaining the health of that fishery. These fish are special and any fish you handle could in a few years be the trophy of a lifetime. Leave the gaffs home, I'd rather lose a trophy than kill a dozen others in the process of trying to find one.
Exactly, maybe saxmatt will chime in, he is the best guy I know when it comes to fish handling. The way he fishes and hooks his bait he rather miss the fish then have the fish deep hooked. The muskie I posted above he has caught twice through the ice since I have and has pictures to prove it's the same fish. Proper fish handling works!
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Old 01-25-2016, 05:56 PM
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Thumbs up Re: Safe Handling Tips for Pike & Muskies

Thanx for posting this up Jim! Great info for all to learn, including myself! Staying poised and patient in the heat of the moment certainly helps I must add! Absorb the knowledge fellas! This info is something you pass down to your kids and further!

TIGHT LINEZ!!!!!
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Old 01-25-2016, 08:03 PM
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Default Re: Safe Handling Tips for Pike & Muskies

Some great info here. Thanks for this post!!
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Old 01-26-2016, 12:57 AM
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Default Re: Safe Handling Tips for Pike & Muskies

Great info! One thing I would add is if you are planning on releasing them use single hooks, not trebles. Big fish can easily swallow your bait before you get to the flag and single hooks are much easier to get out and do less damage than treble hooks. This was already said but make sure you bring everything you need with you to the hole when you get a flag. I see too many people who let the fish flop around on the ice while they go back to their sled to get the camera, pliers etc.
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Old 01-26-2016, 10:18 AM
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Default Re: Safe Handling Tips for Pike & Muskies

Reading about it and doing it right are two totally different things. I Hope that I can act accordingly when I pull a monster Essex through a hole in the moment! My first big Muskie from the tin can didn't go as planned but thankfully the fish seemed to be ok after a 10 minute revival!

I'll just add...bring a friend if possible. That's why I always like to be fishing with someone if possible, makes the whole experience so much easier, less stressful on you and the fish, and more enjoyable. 4 hands are better than 2 when the fish is 4ft long!
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Old 01-26-2016, 01:31 PM
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Default Re: Safe Handling Tips for Pike & Muskies

A+++ post! If all else fails, there is nothing wrong with asking another angler to assist.

Tight lines,
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Old 01-26-2016, 01:36 PM
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Default Re: Safe Handling Tips for Pike & Muskies

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Originally Posted by Air Force Chris View Post
A+++ post! If all else fails, there is nothing wrong with asking another angler to assist.

Tight lines,
Chris - when am I gonna see you at one of our Muskies Inc. meetings?
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