Musky Hunter|June/July 2020
Do we know the fate of released muskies after hooks are cut (and left in the fish)? Most musky anglers believe that nearly every fish they release survives. What about fish that leave carrying all or parts of a 7/0 treble hook? Is the mortality rate different for these fish? Furthermore, I’ve heard more than one angler say they cut hooks on every musky they catch. Depending on skill level of the angler, that could mean a lot of metal stuck in fish.
What about a lure lodged in a musky’s mouth due to failed equipment? Whether it be from a broken line or failed leader, do those fish shed the hook or are they doomed?
I am not aware of any musky-specific research that addresses this question. However, several scientists from Canada have investigated this question as it relates to northern pike. Their findings can help answer the questions posed above.
Researchers Christopher Pullen, Robert Arlinghaus, Robert Lennox and Steven Cooke used telemetry to determine the fate of northern pike that break the line and escape capture.
They hypothesized, “although most anglers optimistically assume that lures lost during break-off are eventually shed by the fish, the additional stress that the fish experiences may hamper its recovery and affect its physiology, behavior and fate (Arlinghaus et al., 2008a). Fish with embedded hooks may also starve as a result of impaired feeding ability (Tsuboi et al., 2006). If the fish survives, it may still experience sublethal impairments such as a reduced ability to evade predators over the long term (Cooke and Phillip 2004) or succumb to a variety of delayed physiological impairments (Arlinghaus et al. 2007: Cooke et al. 2013).” Culmination of all these factors could result in slowed growth, decreased reproductive capacity, or death.
Objectives of the study were to quantify short term dispersal and determine long term behavioral consequences of northern pike after a simulated “broken line” scenario.
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