Muskie fishing is better today than it has ever been! We believe that is largely due to the efforts of Muskies, Inc. In the 1940’s thru the 1960’s most legal muskies that were caught were harvested. A decline in the population was a result. In 1966, our founder Gil Hamm and a small group of his friends realized this and started promoting the concept of “catch and release”. While catch and release helped, there were many other things that needed to be done to maintain and improve the fishery for all to enjoy. Muskies, Inc. has long been a leader in these areas and the Flatlanders Chapter has helped along the way.
First, as part of the overall mission, we have promoted the catch and release concept not only to our members, but to the general public as well. Chapter members have caught and released 1000’s of muskies since our inception.
But our efforts to improve the Fishery do not end there. We have been involved in several fish rearing projects which have resulted in the stocking of not only muskies, but walleyes and northern pike as well, in nearby lakes. One such project involved our Chapter, the Capital City Chapter and three local muskie clubs renting an old sewage treatment facility in Portage, Wisconsin for $1.00 a year. We pooled our resources and converted the facility into a fish rearing facility. The Wisconsin DNR would deliver fry in the spring and the “Portage Project” as we named it would rear those fish until the end of the year. The fish were divided among the sponsoring groups and stocked by the DNR. Our fish went into Lake Koshkonong near Newville, Wisconsin and Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin. It was always a great feeling of accomplishment when we stocked those fish.
As funding allowed we have contributed towards the direct purchase of hatchery fish for stocking in various lakes. Again, Lake Monona benefited as we helped the Capital City Chapter in their efforts to stock fish in the Madison chain of lakes. We are currently looking at helping another chapter in their efforts to stock Lake Geneva in 2021.
Closer to home, Pierce Lake in Rock Cut State Park has benefited from various Flatlander efforts. Several times we purchased fish from the Minnesota Muskie Farm and stocked them in Pierce. We have conducted work days there which involved general shoreline clean-up, helping to build the handicapped fishing pier, adding rock structure to the lake, and adding artificial habitat e.g. cribs to the lake. We have assisted the DNR and Park Staff in the rescue of all species of fish that had gotten over the dam. These fish had become trapped in the pool below the dam. We will continue to support this beautiful Park which is a real asset to the community.
We have supported the Illinois DNR in other ways. Through our affiliation with the Illini Muskies Alliance (IMA) we have contributed towards the purchase of netting to place over the rearing ponds to prevent predation by birds at the Jake Wolf Hatchery. We have helped purchase fish cradles for use by the biologists. We have assisted with emptying fyke nets at Pierce Lake when the DNR pulls them to do their studies.
As a Chapter of Muskies, Inc. we focus not only on the species but on other areas as well. We promote the protection of the environment, including water quality and shoreline preservation. Most people would never think of planting weeds in their yards. One year we purchased aquatic vegetation (“weeds”) and planted them in Pierce Lake to improve the habitat.
We have found that doing things like rearing and stocking, improving habitat, helping the DNR not only benefits the fishery, but it is fun to be part of those activities and it helps build friendships and comradery among our members. And it is a good example for our youth as well.
If this sounds like your cup of tea, you may want to consider joining the Flatlanders Chapter of Muskies, Inc. and become part of the excitement!