By KIM FUNDINGSLAND
COLEHARBOR - The numbers may not seem to be large when compared to other stockings of fish, but they have the potential to provide a huge angling experience.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department released young Tiger muskellunge into Lake Audubon recently. It marked the third straight year Tiger muskies have been stocked into the McLean County lake. The most recent stocking, on April 20, was a total of 5,642 Tigers that were 9-10 inches in length.
Combined with a Lake Audubon stocking of 4,050 Tigers in 2010 and another 5,980 in 2011, it brings the total stocked into Audubon to 15,672. Tiger muskies are a sterile cross between purebred muskellunge and northern pike. Biologists hope to make another stocking of Tigers in Audubon in 2013.
The stocked muskies came to North Dakota from Pennsylvania, a location that is known to have a disease-free strain of muskies. It is expected that survivors of the 2010 stocking should be in the 24-inch class or better. Tigers are known for fairly rapid growth and can reach 40 pounds or more.
Tiger muskies are known for vertical striping, although it may not always be readily apparent on every fish. Muskies are similar in appearance to northern pike but, unlike pike, do not have horizontal markings on their sides. Distinguishing markings on either pure or Tiger muskies, if present, are vertical.
According to Muskies Inc., the largest Tiger caught in 2011 was a 50-incher hooked by a tournament angler on Curlew Lake in Washington. The fish was released unharmed. Even though Washington rules require any Tiger muskie less than 50 inches long to be released, releasing of fish is common practice among muskie fishermen.
North Dakota law requires that all muskies less than 48 inches in length be immediately released where taken. Although the weight varies according to the girth of the fish, a 48-inch muskie is generally expected to exceed 30 pounds in weight. The North Dakota state record Tiger is a 45-inch fish that weighed 40 pounds.