Ava, Ill. — As Walter Krause’s 48-inch muskie from Lake Kinkaid was being declared as the 2014 “Big Fish,” the state’s first 50-incher of 2015 was being caught nearly 400 miles to the north.
And here’s the kicker: the newest giant muskie was yanked out of a hole in the ice.
Luke Emde, of Mundelein, landed his 50-incher while ice fishing on the lake at Independence Grove Forest Preserve in Libertyville. Emde could not determine the fish’s weight because his scale only went to 30 pounds.
A teacher at Kildeer-Countryside Elementary School in Long Grove, Emde said that he is a frequent angler at Independence Grove and has been ice fishing there for a handful of years.
He was aware of the monster swimming beneath the hard water.
“We have cameras, and we’ve seen that one the last couple of years,” he told the Lake County News-Sun following the January catch. “I’ve been chasing him for awhile.”
Emde caught the muskie on a tip-up and a golden roach minnow. He released the fish, as is lake policy.
According to DNR District fisheries biologist Frank Jakubicek, the lake at Independence Grove hasn’t been stocked with muskies in 15 years.
Thus, it’s possible the muskie caught by Emde is a teenager.
“Somewhere after 1999 or 2000, the Lake County Forest Preserve District wanted to establish native lake species and go catch and release for all species in the lake,” Jakubicek explained. “Catch and release, for all species, doesn’t lend itself well to managing, so DNR’s policy is to not stock catch- and-release systems.”
DNR stocked 150 11-inch muskies in 1998 and 330 more in 1999.
“The odds have been against muskie surviving this long since so few have been stocked, as far as I know,” Jakubicek said. “But we’ve heard stories about fish surviving in Independence Grove, sampled a few over the years and according to the numbers this fish was one of 480 stocked – 15 or 16 years ago.”
Meanwhile, Krause, of Collinsville, is quite aware of the potential Kinkaid has for large muskies. He is a member of the Shawnee Muskie Hunters and a well-respected guide on Kinkaid.
His muskie club will receive the Illini Muskie Alliance traveling trophy for his catch.
To qualify for the “Big Fish” award, an angler must be a member in good standing of one of the 11 IMA member organizations at the time of the capture.
The IMA tauts the annual award as a way to promote muskie conservation and angling in Illinois. The IMA also teams with DNR to conduct annual surveys of the state’s muskie lakes.
Based on the most recent Illinois Voluntary Creel Survey, a total of 168 muskies from 24 inches to 52 inches were entered in 2014. These fish were captured from 14 bodies of water.
Reporting muskie catches is important, IMA Chairman Ray Thompson noted, because the information is used as a basis for future muskie management decisions.
Anglers catching a muskie are asked to fill out a “Green Card,” available at local concession stands, bait shops or state park offices. Or they can register their catch online at www.ifishillinois.org.
“For example, only five fish were reported from the Fox Chain last year,” he said. “In 2013, the Muskies Inc. contest indicated that the Fox Chain was the top Illinois lake with over 33 percent of all Illinois fish captured. If DNR did not use the data provided by Muskies Inc., logic would tell them that the thousands of fingerlings stocked there annually might be a waste of valuable resources.”