As is the case with a lot of record fish, there isn’t always a clear-cut holder of a world record fish. We’ve seen it in the smallmouth world record. Partly because there are multiple agencies keeping up with record fish. And there are multiple categories when you consider weight records and length records for catch and release. Then add to that the confusion reports of dead muskies that have washed up bigger than the world records or shocked up by DNR folks. So the musky community is abuzz with talk of 70- to 72-inch holy grails of musky fishing. That also has some people confusing expectations as the world record musky weights.
A TALE OF THREE WORLD RECORD MUSKIES
Well maybe four world record muskies. But essentially there are at least three muskies who have had claim as the world record musky and depending on which camp you are in, may still have claim to the world record. The issues come mostly in the fact that most of record claims are so old it puts them well before there was a lot more stringent reporting and validation requirements like we have today for world record claims. Then investigations into at least one of the records found that erroneous information may have been submitted to claim at least one of the records.
We won’t toil in the mire of investigations and claims but simply just show you the names and fish that have been consider records. And I’ll provide some really exhaustive resources that have looked into the records deeply if you’re really interested. This is just to show the current “records” so the musky angling community knows “roughly” where the bar is to get to claim a world record.
In October of 1949, Louie Spray caught a muskie that weighed 69 pounds, 11 ounces from the Chippewa Flowage near Haywood, Wisconsin. That muskie is recognized by the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as the “All Tackle” muskellunge record. It is also recognized to this day as the Wisconsin state record musky.
However the IGFA doesn’t recognize this musky as the World Record because the musky was shot twice in the head (a common practice until it was banned in 1966) by his fishing partner. That was a violation of the IGFA’s rules for landing big fish to be considered for records. So they instead recognize Cal Johnson’s 67 1/2 pound musky as the world record caught in July of 1949 Lac Courte Oreilles also near Hayward, Wis.
What’s interesting is a third musky was submitted to Field & Stream back in September of 1957 by Arthur Lawton that was 69 pounds, 15 ounces and 64 1/2 inches long. Neither the IGFA or the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame currently recognize this musky as the world record as claims and investigations into the photos and submission in 1992 showed discrepancies. The photo submitted was shown to be the same photo submitted on a smaller musky by Lawton previously. And an additional photo showed the musky to be much shorter than Lawton who was 68 inches tall.
The fourth record is the current length record. The current length record musky was caught recently in November of 2022 on the St. Lawrence River by Derek Balmas. The IGFA requires the measurement of the musky to be from the tip of the nose to the inside fork of the tail. So their musky was 135 cm or 53 inches although the total length is probably closer to 60 inches if you measure to the tip of the tail.
OTHER BIG MUSKY CLOSE CALLS
In the musky community, many anglers believe the next record is going to come from Mille Lacs after biologists shocked up a muskie that was more than 61 inches. They didn’t have a scale big enough to weigh it as they weren’t sampling muskies that night. There have been other close calls with big muskies on Mille Lacs that have a lot of anglers believing the record is lurking in those fertile waters.
There are a lot of guys adapting new marine electronics technologies and big natural swimbaits to musky fishing, and we feel like the record may be broken in the next few years.
OTHER WORLD RECORD CATCHES
To see some of our other world record articles check out these articles: