Yorkville, Ill. - An FBI profiler couldn't paint a clearer picture of the exploding Muskie population swimming throughout the Fox Chain O' Lakes.
And thanks to the Illini Muskie Alliance's annual status report, here's what we know about the toothy predator in 2012:
The average Chain Muskie is about 36 inches long, with males averaging 32.4 inches in length and weighing 9.6 pounds. Females average 39.3 inches and 16.7 pounds.
· The largest fish collected to date in the Chain was 49.5 inches long and the heaviest was 36 pounds.
· Tagged muskies have been reported from all lakes in the Chain and in the Fox River as far south as Yorkville and north into Wisconsin.
· The longest a tagged muskie swam at large before being recaptured was eight years.
· Most Muskies in the Chain grow approximately 2 inches per year until they reach 36 to 38 inches. At that time, male growth rates slow dramatically and females continue to grow at just under 2 inches per year.
Of course, as any Illinois Muskie angler will confirm, having endless amounts of knowledge about the Chain's Muskies doesn't guarantee catching one.
Still, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fisheries biologists and Illinois Muskie Association (IMA) officials are pleased by the Muskie status.
"As year-end statistics and status updates are compiled by DNR and the Illini Muskie Alliance, it's clear that the predator fish is making great progress in the Prairie State," Ray Thompson, president of the IMA, said. "The Fox Chain O' Lakes has been stocked with muskie since 1982 and has developed into a consistent and outstanding pure Muskie fishery."
In January, Thompson released the annual status summary, along with a report on Muskie stockings around the state during 2010.
According to the report, the Chain received 1,500 11-inch Muskie fingerlings and 500 12-inch fingerlings from the Jake Wolf Hatchery in 2010.
"Since fall 2006, our stocking protocol has been to stock 3,000 fingerlings per year," Thompson explained. "We will continue this protocol until catch rates during spring sampling increase from pre-2006 numbers and an increase in abundance is detected."
Historically, 3,000 fingerling Muskies per year equates to a stock rate of just approximately 0.4 fish per acre. Prior to 2006, the stocking goal on the Chain was 0.3 fish per acre every other year - or 2,130 fingerlings every other year.
"As you can see this was quite a jump in the number of fingerlings stocked," Thompson said. "The change sets up a more predictable stocking time-table and allows for adjustments based on the quantity of fish donated verses anticipating donations that may never materialize."
As for the established Muskies, DNR catch rates have exceeded the goals established by the Esocid Task Group for several years. The objective is 0.3 fish per trap net night, but catches in the past year's surveys hovered around 2.3 muskie per trap net night overall with catch rates up to 2.6 fish per trap net night at peak catches, Thompson said.
"Anglers on the Chain reported several catches in the 50-inch class and many more near legal length (48") in 2009," Thompson said.
Anglers on the Chain also have reported landing spotted Muskies up to 46 inches long. DNR collected a 51.25-inch muskie fish that appeared to be a spotted Muskie in spring 2010.
"This suggests fish survive but unfortunately we haven't collected spotted Muskie in proportion to their stocking numbers," Thompson said.
2010 Big Muskie Award
Southern Illinois fishing guide Chad Cain won the 2010 IMA Big Fish Award with a 49. 7⁄8-inch Muskie he caught March 16 on Kinkaid Lake.
The fish, which was released, and is the largest muskie recorded in Illinois during last year.
Cain also caught a 49.5-inch muskie on Kinkaid in Novembe
As always, keep a tight line!