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Naturally Spawned 'Tiger' Musky Caught    
                   on Lake St. Clair
By: Jerry Kunnath
Jerry Kunnath with a 41" Lake St. Clair Tiger Musky caught on
his son, Captain Steve Kunnath's charter boat
Naturally Spawned Lake St. Clair
      Tiger Musky Hybrid
                           By: Jerry Kunnath

For about six or more years my son, Captain Steve
Kunnath, has been spending some of his non-charter
days taking me out on Lake St. Clair in the hope of
helping me land a
Great Lakes muskellunge. But alas,
even though Steve has an uncanny skill at finding and
catching the great
ichthyological beasts, I  never was
able to boat one of the apex predators. A number of
times I did actually have the hook of my streamer or lure
embedded in a musky's jaw, only to have it tossed the
next second, sometimes near the boat. During one
hook-up on a 2006 summer trip to
Lake St. Clair, my
freshly hooked musky leaped over five feet high out of
the water with my lure tightly clenched between his
jaws, his head thrashing side to side. As soon as he hit
the drink he started swimming at full speed right at the
boat as I cranked the reel furiously trying to take up the
slack. Upon reaching the edge of the boat, the fish dove
and continued right under us with me trying to follow
him around the boat with the rod. Unfortunately, he
threw the lure before I could catch up with him. This
August 15th though, all my luck changed for the good. I
always say, if you are going to do something, do it well.
Evidently, I did.  Or maybe I was just lucky. No matter
though, I'll take lucky any-day while fishing.

Continued in next box to the right
Author with Lake St. Clair hybrid Tiger Musky - in this
case a 'naturally' spawned cross between a muskellunge
and a
northern pike
My First Musky - A 'Tiger' Hybrid

August 15th was open on my son's charter calender and
all he had to do was to ask me if I wanted to go fishing.
"Of course", I said and we were off. As we left the
'Harley Ensign' MDNR launch site [ at the mouth of the
Clinton River where it empties into Lake St. Clair] we
noticed that the Lake was lain down almost flat, hardly a
ripple with the wind darn near calm. Steve just smiled
and said over the roar of the
Yamaha 115, 'looks like top
water to me.' We Continued out across the lake
following the directions of the
Humminbird GPS to one
of Steve's most productive musky holes. One of many
that have been producing regularly all season.

This area is over a huge weed bed, with about fifteen to
seventeen feet of water to the bottom. We stopped on
the upwind side of the run and started to drift slowly
over the weeds, the tops of which were about four feet
under us, waving gently with the mid-lake current.

Steve handed me a seven foot, medium weight
rod & reel spinning combo with a black colored
Top Raider top water plug dangling from the steel
leader. This plug has a funnel type mouth that churns
water and gurgles while it's drawn through the water
and the back half of the lure is actually a propeller that
spins at the same time. This lure practically screams 'eat
me' to the pike, musky and
smallmouth bass in the lake.
Heck, if I was under it lookin' up I'd eat it.

We were drifting over that weed-bed for about the third
time, casting before us and retrieving over the top of
the weeds. I cast my lure out and let it sit a bit before I
started my retrieve. After only about five feet of travel,
while I was watching the churgling lure, I saw a large
musky raising straight out of the lake, not unlike a
Polaris missile, with my Bucher Top Raider clenched
tight in it's jaws. The musky slammed back into the drink
and the fight was on. The fish immediately ran for the
bottom stripping still more line out with the drag
screaming and the rod thrumming under the weight of
the fish. This ballet went on for what was probably about
five or more minutes till I finally got the fish to within
about five yards of the boat. While the musky and I
battled Steve told me that something was different
about this musky, but at that time he didn't elaborate.
When the fish reached the boats edge I told Steve to
get the cradle net, but he told me to take it easy as the
fish would soon notice us and take off again, and he was
right. A second later the fish turned towards us as it
came to the top of the water column right next to the
boat, almost immediately it slammed in the opposite
direction and leaped out of the water as it swam for the
horizon. Soon though, I once again had the fish near the
boat and Steve told me to just pull the fish over towards
the cradle net and to just let it swim over the net as he
held the net just under the surface. I used the rod tip to
slowly guide the fish over the net and Steve just lifted it
out of the water and swung it into the boat.   

Continued to the left
Tiger Musky - a Lake St. Clair Rarity
When we got the fish into the boat, Steve excitedly congratulated me
on my catch, my first musky, and then told me that he was pretty sure,
from the markings and the shape of the fins of my fish, that I had
caught a '
Tiger' musky. After removing the hook from the musky's jaw,
Steve handed the fish to me using a Boca Grip and cradling the fish
under his stomach I then held him up for some pictures.
always instructs his clients on the boat to not hold any large fish
vertically, as this can harm their innards-these fish spend their whole
lives being supported horizontally by the water-holding them vertically
can harm them]
 Steve then laid the fish calmly onto a flat spot on the
deck of the boat that has a built in measuring tape and we saw that
this musky was right at 41 inches in length. Steve estimated that this
tiger musky weighed in at around 20 pounds.

After another quick look of admiration at this beautiful fish, the
colors of which just don't show up thoroughly in the pics, Steve then
gently settled the musky into the water next to the boat and slowly
moved him back and forth while holding him by the tail, to flow water
through his gills. The
tiger musky quickly made efforts to swim away  
and Steve then let go of his tail and we watched as he strongly swam
deep into the water below the boat. If I'm really lucky, perhaps I'll
catch him again sometime in the next few years when he will be
bigger still. If we hadn't released him live that wouldn't be possible.

As it is, I have some really nice pictures of my first musky and I'm
really lucky in that my son Steve is also a talented fish sculptor. Later
this year, after Steve's charter season is over, he will make a
reproduction of my musky for me using the measurements that we
took and the pictures for reference.

Continued to the right
Naturally Spawned Tiger Musky
       A Lake St. Clair Rarity
Tiger Muskies are by no means a rare fish. Matter of
fact, they are pretty common in inland lakes in the
south and the Midwest of our country. Game
departments raise them in hatcheries and plant them in
many lakes. However, there have never been any
planted in the Great Lakes or in Lake St. Clair. Any tiger
musky caught in those waters can only be a naturally
spawned fish. Therein lies the rarity.

Southeast Michigan's
Lake St. Clair is probably one of,
if not the best, musky fishery in the world. Scientists
estimate that there are over 30,000 muskies in the lake
that are over 30 inches. That's pretty impressive. The
lake is also a great fishery for northern pike. And
although both fish spawn in pretty much the same type
of habitat, the northerns and the muskie's spawning
seasons don't usually overlap. Northern pike spawn in
shallow bays of the lake right after ice out, sometimes
before the ice leaves completely. Muskies on the other
hand, spawn later in the season in May. For my fish to
have been spawned, game biologists say that there
must have been ripe male or female northern pike with
eggs available later in the season when the muskies
were spawning. Something that biologists say can
sometimes happen.

Right after we returned home from the trip when I
caught my tiger musky, Steve emailed a picture of the
fish to MDNR biologist Mike Thomas. Mr. Thomas
agreed that my fish was definitely a naturally spawned
Lake St. Clair tiger musky. The markings on the fish
were pretty much a copy of what the markings are on
hatchery raised fish. That is fish having definite dark
bars and spots on a light background and the bars
extend right over the back of the fish. My fish also
exhibits more rounded tips to it's fins just like the
hatchery tigers. Normal muskies have more pointed
tips to their fins.

When Steve posted pictures of my tiger musky on some
of the regular 'musky' sites on the Internet, just as we
figured, there were lots of self proclaimed experts that
were stating that my tiger musky was actually a 'barred
musky'. However, numerous biologists have now
claimed that my fish was a tiger and that's good enough
for me. Even if it wasn't a tiger musky, it was my first
musky and that alone is good enough for me. I guess
we could have killed the fish and brought it in for a
natural type mount and then we could have presented
the actual fish to dis-believers, but that was never a
consideration. Both Steve and I never thought of doing
anything but releasing that fish, or any musky, back to
the lake live and healthy.  As a matter of fact, Steve has
a 'live release only' or '100% catch & release' policy on
his boat. And I believe that's how it should be. Those
big musky take too long to grow to that size to be killed.
But hey, that's my opinion.

Well, many of my fishin' friends figured that catching
that first tiger musky that Wednesday afternoon would
just about cap off the day. Normally, so would I.
However, two hours later, while casting a Rapala type
plug in the same area of the lake, I caught another
giant musky. This one was only 40 inches though, but it
was a bit fatter than the first and it was just a 'regular'
musky. Well I guess you can't have it all.

Jerry Kunnath - one happy angler
Sat Pic of Lake St. Clair
Fishing from Captain Steve's Charter Boat
Satellite Photo of Lake St. Clair near Detroit, S.E. Michigan
Fishing Lake St. Clair from Captain Steve Kunnath's Boat
Bucher 'Top Raider' lure that caught 'Tiger Musky' on Lake St. Clair
The Bucher 'Top Raider' plug that I used to catch my   
'Tiger Musky'  on Capt. Steve's charter boat
Jerry's rare Lake St. Clair 'Tiger Musky' being measured
Jerry's 40 inch, 20 pound 'Tiger Musky' from
Lake St. Clair - The world's Best Musky Fishery
Spotted Head & Gill Plate Detail of Lake St. Clair Tiger Musky
Spotted head & Gill Plate Detail of Lake St. Clair Tiger Musky
Barred Body Detail of lake St. Clair Tiger Musky Hybrid
Barred/Striped Body Detail of Lake St. Clair Tiger Musky Hybrid
Capt. Steve Kunnath Releasing Lake St. Clair Tiger Musky
Captain Steve Kunnath Releasing Lake St. Clair Tiger Musky
                     Back to the lake to Grow again
I fully recommend [and not just because he's my son-really] that
anyone who wants to have a really good chance at catching
[casting only, no boring trolling] trophy musky contact Capt.
Steve Kunnath and go fish Lake St. Clair with him on his charter
boat. It is really a blast. 40 inchers are pretty common on
Steve's boat.          248-320-0688

After Steve and I returned home from the days fishing and I
sent some friends pics of my Tiger Musky----then my 'friend'
John Vincent kiddingly emailed to me that he figured that I
'Photo-shopped' in the pic of the musky and that I didn't
really catch anything. I told him that I once had a pic taken of
me standing next to a life sized poster of Raquel Welch and
that I then mailed it to friends kidding them that I was going
out with her. John then emailed the pic shown above to me -
saying that Raquel actually caught the musky and that she
had 'really' big hands---- I'm still laughing - Jerry Kunnath
40 inch musky caught later same day as the 'tiger musky'
My 'second' musky [40 inches, 22 pounds] caught two
hours later on the same day that I caught my first musky,
the tiger musky hybrid
John Vincent's