In the world of freshwater fishing, few fish are as highly sought after and revered as the muskellunge (Esox masquinongy).
Their explosive strikes, rugged fights and intimidating dentition have allured anglers for years—resulting in an enormous and faithful following of muskie anglers who all share the common goal of catching the biggest muskie ever.
Listed in the gallery below are 10 anglers who met that goal and earned International Game Fish Association’s (IGFA) world records on muskie.
However, as this article illustrates more than once, you never know when your opportunity at a record muskie will present itself.
Dr. Mark E. Carlson
One of the best places in the world to target trophy muskies is Canada’s famed St. Lawrence River system, where the fish seem to consistently grow to enormous sizes.
Dr. Mark E. Carlson experienced this first hand on December 4, 2013, when he became connected to an exceptionally large specimen while trolling a Legend Perch plug. Even with the heavy tackle he was using, Carlson needed nearly 20 minutes to boat the impressive animal, which measured out to 132 centimeters before being released alive—easily earning him the new All-Tackle Length record.
Before being released back into the chilly St. Lawrence, Carlson’s fish was tagged for a study being conducted by the Canadian government to learn more about these important predators.
Canadian angler Lalie Tronel-Peyroz was trolling a Depth Raider in the St. Lawrence River, Canada, on November 21, 2011, when she hooked into something big.
After a grueling 15-minute battle, the young angler boated this 18.63-kilograms (41 pound, 1 ounce) muskellunge. After snapping a few shots with her new Female Junior record musky, the toothy fish was released alive back into the chilly St. Lawrence River.
Lalie’s impressive musky shattered the previous record which stood at 12.92 kilograms (28 pounds, 8 ounces).
Joe Seeberger needed nearly two hours to land a 26.31-kilogram (58 pound, 0 ounces) musky—only 9 pounds off the All-Tackle record—that earned him the 4-kilogram (8 pound) line class record.
Seeberger was slow trolling a live sucker minnow in Lake Bellaire, Michigan on October 13, 2012, when the muskie hit. In its history, the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) has only received three muskies heavier than Seeberger’s catch, which replaced the previous record that stood for 15 years.
Aside from being the fourth heaviest musky on file at the IGFA, Seeberger also holds the record for the longest fight time of any muskie ever submitted to the IGFA.
The third heaviest muskie ever recorded by the IGFA is Kenneth O’Brien’s 29.48- kilogram (65-pound) beast that he caught on October 16, 1988, while fishing Blackstone Harbor, near his home town in Ontario, Canada.
Contrary to the popular belief that big muskies are caught on big baits, O’Brien’s fish ate a tiny 4-inch Rapala lure! Once hooked up, O’Brien fought the fish for 15 minutes from the 14-foot aluminum boat he and his two friends had rented for the day.
Although he was using Berkley Trilene rated at 4 kilograms (8 pounds), O’Brien’s record was placed in the 6-kilogram (12-pound) class due to the line testing high.
Regardless, of the tackle used, this is an extremely impressive catch that is likely to stand for years to come.
Six minutes. That’s all the time it took for angler Gene Borucki to land his world muskie that went on to earn him the men’s 15-kilogram (30-pound) line class world record—a record that has stood for 30 years.
Borucki, who was visiting Canada from his home in Illinois, hooked the record muskie while trolling a Rapala in Ontario’s Manitou Lake on August 30, 1984. The biggest problem Borucki encountered with this fish was finding a scale big enough to weigh it! In fact, the “Monster of the Manitou” (as the fish has been subsequently named) wasn’t officially weighed until two days later, when it tipped the scales at a whopping 25.6 kilograms (56 pounds, 7 ounces).
On the morning of July 24, 1949, more than 65 years ago, Cal Johnson and his son launched their boat in Lake Court Oreilles, located in their hometown of Hayward, Wisconsin. Not long after he started trolling a wooden Pike Oereno lure, as he had done for years, Johnson hooked-up to what he immediately knew was a huge muskie.
Johnson, an experienced angler and outdoor writer, skillfully and carefully played his fish for an hour before the fish could be subdued. With the muskie measuring more than five feet in length, Johnson knew he had something special. The muskie was then taken to the nearby Moccasin Lodge, where it was officially weighed-in at an enormous 30.62 kilograms (67 pounds, 8 ounces).
As is the case with most highly coveted awards, the All-Tackle record for muskie has seen its share of controversy. Over the years, larger muskie catches have been reported, such as Louie Spray’s 69-pound, 11-ounce fish and Robert Malo’s 70 pounder.
However, Johnson’s muskie has retained the prestigious title as it was caught and documented in accordance with the IGFA’s International Angling Rules, the internationally accepted rules of sport fishing.
For 38 years, Canadian angler George McQuillen had fished the infamous St. Lawrence River in search of trophy muskie. On November 12, 1994, McQuillen hit the water early to take advantage of the rare good weather for that late in the season.
That afternoon, after already releasing one nice fish, McQuillen thought his 9-inch, jointed Kwik-Fish lure had snagged bottom when his rod doubled over and line peeled from his reel. However, as his boat came to a stop, and line was still disappearing from his reel, McQuillen knew he had a fish, and a good one at that. Twenty minutes later, McQuillen had the 23.7-kilogram (52-pound, 4-ounce) muskie netted, and a new Men’s 10-kilogram (20-pound) line class world record.
Dr. William Pivar
For nearly 35 years, Dr. William Pivar has held the Men’s 8-kilogram (16-pound) line class record for muskie with the 20.41-kilogram (45-pound, 0-ounce) fish he pulled from 1,000 Island Lake in Upper Michigan on July 26, 1980.
Pivar and local guide Dick Rose hadn’t caught a thing all afternoon and with it getting late, Pivar made the decision to switch to a lighter outfit without a leader. Two minutes after deploying a Believer lure on the lighter outfit, Pivar hooked up. Despite the light tackle and the lack of a leader, Pivar needed only 5 short minutes to land his world record muskie.
There is a popular saying that goes: “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.” That certainly applies to Gary Ishii, who became the envy of diehard muskie anglers everywhere on just his third fishing trip ever.
On October 11, 1984, while fishing Ontario’s Moon River with his brother-in-law, Ishii caught a 24.94-kilogram (55-pound) muskie that has held the Men’s 24-kilogram (50-pound) line class record ever since.
After hooking the fish on a large, jointed Swim Wizz lure, Ishii fought the fish to the boat in 30 minutes, and then everything went wrong. Ishii’s rod broke at the handle, and when he tried to net the fish, that too snapped at the handle due to the size of the musky. Grabbing the rim of the net, Ishii slung the fish in the boat—still not aware of what he had just caught.
After documenting his record catch, Ishii donated the cleithrum bone to science, which determined that his musky was approximately 20 years old.
Dr. John R. Jezioro
For two straight days, Dr. John R. Jezioro unsuccessfully stalked his world record muskie. He knew where the fish was holding, but he simply could not get it to take his fly.
On the third day, the night of August 26, 2005, Jezioro’s patience finally paid off—the culmination of his four-year quest to catch a world record muskie on a fly.
Jezioro was casting a custom fly along the banks of West Virginia’s Tygart River when the fish, as he describes, “exploded like a missile” on his fly. However, after only a quick three minute fight, Jezioro had the fish landed.
After quickly documenting his catch, Jezioro revived and released his world record musky back into the Tygart. This impressive 29-pound catch (and release) earned Jezioro the Men’s 6-kilogram (12-pound) tippet class record, and the bragging rights of having caught the heaviest musky on a fly ever recorded by the IGFA.