June 11, 2005

Wildlife Officials Net Rare White Muskie

WAUSAU, Wis. -- This is indeed a fish story - not about the one that got away but about a rare one. A white muskellunge is swimming in the waters of Lake Tomahawk, in the northern part of the state. State fisheries experts captured it in nets during a population survey in April and released it back into the lake.

"I've never seen nor heard of an albino muskie, so it's an unusual fish to say the least," said John Lyons, a longtime fisheries researcher for the state Department of Natural Resources in Madison.

The nearly 33-inch-long, 8-pound muskie has white skin but with a slight greenish tint, said John Kubisiak, a DNR fish biologist who was with the netting crew that handled the fish.

Muskies typically are silver, light green or light brown with dark, vertical bars along their long bodies.

Cory Painter, an officer with the Madison chapter of Muskies Inc., said Friday the discovery created some buzz among anglers.

"I think it would be pretty cool to catch it," said Painter, 36.

He'll have to wait for it to grow, though.

Anglers can keep muskies caught in inland Wisconsin lakes only if the fish measures at least 34 inches long. If the albino muskie is female, it could grow to more than 50 inches long and weigh more than 40 pounds, Painter said.

"Even if I caught it and it was 50 inches, I would still get a picture and release it back because I would rather have someone else catch it," he said.

Steve AveLallemant, the DNR's northern regional fisheries coordinator, said the white muskie was 3 to 4 years old.

AveLallemant said it's anybody's guess whether other white muskies are swimming in the 3,600-acre Lake Tomahawk.

"If it was the only one, he was darn lucky to catch it," AveLallemant said, referring to Kubisiak's netting crew.


On the Net:

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources: http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/