The 31st annual Hayward Lakes Chapter of Muskies Inc. catch-and-release tournament drew 504 avid anglers last Friday through Sunday, all of whom helped raise funds for musky stocking and other fishing-related projects.
This year’s tourney participants came from 11 states as far away as South Carolina, California and Colorado and included 17 anglers 16 years or younger.
Fifty-one of the anglers caught and released a total of 57 muskies 34 inches or larger. The largest was a 49-incher which hit a Crane bait cast on the Chippewa Flowage Saturday by Chuck Wolske of Tinley Park, Illinois. He won a Ron Lax replica mount of his fish. Wolske said the weather was sunny, with little wind Friday and Saturday. “We had no hits and no strikes for two days until we got that 49-incher,” he said. “I’m pretty happy with that.”
Geoff Melick of Deerfield, Ill. took first place in the tourney with a 48-incher and 39-incher, both of which hit Manta lures on the Spider Lake Chain. The weather was “too bright” he said. “We’d rather have clouds. But there was enough chop on the water, that it was good.”
Melick, who has a cabin on Spider Lake, has fished in the Hayward Lakes tournament for 17 years. “Spider is a good lake for producing fish, and there were some big ones,” he added. “Once in a while, I go to Lost Land Lake.”
Thomas Bruemmer of La Crosse won the tournament grand drawing prize of a 17-foot 2008 Lund Pro Guide boat with a 50-hp Mercury outboard motor and EZ Loader trailer from Hayward Power Sports.
The Hayward Lakes Chapter of Muskies Inc. has 175 members. The national organization has 6,000 members.
Over the past 31 years, the Hayward Lakes Chapter has raised more than $300,000, of which $220,000 was spent to purchase 27,600 extended-growth muskies which were stocked in local lakes.
Other chapter grantees include the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, Fishing Has No Boundaries, a scholarship fund, and a variety of research and other fishing-related projects. The chapter puts on a Kids Fishing Day every August.
In addition to major sponsor Hayward Power Sports, Hayward Bait and Tackle has been the primary helper for the fall tournament for many years. Every angler releasing a musky 34 inches or larger in the tourney receives a plaque.