How Many Musky Anglers Are There Really?
By Craig Sandell 20

While attending Muskie shows, one might think that there are Musky anglers everywhere...that is also the opinion of Muskies, Inc. and the Wisconsin DNR.

Before you read on further, let me say that I have the greatest respect for the work that Muskies, Inc. has done and continues to do to promote the sport of Muskie angling and the hard work of many in the WDNR.

That being said, I have to take exception to the pronouncement by Muskies, Inc. that there are over 400,000 Muskie anglers and by the WDNR citing 480,000 Musky anglers. The pronouncement from Muskies, Inc. was part of a letter sent out to the Muskies, Inc. membership and the WDNR pronouncement was included in a "Good News" paper from the WDNR. I do not know how Muskies, Inc. came up with that number and, if you ask them, they can provide no specifics regarding certified statistical polling. The WDNR provided no certified statistics to support their claim. Since there is no legitimate polling, the 400,000/480,000 numbers can only be an unsubstantiated estimate.

Here is the estimate that I come up with:

Musky Hunter Magazine claims a subscription list of around 12,000 (Not their distribution number) and Muskies, Inc has a membership of around 7,000...surely, many folks are duplicated on both magazine lists...but for the purpose of discussion lets assume that there are no list duplicates and assign a number of 20,000 Musky anglers for the two publications.

Recognizing that that cannot be everyone, lets say that there are another 10,000 Musky anglers that do not subscribe to either publication...that puts us at 30,000 Musky anglers. This number could be lets bump the number by another 5,000 just to pick up those groups of closet hard core Musky anglers...that brings us to 35,000...that is a far cry from 400,000 or 480,000.

I guess that if you wanted to consider the guy who goes fishing for some other species of fish and catches a Musky by accident, that would artificially bump the total number up but that is "reaching".

Certainly, one would ask how a Musky angler is being identified. Muskies, Inc. or the WDNR did not include any definition in their estimate. For my estimate, I used the following:

An angler is considered a Musky angler when;

  • He has tackle, rods, reels, and lures that are specifically designed for Musky fishing.

  • He is a member of Muskies, Inc.

  • He subscribes to Musky Hunter Magazine.

  • He owns a net that could hold a 6 year old child.

  • He fishes exclusively for Musky at least 4 weeks of the Muskie season.

I know this is not scientific, but then neither was the Muskies, Inc. or the WDNR estimates.

A further consideration is the amount of fishing tackle designed by manufacturers specifically for Musky fishing. Most every rod manufacturer has a wide variety of rods in their product compliment that are not Musky rods. Most lure manufacturers design their lures to cross over the species boundary to bass and pike in order to sell profitable quantities of their lures. Even Suick has a down sized lure that is more suited to bass than to Musky. In deed, when you consider that there are over 1 million bass fishermen, you get a pretty good picture of the limited market potential for Musky angling products and services.

Take a look at the Spring fishing catalogs and you will not find a focus on the Musky angler with regard to lures. These catalogs enjoy a substantial distribution and would certainly include a focus on Musky lures if the profit incentive was there. You have to go to specialized print catalogs to find Musky lures and even those are very few in numbers.

What I am trying to get at here is this;

Musky fishing has always been a "cult" sport. We spend long hours on the water working hard to catch a fish that we do not usually keep. Our success rate is very low and the dollar investment per fish is high. Musky fishing is NOT for everyone and exaggerating the number of Musky anglers will not change that.

Tight Lines