Hunting the Mighty Tiger Musky: Enter the 6th Annual Tournament

By Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle
Up to 35 boats and angling teams will descend upon the waters of Lake Mayfield this weekend in the hopes of taking home the prize money at the end of the 6th annual two-day Mayfield Open Tiger Musky Tournament.

There are still a few slots available in the tournament and you don’t have to be a member of the Cascade Musky Association to enter.

You do, however, need to have a boat, a cell phone and a net big enough to hold your tournament winner in the water until the fish has been measured by tournament judge Stacie Kelsey, an official with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Inland Fisheries.

The tournament is catch and release only.

“Everyone will be given maps with the different areas marked on the map,” said tournament director Mark Wells. “When you catch a musky — 30 inches or bigger — you call Stacie’s cell phone and tell her where you are. The fish isn’t allowed in the boat, you have to hold it in the net in the water until Stacie gets there.”

The length and the girth of the fish is measured and verified, a quick picture can be taken and then it’s right back into the water for the tiger musky.

“In the six years we’ve been doing this we’ve never lost a fish,” Wells said.

According to tournament rules, anglers are not awarded points for dead fish and are given a 50-point penalty and must set down their rod for the day. If the fish is dead, you’re done fishing. The CMA takes the health of the tiger musky seriously.

“It’s got to be a healthy release to count,” said Wells.

One point is awarded for each inch up to 30 inches. One point is awarded for each ¼-inch after the first 30. Winners will be determined by total points.

The tournament starts early Saturday morning with a mandatory 5 a.m. meeting. Saturday is a split-day event, fishing from 6 a.m. to noon and then again from 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday angling is limited to 6 a.m. to noon.

After the Sunday noontime tally of team points, the prizes will be distributed and the raffle prizes will be given away.

CMA has gathered raffle prizes from 30 sponsors totalling nearly $4,000.

“There’s not a bigger or better tiger musky tournament in the state,” Wells said. “Even if you get skunked for the weekend, you can walk out with prizes.”

Wells said the CMA is a competitive group, but friendly.

“The only competition out there is between you and the fish,” Wells said.

The $2,800 in prize money tends to draw some competitive spirits, Wells said, “but we all help each other. It’s a good group of people.”

The CMA is involved in the fishing community and enjoys participating in outreach events.

“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” said Wells. “We sponsor youth programs like C.A.S.T. for Kids and other educational programs. We’re also involved in the Eyes in the Woods Streamwatch programs with the WDFW.”

About the Musky in Mayfield
Mayfield Lake is open year-round for fishing, though the major musky season is in the warmer months between June and October.

The tiger musky — a sterile cross between a northern pike and muskellunge — was first introduced to the Mayfield waters in 1988 to eat up the northern pikeminnow population. Because they serve a valuable biological purpose and cannot reproduce, most anglers prefer to catch then gently release the monster fish back into the water.

The current state record tiger musky was found in Lake Mayfield in 2001 and weighed 31.25 pounds. Minimum size to keep tiger muskies is 50 inches.

Only seven lakes in the state of Washington have been planted with tiger muskies: Mayfield, Merwin (Cowlitz), Tapps (Pierce), Evergreen (Grant), Curlew (Ferry), Silver and Newman (Spokane).

Hints and Tips
The tiger musky is known as the “fish of 10,000 casts” for a very good reason. You won’t get a musky every time you’re on the water and you’ll have to work hard for them.

The gear used to land a tiger musky is heavy — as it should be for a 25-pound fish — and those many casts you’ll have to make in a methodical search across a likely musky hangout will wear out even the toughest angler.

Keep your hooks sharp. The tiger musky is a toothy fish with a bony jaw. If you feel the bite, you have to set the hook and set it hard.

Keep the rod in line with the lure as you reel in. As the lure gets close to the boat, lower the rod tip into the water as you reel in and sweep the rod tip in a wide-swinging figure 8 in the water.

“That tiger musky might be following your lure in,” Wells said, “I’ve caught a lot of them that way, right at the last second.”

The figure 8 is a triggering tactic “he just might take it if he thinks it’s getting away.”

Do your homework and study the lake. Maps and depth finders will help, but you also have to stay attentive to the tiger hunting task at hand. Wear polarized glasses to help you find fish, cover and obstructions under the water.

When you are working in pairs, each team member should throw a different type lure in the search for what is working that day (for that fish).

And remember, when he hits, you need to hit back hard to set the hook — maybe even twice, just to make sure. Than hang on, that’s when the fun begins.

Tiger Musky Tournament:
When: Saturday and Sunday
Where: Lake Mayfield Resort and Marina
Cost: $100 entry fee, two-person team
Prizes: $2,800 pay back, first through fifth place (pay back based on full field of 35 teams)
All contestants must have the following equipment on board:
• Quality net or cradle fully capable of safely landing and holding a musky until measured and released.
• Jaw spreaders, pliers and hook cutters.
• Signal flag, high visibility orange flag, available at Lake Mayfield Resort
• Contest banner (around outboard motor), available at many local tackle stores or from the BASS Federation.
For more information, contact Mark Wells, tournament director, (253) 841-0171 or
Visit the Cascade Musky Association online at

Upcoming Members-Only Tiger Musky Tournaments:
This weekend’s event is the only tournament open to non-members that the CMA schedules each year. To join the Cascade Musky Association and attend members-only events and tournaments, contact Todd Reis for more information at
July 23-24: Merwin Reservoir
August 13-14: Mayfield Lake