By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle
“It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it,” I happily complained last year after spending the day with Cascade Musky Association president Mark Wells, plying the waters of Lake Mayfield for a few hours as we pre-fished the upcoming tiger musky tournament.
After only a few hours of throwing a heavy rod with heavy line and heavy lures, my shoulders and arms were screaming for relief. I only saw the shadow of one fish that day, but I was standing on the back of a sparkling red bass boat on a perfect summer day on one of the most beautiful lakes in Lewis County, I wasn’t about to complain about it.
This year, as the tournament approached, I begged Mark Wells for another ride on his boat and another chance at the elusive tiger musky — also known as “the fish of 10,000 casts.” On Saturday, he made my wish come true.
We spent from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the water and we saw a lot of fish — big fish. And although none of them seemed to be in the mood to get caught on that day, Wells is not the least bit discouraged about the tiger hunting opportunities for this weekend.
At last year’s Mayfield Open Tiger Musky Tournament, the first fish of the day was caught only 12 minutes into the tournament. This year the first fish of each day will earn a $50 gift certificate from Auburn Sports & Marine.
Entering the Tiger Tourney
There are still 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, WDFW Inland Fisheries.
The tournament is 100 percent catch and release only.
“Everyone will be given maps with the different areas marked on the map,” said Wells. “When you catch a musky — minimum size of 30 inches — 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 seven 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, in fact, 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 very seriously.
One point is awarded for each inch up to 30-inches. One point is awarded for each quarter-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 4 to 8 p.m., Sunday angling is limited to 6 a.m. to noon.
“The split day really seems to work for us,” Wells said. “It gives us all a break and a chance to rest up for the evening bite.”
After the Sunday noontime tally of team points, the prizes are distributed and the raffle prizes are given away.
CMA has gathered raffle prizes from 20 sponsors.
“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 still walk out with prizes.”
Marshall Borsom of Fish Country in Ethel has donated a musky rod that will go to the biggest fish of the tournament.
Wells says the CMA is a competitive group, but friendly.
“The only competition out there is between you and the fish,” Wells said.
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 events and other programs. We’re also involved in the Eyes in the Woods Streamwatch with the WDFW and have adopted all of the musky lakes to help clean up litter.”
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 is a sterile cross between a northern pike and muskellunge. It was first introduced in Lake Mayfield in 1988, put there 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 to continue doing the job they were put in there to do.
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, but the Cascade Musky Association doesn’t ever keep a fish.
“I know several people who have caught fish larger than the state record,” said Wells. “But since you have to kill the fish to get it weighed in, we don’t worry about state records.
Tiger Hunting Tips
Tiger musky hunting isn’t for sissies.
The tiger musky is a tough fish that takes heavy gear and a lot of casts before you can get “lucky” and land one.
Keep your hooks sharp and your mind on the job at hand.
Don’t forget to draw a figure eight in the water on each return, just in case a musky is following the lure.
“I’ve caught a lot of them that way, right at the last second,” Wells said.
To execute the move, 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 — pushing your rod tip away from the boat and around again.
The figure 8 is a triggering tactic “he just might take it if he thinks it’s getting away.”
Wear polarized glasses to help you find fish, and spot 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’s working. There is a seemingly endless variety of lures made specifically for tiger muskies, of every size, shape and color. Don’t just throw one lure all day, throw the whole tacklebox out there.
When a tiger finally hits, you need to hit back hard — maybe even hit him twice, just to make sure you’ve got a good hook set.
To net the fish, Wells said, “don’t just dip at it like you do a trout or a salmon.”
Angle the handle of the net straight up and down.
“You gotta keep that fish moving to keep him happy,” Wells warned, “you stop that fish by trying to scoop him up into the net and he’ll just go crazy. You’ve got to move fast and run him headfirst into the net.”
Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Visit her website The (Almost) Daily News (almostdailynews.com), find her on Facebook (Kimberly Mason — The Chronicle), call 269-5017 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Go
When: Saturday and Sunday, June 23 & 24
Where: Lake Mayfield Resort & Marina
Cost: $100 entry fee, 2-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 (water ski 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 email@example.com.
Visit the Cascade Musky Association online at www.cascademuskyassociation.com.