Tiger Tacklers Tip ‘Em Into Tapps

The season’s first two tiger musky stockings took place yesterday on both sides of Washington’s Cascades.

A total of 1,150 averaging 12 1/2 inches were released into Lake Tapps outside Tacoma while 300 were released into Evergreen Reservoir between Ellensburg and Moses Lake.

Another 4,650 will be let loose into five other lakes in the coming weeks.

Give ’em a couple years to mature and they’ll be among the state’s most exotic, rarest and exciting fish to catch.

At Tapps, crews from NW TIGER PAC helped ferry the tiny tigers, which averaged about 12 1/2 inches, around the impoundment’s 2,300 acres, releasing them here and there along its miles and miles of shoreline — heck, maybe even in front of the house of this mag’s owner (watch your toes, Lauren & Emily!).

Bruce Bolding, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s warmwater program manager, says scatter planting increases their survival. That said, 30 to 40 percent will die anyway due to natural mortality like birds, other fish and disease.

In 2009, the state’s other tiger musky club, Cascade Musky Association, helped release young’ns here.

Bolding says that tomorrow the agency will stock Lake Mayfield with 1,400; Lake Merwin on May 17 with 1,800; Silver and Newman Lakes around Spokane with 350 and 700, respectively, on May 24; and Curlew Lake May 25 with 400.

He says that Curlew is always last because of it stays colder longer.

“You don’t want to shock the fish going from 56-degree water at Ringold (Hatchery) to 43-degree water somewhere else,” Bolding says.

BRUCE BOLDING (STANDING IN TRUCK) AND CHAPTER 57, MUSKIES INC. VICE PRESIDENT BRETT OLSON. (NW TIGER PAC)

As WDFW empties out its tiger cages, it will also receive the next generation. Eyed eggs are coming from Minnesota this month.

After they hatch and until next January, they’ll be fed pellets. Then, at the same time as tags are inserted into the fish — the location changes each year to better age the fish — their diet is switched to trout fry and their raceways are modified to get them to orient to cover.

“They need to go on a higher protein diet and become conditioned to chasing down live prey,” Bolding says.

THE TIGER TRUCK. (NW TIGER PAC)

In a sense, tigers are like those balloons that clowns blow up and twist into shapes at kids’ parties. Bolding says that a 24-incher will fit in an “O” made by your thumb and middle finger. But add just a few more inches and they begin to add real girth at 3 years of age.

“They start to provide a good sporting opportunity when they get to 27, 28 inches,” he says.

With the Pend Oreille pike explosion issue simmering in the background, Bolding terms tigers — a sterile hybrid produced by northern and muskellunge parents — “the Esocid of choice in Washington.”

“We control the density of their numbers very carefully,” he says.

They’re stocked at roughly one for every two acres of lake surface, although that’s not hard and fast. Evergreen is only 235 acres, but suffers a higher mortality rate, Bolding says, as it has more limited shallow areas.

JANICE KUPER, A MEMBER OF NW TIGER PAC AND ON ITS BOARD OF DIRECTORS, PREPARES TO LOOSE YOUNG TIGER MUSKY INTO LAKE TAPPS MAY 2. (NW TIGER PAC)

NW TIGER PAC, Chapter 57 of the nationwide Muskies Inc., also recently gave WDFW a $1,500 donation, and has raised $4,000 for the state’s musky program since 2007.

Tigers have been released in select Washington waters since 1988 as an attempt to offer expanded fishing opportunities and control other predator numbers.

The daily limit is one, but it must be at least 50 inches to retain. The state record is a 31.25-pound, reported 51-incher caught at Mayfield in September 2001.

ONE OF A PAIR OF 44-PLUS-INCHERS MIKE FLOYD CAUGHT IN 2008 AT TAPPS ON HOMEMADE BUCKTAIL SPINNERS. (WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

Joel Shangle of Northwest Wild Country will detail tiger musky fishing in our June issue.

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One Response to “Tiger Tacklers Tip ‘Em Into Tapps”

  1. Dougie No Fish Says:

    Great article! The Tigers are a labor of love for the many club members here in Washington. WDFW does a tremendous job with their Tiger Muskie program. Thanks for bringing the story to those who may once have the thrill of catching and releasing one of the “Nobel Beasts”.

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