A total of 475 musky hunters participated in the 41st annual Hayward Lakes Muskies Inc. fall tournament on 17 area lakes and flowages Oct. 5-7, raising money to enhance the fishery while catching and releasing muskellunge.
Fifty-seven of the anglers caught and released a total of 67 muskies 34 inches or larger, including two 50-inch fish.
This year’s first place winner, John Sehnert of Barrington, Illinois, caught and released a 50-inch musky Friday on the Chippewa Flowage, using an orange Salmo bait. He also released a 42-incher Sunday, which hit a Hester Sucker on Spider Lake.
Sehnert caught the latter fish on his last cast of the day, and his partner had to run into town to register it.
“We made it with four minutes to spare; it was pretty fun,” Sehnert said.
The weather was “cold, good fishing,” Sehnert added. He said this was his third time in the Muskies Inc. tournament; two years ago his partner, Carl Weber, took fourth place.
Sehnert said the 50-incher was his biggest musky since he caught a 50-incher on Lac Courte Oreilles 18 years ago.
Tait Sennett of Princeville, Illinois, caught the biggest fish of the tournament on Friday, a 50.5-incher that hit a Walleye Vexer on the Chippewa Flowage. Sennett also caught and released a 37.5-incher that day on the Big Chip, using the same bait.
Sennett, who won a Ron Lax graphite replica for releasing the biggest fish of the tournament, said, “The first day was awesome — the biggest fish ever for me. It was great that my brother (Tim) and co-pilot was there.”
Sennett has fished this tournament before. “I got lucky one year and won it all, and got lucky another year and won the boat,” he added. “It’s great fun.”
Ernie Thieding of McFarland won this year’s grand door prize of the tournament, a drawing for a 2018 Lund boat with 273 Pro Guide Tiller ShoreLand’r Trailer and 2018 60-HP outboard motor.
Hayward Lakes Chapter of Muskies Inc. president Mike Persson said the local chapter has 125 members. The fall tournament is the chapter’s major fundraiser. Because of anglers’ participation, they have raised more than $453,000 in the past 40 years. The chapter has donated to 310 different projects over the years, including fish research projects and constructing boat launches and piers, and has spent $247,000 to stock 30,500 extended growth musky fingerlings in local waters. The chapter has purchased 10,000 PIT tags to be implanted in stocked muskies so they can be identified when caught or netted later.
Also, the chapter has donated to the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, Fishing Has No Boundaries and gives two $1,500 scholarships to students who are majoring in fisheries science.
Fish contest winners
First: John Sehnert, Barrington, Illinois, 50-incher from Chippewa Flowage and 42-incher from Spider Lake.
Second: Jeremy Ace, Monticello, 47-incher and 42.5-incher both on an orange Grandma bait in Lake Namekagon.
Third: Shane Hanson, Green Bay, 48.75 inches and 40 inches from Middle Eau Claire Lake, both caught on a black Bulldawg.
Fourth: Tait Sennett, Princeville, Illinois, 50.5 inches and 37.5 inches, both from the Chippewa Flowage on a Walleye Vexer.
Fifth: Gregory Haluska, Crivitz, 43 inches and 41 inches, both caught on a black Bulldawg in Big Sissabagama Lake.
Sixth: Steve Fidler, Green Bay, 40.25 inches and 40 inches on a Walleye Vexer on the Chippewa Flowage.
Seventh: Dan Lewein, Waukesha, 41 inches and 38.5 inches from Big Siss, caught on a blue Bulldawg and black Medusa respectively.
Eighth: John Rudolph, Naples, Florida, 43 inches and 36 inchs from Clear Lake boght caught on a black and chartreuse bucktail.
Ninth: Christian Lenss, Minnetonka, Minnesota, 37.5 inches and 37 inches, both caught on an orange and black Phantom from Lost Land Lake.
Tenth (tie broken by coin flip): John Danczyk, Hayward, 48 inches on a black bucktail from Round Lake.
Eleventh: Corey Huck, Stevens Point, 48 inches from Lake Namekagon on an orange Suick.