Skip to main content

What's Pike and Muskie Fishing Quality to You?

What's Pike and Muskie Fishing Quality to You?
Photo Steve Ryan

Fishing quality

Fishing quality isn't so much difficult to define as it is to measure, because there are so many factors that go into each fishing experience. Fishery researchers dealing in social sciences find that fishing quality is affected by a host of variables such as personal values, environmental setting, facilities, habitat, weather, and companionship. More obvious is the catch — species, size, and numbers. Harvest also is important for many anglers.

Fish quality, however, is but a component of fishing quality. When we see photos of giant muskies and pike in this magazine, we appreciate the size of the catch — the fish-quality aspect. Trophy mounts hang in Northwoods taverns as icons of fish quality, although they can also go beyond the catch by conjuring up memories of high-quality fishing experiences. An important distinction between fish quality and fishing quality is that fish quality can be measured more easily using direct measurements of fish size.



In the 1970s, Dr. Richard Anderson, considered a pioneer of modern recreational fishery management, along with his graduate student Dr. Steve Weithman, developed a fish-quality index using length and weight. The length component was scored based on how a fish's length compared to the world-record length for that species. At about 20 percent of world-record length, for example, a fish begins to offer recreational value, which then climbs steeply before leveling off at about 75-percent of world-record length.

Fish quality gives fishery biologists benchmarks for assessing sportfish populations. They can calculate what proportion of a population is composed of fish of certain lengths and compare that to what is considered desirable. In the 1970s, early applications of these ideas were proposed for largemouth bass and bluegill by Dr. Anderson. The term "stock" length was coined for the minimum length at which fish start to provide recreational value, 20 to 26 percent of world-record length, according to Weithman's curve. "Quality" length was assigned to fish at 36 to 41 percent of world-record length. Anderson and Weithman also defined stock and quality lengths for several coolwater fishes, including pike and muskie.

In the 1980s, Don Gabelhouse, then Kansas fishery researcher and now fish chief in Nebraska, also a contributor to In-Fisherman publications, expanded on Anderson's ideas by defining lengths for "preferred," "memorable," and "trophy" length designations. He chose the point on the curve at which it climbs most steeply (40 to 55 percent of world record length) as the preferred length. Memorable is where the curve begins to level off (59 to 64 percent), and trophy is where the curve barely rises once fish reach a certain length (74 to 80 percent). Gabelhouse proposed stock, quality, preferred, memorable, and trophy lengths, for numerous species, and more species have been added over the years by others.

Throughout the development of these length definitions, quality has referred to the minimum length of fish that most anglers like to catch. Most anglers prefer to catch something a bit bigger, hence the name "preferred." Most anglers remember catching an individual memorable-sized fish, and trophy is a size worthy of widespread acknowledgement.


Included here are length designations that have been defined for pike, muskie, and chain pickerel. If you were assigning lengths you might have come up with something different, depending on the growth potential of these species where you fish and how you personally value fish quality.

What lengths would you assign to stock and quality sizes? What size do you prefer to catch? What length makes an individual pike or muskie memorable to you?


Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Drop-Shotting For Smallies

Drop-Shotting For Smallies

The In-Fisherman crew head to Lake Erie to catch smallmouth bass.

Lake Superior Whitefish on Ice

Lake Superior Whitefish on Ice

Doug Stange joins Capt. Aron Kastern on Lake Superior near Ashland, Wisconsin where they go after whitefish on ice.

The True Story of the Bass Boat Hero Who Broke the Internet

The True Story of the Bass Boat Hero Who Broke the Internet

“If that engine starts without my kill switch on, I ain't the one driving it,” Blake Broussard says after ejection video goes viral.

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

The Hobie MirageDrive 360 pedal propulsion system is the pinnacle of kayak control with more efficient fin designs, glide technology and allows the boat to be moved in any direction.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is simply a matter of putting a good bait in the right in front of them. 8 Best Catfish Rigs - When, Where and How to Use Them Catfish

8 Best Catfish Rigs - When, Where and How to Use Them

In-Fisherman

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is...

The effectiveness of swimbaits and other soft plastics for muskies isn't new.Swimbaits for Muskies Pike & Muskie

Swimbaits for Muskies

Steve Ryan - October 14, 2020

The effectiveness of swimbaits and other soft plastics for muskies isn't new.

Serve these walleye fish cakes with homemade blue cheese aioli or blue cheese salad dressing.Walleye Fish Cakes with Blue Cheese Aioli Recipe Fish Recipes

Walleye Fish Cakes with Blue Cheese Aioli Recipe

Chefs Jerry Swanson and Tommy Nuesse

Serve these walleye fish cakes with homemade blue cheese aioli or blue cheese salad dressing.

Introduced species often directly or indirectly adversely affect native species.Questioning Fish Introductions Other Fish

Questioning Fish Introductions

Dr. Hal Schramm - July 06, 2020

Introduced species often directly or indirectly adversely affect native species.

See More Trending Articles

More Pike & Muskie

If your passion runs deep for giant pike, these top destinations offer the opportunity to make those dreams a reality.Top Pike Destinations Pike & Muskie

Top Pike Destinations

Steve Ryan - October 28, 2019

If your passion runs deep for giant pike, these top destinations offer the opportunity to make...

The effectiveness of swimbaits and other soft plastics for muskies isn't new.Swimbaits for Muskies Pike & Muskie

Swimbaits for Muskies

Steve Ryan - October 14, 2020

The effectiveness of swimbaits and other soft plastics for muskies isn't new.

When the target is pike, well-rounded anglers always include spoons in their arsenal.Spoons: A Lifetime of Lessons for Giant Pike Fishing Pike & Muskie

Spoons: A Lifetime of Lessons for Giant Pike Fishing

Jack Penny

When the target is pike, well-rounded anglers always include spoons in their arsenal.

Let's look at what we really know about optimizing our time on the ice for pike.Fascinating Factors for Pike Pike & Muskie

Fascinating Factors for Pike

Gord Pyzer - March 04, 2020

Let's look at what we really know about optimizing our time on the ice for pike.

See More Pike & Muskie

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the In-Fisherman App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All In-Fisherman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now