November 24, 2022
New York resident Cullen Veiders, owner/operator of Musky Candies Customs caught a mega muskie from northeast Lake Ontario near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River during the early hours of October 24th. The incredible muskie measured 59 1/2 inches and weighed a staggering 58 pounds, unofficially.
But you aren’t likely to see this fish in record books as Veiders’ priority was keeping the fish alive, as is the goal of all dedicated muskie anglers. The fish was released unharmed.
They simply don’t get much bigger.
As anglers who are all impressed by the biggest fish of any species, true record breakers are all too often caught by accident. But we all watch with some level of envy, yet still desire to celebrate the catch because of the passion we all share for the sport and what a fish like that represents to us all.
Once in a while, however, and more so in recent years, hardcore anglers are indeed breaking the records themselves. That’s justice to those of us who believe in striving for a benchmark, regardless of the pursuit. Veiders is a custom muskie bait builder who has numbers of big muskies to his name—including fish in the mid-50-inch range and beyond. He caught his enormous fish on a hand-made and custom-painted lure of his own design.
“I’ve been working my whole career for a fish like that, and to have it come on a bait I built is the ultimate satisfaction,” Veiders said. “These giant muskies are largely loners and seem to prefer feeding after dark—and most of the heaviest fish come in the fall. We do most of our fishing during that time. The specific lure was a Muskie Candies 10-inch Deep Sniper Orange-Belly Night Stalker.”
The 35-year-old angler knows big muskies are just different than their smaller counterparts.
“I respect all muskies, but a fish like this one is in a class all its own,” he explained. “The fish bit so hard it literally cracked the lure in two spots, and I believe had the bait not been built on a through-wire frame, I might have been reeling in only the lip of the bait and not a 58-pound muskie. I designed them that way—specifically for the big fish.”
That’s muskie-fishing justice.
More Recent Record-Book Fish
This mega 10-pound smallmouth was caught by a pair of dedicated and talented bass anglers this fall from Lake Erie that really captivated the bass world. A rare catch that is worth celebrating!
Here’s an example of a recognized (and current) modern world-record muskie caught by bass anglers from Michigan’s Lake Bellaire in October of 2012. An accidental catch for sure, but the fish is worthy of recognition and celebration. Plus, the behemoth was reeled on 8-pound fluorocarbon—a feat by itself. A lesser angler wouldn’t have been successful. This muskie weighed 58 pounds and measured 58 inches. Incredible!
Last year, nearly to the day, Nolan Sprengeler broke a 64-year record in Minnesota with a remarkable fish caught from Mille Lacs. The fish was deep hooked, which does occasionally happen, and it died as they tried to revive it for release. Nolan and his team of muskie fanatics made the right call and had the fish officially entered as the new Minnesota state-record muskie.
The fish measured 56 inches and weighed 54 pounds officially. And the muskie community largely celebrated the catch and new record.
This past summer another giant muskie was also caught from Mille Lacs by Eric Bakke, a fish measuring 58 1/4 inches. It was released and not officially weighed—a tremendous fish worth recognition and celebration.
There Will Be Naysayers
There’s always the speculation factor, especially now with the recent Lake Erie walleye scandal where competitive anglers jammed weights into the bellies of the fish they were weighing. They got caught and are facing serious charges.
That event alone will cause people to be more suspicious when big fish are weighed at tournaments or documented in record books.
When dealing with a record-class fish, there will be questions. Was the fish weighed on a certified scale? If it’s a catch-and-release situation, were the length and girth measurements taken accurately, and if so, how reliable is the length-to-girth calculator? Indeed, all fish are built differently. Were there witnesses present, how reliable are they?
Which record trumps all? Official records often require the fish to be killed and then weighed on a certified scale, but is that the most reliable method to set and break records? Or is a C&R record where the fish was immediately released to swim another day the best method? Should they be regarded separately?
All those situations will certainly generate speculation. It’s worth noting, though, that since muskies are almost always released, length trumps the weight as a standard form of official measurement. But to actually claim the top spot, weight is almost necessary. Can it be done without killing the fish? You’d think in today’s modern age we’d be able to make that happen somehow.
Weighing a fish in the boat with an official scale and numbers of witnesses is a very difficult task. Veiders did weigh his fish effectively knowing that some muskie purists and naysayers would argue it. But even he admits it may not be an officially certified weight.
“We simply weighed the net hoop without the handle in it and it weighed 4 pounds,” he said. “Then, with the help of my partners, we lifted the fish while in the net and documented the scale with a picture. I’m not sure if the weight will be officially recognized, but I know what we had there. A true world-class fish—likely the new Modern Day World Record. But we chose to release the fish, and I’m glad we did.”
In the muskie world specifically, many of the old-time records have either been since debunked or just not accepted as actual records—very few modern anglers accept those old muskie records as official, and for good reason. There have been books—to the plural—written about how many, if not all, of those record-class fish weren’t actually as big as initially claimed.
This feature is not to resurrect those arguments. Fact is, all those fish, regardless of official weight and length, were enormous. They captivated muskie anglers back then—and they will continue to inspire the group into eternity.
Due to the high level of argument made to disqualify all the old records, the International Muskellunge Record Review Committee was formed in Hayward, Wisconsin, created the Modern Day Muskie World Record Program (MDMWRP) that provides a place to effectively and reliably record modern record-class muskies, should an angler decide to take advantage of the program.
Cullen Veiders’ Story
“I grew up loving fishing, mainly salmon, steelhead and bass,” Veiders said. “But the obsessive passion for fishing really didn’t develop until later in life. I struggled with drugs as a teenager. I spent time in jail, half-way houses and different rehabs until I decided to redirect my life and get my focus back. Along the way I was reintroduced to fishing and it was the start to a new life for me. I mention that to say muskie fishing really saved my life.”
He went back to school and earned his Bachelors degree in Health and Human Services from the University of Buffalo, and ended up interning at a rehab facility he was actually in 10 years prior. It was at that time his fascination with resin-based, high-definition molded baits captivated his bait-building and painting attention.
“I’d work all day and then get home and spend evenings into the early hours of the morning experimenting with new bait profiles and designs,” he said. “Renowned muskie-bait builder Johnny Dadson got a hold of me and used one of my early baits to catch the first 50-incher on one of my lures, and that got me thinking about a future as a bait builder. I never intended to take this on fulltime, but I eventually made the decision to pursue this as a career. It’s been incredibly rewarding ever since.”
Trolling is the best way to effectively cover water looking for these giants, and when considering how clear the water is, nighttime trolling is the ticket.
“This is such a huge body of water that any sort of wind makes it nearly impossible to get out,” he explained. “I’ve noticed that muskies tend to feed in windows and once they’ve had their fill, they might not be willing to chase down another meal for a couple of days. I mention that to say you really must line up a lot of factors up to be successful—the most important one is just being out there with a line in the water.
“After two days of unproductive fishing and difficult weather, we finally had good conditions,” he said. “We launched the boat around 5 pm with plans to fish late into the night. During the evening I marked a big fish—it was so big I thought it had to be a sturgeon or something, but it was slightly suspended off the bottom beneath a pod of bait, so I thought it could be a big muskie. I dropped a waypoint anyways just in case.”
The guys trolled around for a while and eventually returned to the area where Veiders noticed the huge mark from earlier.
“We marked another big fish, and I said it had to be the same fish. It was actually very close to my original mark, so we dropped another waypoint” he said. “The sun set, we looked at the moon phases and felt like we had a likely feeding window ahead. It was about 12:30 am when we returned again to the area and I switched to a deeper-running lure on wire line to achieve maximum depth, since that’s where we’d marked fish before. We were trolling right through that area where we dropped waypoints earlier, and the rod went off.
“When I felt the head shakes on the other end, I knew I had a big fish. The guy I was fishing with and myself have both caught numbers of fish over 55 inches, so we know a big one when we feel it. During the battle, this fish suddenly stopped, and I couldn’t move it—the fish took complete control and ran hard. We had to take the boat out of gear and give the fish room to fight. Hands down this was the toughest muskie battle I’ve ever been in. It seemed like it took a long time, but it really wasn’t but a couple minutes. Then, thanks to an expert net job, the muskie hit the bottom of the net and we had it.
“I started shaking. We knew it was a giant. We were in awe. Speechless.”
Veiders has been around big muskies for years and is well aware of the speculative nature of the muskie community, so he’s been prepared to share a story like this. But things don’t always go as planned.
“We took all the necessary measurements—59 1/2 inches. We weighed it with a calibrated Chatillon scale safely by lifting the fish up in the net with multiple sets of hands—the hoop weighs 4 pounds and the scale read 62 pounds making it a 58-pound muskie,” he explained. “But it was cold, and my phone’s camera wasn’t taking good pictures like I had hoped. Thankfully, there were several other anglers I know well who were fishing the area that night, too. They all came over to help and shoot additional pictures and video.
“At no time was the fish out of water for more than half a minute. It was a team effort for sure. We all wanted there to be no question on the legitimacy of this fish, so we did everything we could to not only weigh it but release it alive and well. And I feel like we accomplished that.”
Now, whether or not the fish will be officially recognized by the MDMWRP as either tied with or as the new world record is to be determined, but it’s clear that Veiders captured one of the largest muskies ever caught. And then released it back to the waters from which it came.
That’s an obsessive dedication that I can understand and fully get behind.
From all of us at In-Fisherman: Congrats Cullen!
What would you do if you caught a likely record-book fish?