Surprise of Salt Creek muskie: Fish of the Week and operculum

SHARE Surprise of Salt Creek muskie: Fish of the Week and operculum

Shane Boyle christened a new 7-foot Pflueger rod and reel perfectly.

His father Joe said they were fishing Salt Creek in Elk Grove Village in “very wet muddy slippery’’ conditions [on Jan. 16] . . . (we were the only two to be silly enough to be out in that weather).’’

On a squarebill crankbait, Shane landed what both Joe and I thought it might be a tiger muskie.

But I decided to check with Jim Phillips, veteran fisheries biologist for the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

“I am 98% sure it’s a pure musky,” he emailed. “Fish with that type of marking is sometimes called a `barred’ variation. Look at the pectoral and pelvic fins, they are very pointed. Fins on tigers are more rounded.

“To be 100% sure I would need to see a close up of cheek and operculum scales.  Hybrids have 2/3 or more of cheek and upper half of operculum with scales. Both Cook and DuPage Forest Preserves only stock pure musky.”

Glad I asked. Plus, I never get to type operculum (gill cover).

FOTW, the celebration of big fish and good stories, runs Wednesdays on the Sun-Times outdoors page. The story part or fishing of the moment, such as this one, matters as much as the big fish part, generally.

Send nominations by Facebook (Dale Bowman), Twitter (@BowmanOutside) or email (

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