Really big Illinois muskie: A nearly 40-pound muskie caught and released

Thad Hinshaw caught and released a pre-spawn muskie of nearly 40 pounds in Illinois.

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Thad Hinshaw caught and released a muskie of nearly 40 pounds. Provided photo

Thad Hinshaw caught and released a muskie of nearly 40 pounds.


Yes, Illinois has 40-pound class muskies.

Thanks to Paul Eastman for sending a heads up last week about such a muskie, caught and released by Thad Hinshaw.

Hinshaw, a well-known guide in central Illinois with Evergreen Lake Guide Service (, is no stranger with monster muskie. He earned the 2008 Illini Muskies Alliance release award for a 49-inch muskie on Evergreen Lake. He’s been in the mix other years for the IMA honor.

On Monday, I texted Hinshaw, who replied, “Yes, I can confirm that I caught a musky this year that I took measurements of and did a formula on it. It came out to be 39.715 pounds. The fish was a pre-spawn fish that was 47” by 26”.”

For the non-anglers, that’s 47 inches long with a girth of 26 inches.

Fish records are kept by weight. The Illinois record, a 50 3/4-inch muskie weighing 38 pounds, 8 ounces, was caught April 20, 2002 by Matt Carmean below the Lake Shelbyville spillway.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Many Illinois lakes have a 48-inch minimum for length.

“Yes, a 48-inch minimum lake,” Hinshaw texted. “It was on the same lake that I run my guide service on.”

Evergreen has a 48-inch minimum for muskies. Hinshaw’s muskie was an incredibly thick fish, but at 47 inches it needed to be immediately released.

Illinois has a history of 40-pound muskies, at least in surveys.

In 2002 at Johnson-Sauk Trail State Recreation Area near Kewanee, a 42-pound muskie was weighed during an electroshocking survey. Later, I rode with Musky Hunter’s Jim Saric while Jeff Lampe (now publisher of Heartland Outdoors) rode with “Chef Todd” Kent as we tried to target that muskie. As far as I know, that big girl was never caught or reported.

Tales of Illinois muskies keep growing.

SPRING CLASSIC: The Headwaters chapter of Muskies, Inc. anticipates being granted a permit by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for the Spring Classic on June 13-14 on the Eagle River Chain. A draw is planned for 8 tonight on Facebook. Click here for the Spring Classic page.

WILD THINGS: The Spring Bird Count in Illinois will be different Saturday with some sites closed and some birders staying home or nearby. Click here for details. . . . Cool weather dampens what started very interestingly for morel mushrooms, ramps and wild asparagus.

STRAY CAST: “The Last Dance” reminds me of the Coast Guard rescuing our disabled boat 20 miles out of Indiana while a storm rolled south from Milwaukee.

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