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WRMA debunks another muskie: Cal Johnson's

Not that the muskie world ever needs agitating, but the World Record Muskie Alliance is stirring the pot again, releasing a major study this week debunking the record muskie claim of the late Cal Johnson.

The WRMA, which did a solid job refuting the legitimacy of Louie Spray’s muskie, now takes on the world-record muskie recognized by the International Game Fish Association. Johnson reported catching the disputed muskie on July 24, 1949 from Lac Court Oreilles in northern Wisconsin. It supposedly measured 60 1/4 inches and weighed 67 pounds, 8 ounces.

The IGFA is the keeper of world records for fishing. Over the years, the IGFA has shown a willingness to examine and reexamine their records and admit mistakes, unlike another keeper of fishing records.

I’m still wading through this report, but it looks like another well-put together case by the WRMA.

This profoundly bothers me. It’s one thing to tell a fish story, quite another to stretch a fish tale out into an official record. That’s shameful, for the fisherman, for the body or group keeping records and for the general fishing world.

It isn’t right and should not be accepted by thinking fishermen any where.

Here is the summary portion and what the WRMA recommends to the IGFA:

WRMA Johnson Summary

From the expert calculations made by DCM Technical Services, it is evident that all of the photographs commonly said to depict Mr. Johnson’s IGFA All Tackle World Record muskellunge did not belong to a living fish measuring 60 ” in length. In fact, all the known photographs have been scientifically proven by DCM Technical to belong to a muskellunge with an upper jaw to end of tail length of only 53.2″.

Another highly credentialed expert firm in the field of photogrammetry, Forensic Imaging, graciously provided a pro bono peer-review that ensures that DCM rigidly adhered to the highest professional standards in photogrammetry. With an overall maximum possible length of 54″ (when lower jaw measurement is utilized), the fish in the photographs remains well short of the 60 ” set forth in the affidavits.

It has been visually and mathematically shown in the G/L% section that the photograph of Mr. Johnson’s muskellunge does not represent a fish possessing a 33.5″ girth. Separate scrutiny was applied in the visualization experiment that yielded similar results in both length and girth. Even the time honored 800 formula for calculating weight supports these findings and revealed a 25.185% discrepancy from the recorded weight/dimensions set forth on the affidavits themselves.

A peer-reviewed report conclusively proved that the skin mount of Mr. Johnson’s

muskellunge is considerably longer than the fresh fish in the photographs said to be the same fish. Further, Douglas Taxidermy, a well recognized expert in his field has attested to a very real possibility that an approximate 50″ fresh muskellunge could be made into an approximate 60″ mounted mock replica.

There are only two rational conclusions that can be drawn regarding the mount of Mr. Johnson’s muskellunge that is still in existence. Either the photographs and mount are two separate fish, or the overall dimensions were enhanced during the taxidermy process to create a mock replica that would coincide with the predetermined dimensions.

Considering the WRMA research provided runs so blatantly counter to the claims made on the affidavits, the affidavits alone cannot provide the type of tangible proof required for any form of legitimate record recognition.

Moving forward

It is of considerable relevance that The Field & Stream contest only recognized the 1st place finisher at the end of 1949 as their champion. In other words, even though the record was broken multiple times during that year, less scrutiny was afforded this lower contest entry due to it not being their official 1949 contest winner. Therefore, the IGFA is the only governing body to sanction Mr. Johnson’s muskellunge as an official all tackle world record – and then nearly 50 years following its capture.

The inconsistent board and gunnysack method used by Mr. Johnson and his son coupled with no supporting documentation attesting to the accuracy of the scales leaves considerable doubt regarding the weight claimed on the affidavits.

It is clear that for record keepers, scientific analysis must trump eyewitness testimony whenever the two stand in such opposition. This is not to say that eyewitness testimony lacks value. However, just as in courtrooms of today, it is necessary to recognize that eyewitness testimony has fallen to a position of secondary importance relative to hard scientific fact.

We applaud the IGFA for addressing the difficult reality that today’s standards must require a legitimate photograph be submitted to quantify a record. Clearly the IGFA has determined that eyewitness testimony can be inherently problematic and sought proactively to address this issue, as in the case of Mr. Arthur Lawton. We believe that the burden of establishing adequate proof for any angling record to be set aside, retired, or disqualified must fall squarely on the shoulders of the evidence presented. We feel that this burden of proof has been clearly met by the contents of this report.

It is obvious the WRMA has purposefully presented a variety of possible directives the IGFA may elect to pursue; it is also just as obvious which directive the WRMA feels is the correct one. We feel strongly that embracing the truth regarding Mr. Johnson’s muskellunge will eventually add to the overall credibility of our beloved sport, and it is in this spirit we humbly submit our findings. North America’s fast growing muskellunge community now looks toward the IGFA to establish a legitimate world record so the healing process can begin.

In closing, the preponderance of scientific and circumstantial evidence we have presented all point to the fresh fish photographs said to represent the IGFA All Tackle World Record belonged to a muskellunge well short of 67 lbs. 8 oz. The ramifications of this record lacking photographic proof, trustworthy dimensions, or acceptable scale or weighin method is incredibly damaging to the validity of a 67 lb. 8 oz. muskellunge having ever existed in the flesh.

It is therefore our recommendation that Mr. Johnson’s records be promptly removed from record status.

Sincerely,

Rich Delaney, President WRMA

Jerry Newman, founder WRMA

George Will, chief researcher WRMA