Illinois fish records keep falling: DNA could prove tiger muskie

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Terry Livingston Sr. with his muskie, determined by DNA testing to be a pure muskie and not the Illinois-record tiger muskie.
Credit: WLPO Facebook

Tom Kimes understandsthe universal draw ofbigfish.

‘‘Normally I would have said no, but when they said how big it was,I had to see it,’’Kimessaid aboutweighingTerry LivingstonSr.’s possibleIllinois-record tiger muskie May 9.

A tiger muskie is a hybrid of a muskie and a northern pike.

Therenever has been a year like this for record fish in Illinois. Last week added to that, withLivingston’s likely tiger muskieand arecordbrown bullheadfrom Emiquon. Therealready havebeenmultiple whitefish records and records for burbot and hybrid crappie.

Matt Bach caught what would have been the state-record rock bass this month, but he had to release it because it was caught at Three Oaks Recreation Area in Crystal Lake. In coming weeks, I will consider Bach’s fish — and Illinois fish records in general — and modern issues.

In the past, most grocery stores or meat markets would weigh a record fish on their certified scales. That has gotten tougher.

Livingston, a 69-year-old from Morris, knew enough about certifying an Illinois record to know he needed a certified scale. But his fish was too big to weigh on a scale at a local grocery.

In Livingston’s story, one hero is Conservation Police Officer Dave Wollgast, who thought it might be a tiger muskie.

That’s how they ended up at the Morris post office, where they took a board big enough for the fish. Kimes zeroed out the scale with the board, then weighed the 501/4-inch muskie (with a 25-inch girth) at 36 pounds, 4 ounces. That would smash the Illinois record for a tiger muskie (31-3 by Michael Behmetuik on Aug. 6, 2004, from Lake Will in Will County).

Livingstonand buddy Tom Dolan were ‘‘just out making a few casts for afternoon bass’’off an 18-foot pontoon boat at the Goose Lake subdivision in Grundy County when they saw a muskie by the boat.

The muskie eventually T-boned a 14- to 16-inch shad and kept releasing the shad to reposition it to eat it. Livingston switched to a Rooster Tail on 10- or 12-pound monofilament on an Abu Garcia baitcaster rod and reel.

One time the muskie released the shad, Livingston had made a cast close enough that the fish turned and hit. By luck, it was hooked in the upper area. After allowing it to run, Livingston brought it close for Dolan to net. But it was far bigger than the net. Livingston eventually was able to gill it and bring it in.

The fun was just beginning with certifying and weighing. Rod Thorson of radio station WLPO messaged a heads up to me.

Biologist Rob Miller checked the fish the next day and thought it was likely a tiger muskie. He cautiously took a fin clip for DNA testing but needed a pure muskie and northern pike for comparison. Biologist Frank Jakubicek was able to obtain both tissue samples for Miller from Lake County.

On Friday, Miller took the tissues to Mark Davis, a conservation biologist for the Illinois Natural History Survey in Champaign. Davis should have the results this week.

‘‘But I don’t lose either way,’’Livingston said. ‘‘I will be happy, and my buddy will be happy.Either way, I have afish of a lifetime.’’

Turkey

Illinois hunters harvested15,719turkeys in the spring seasons, up from15,484 in 2016.

Stray cast

In mid-May, is it meaner to#PerchFishingClosed or#LimpTheL, even though both are true?

Follow me on Twitter @BowmanOutside.

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