Local angler Matt Harris made a surprising catch this past week when fishing the Tug Fork River near Williamson. Harris was testing out one of his hand-painted jerk lures for smallmouth bass when he hauled in a 31 1/2 inch muskellunge.
Muskellunge, also known as muskie, have been a rare catch in the Tug River in years past but have made an appearance in recent years thanks to joint-stocking efforts by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife and the West Virginia Department of Natural resources that began in 2017.
That year 100 muskellunge measuring 13 inches along with 25,000 muskie fry were stocked into the river near McCarr and 190 of the larger muskie and 52,000 dry were stocked in the river near Burnwell later that year.
The stocking efforts were expected to continue into 2021 according to an article in Kentucky Afield in 2018.
While the fish Harris caught weighed around 11 lbs. and was over two and a half feet long, muskie can grow to be much larger.
The record for the largest muskie caught in West Virginia is 52.7 inches caught out of Stonecoal Lake by angler Glenn Boyd in 2003. That fish weighed 38.5 lbs while the heaviest muskie ever caught also came out of Stonecoal Lake and weighed 49.75 lbs. That fish was caught by Anna Marsh in 1997 and was 50.37 inches long.