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HUNTSVILLE — Over the past few weeks, photos of an angler posing with an enormous tiger muskie have circulated on the Internet. Details of the catch were hazy, so to set the record straight, I talked with Bennett Oberg, who caught the fish at Pineview Reservoir while on a trip with his dad. Oberg is no stranger to big muskies. He’s caught several lunkers in the past, but none that bested the official state record: a 49-inch, 33-pounder landed in 2006. The monster that he landed on Aug. 5, however, will go down as one of the largest game fish ever caught in Utah.
The day got off to a great start for Oberg and his father, with both fishermen catching large tiger muskies in the 3-foot range. Muskies are sometimes referred to as “the fish of 10,000 casts,” and landing two in one day is a rarity for many anglers.
Little did Oberg know that on this trip he would beat the official state record by two inches. “When the fish hit, I knew it was a big one,” he says, “but as the fight wore on I felt that it might be a real big one.” The furious battle lasted about 20 minutes. On several occasions, his father was close to netting the muskie, but it would dive down and rip off another 25 yards of line. ”It was a little delicate at times,” adds Oberg, “as I only had 12-pound test line on.”
When the fish hit, I knew it was a big one, but as the fight wore on I felt that it might be a real big one.
–- Bennett Oberg
After finally landing the muskie, Oberg measured it and snapped a quick photo, before carefully releasing it back into the reservoir. There is a catch and release policy in effect for all tiger muskies at Pineview, and Oberg felt good releasing his fish and knowing that it would live to fight another day. The massive muskie stretched 51 inches in length, so if he'd kept it and had it officially weighed, it would've easily eclipsed the current record.
It also came within a couple inches of besting Utah’s catch and release record, which is a 53-inch muskie caught at Pineview in 1998.
Only an elite group of anglers have ever caught game fish in Utah that surpass the 50-inch mark. Tiger muskies and northern pike, with their barracuda-like bodies, are the only species to reach that length. The lake trout in Flaming Gorge and striped bass in Lake Powell tap out at about 45 inches, but what they lack in length, they more than make up for in girth. Oberg estimated that his muskie weighed about 35 pounds, while a 45-inch lake trout can easily weigh more than 50 pounds.
Tiger muskies are one of the most unusual game fish in Utah. They’re a hybrid of a northern pike and a muskellunge, and are named for their vertical, tiger-like stripes. They have been stocked in several Utah waters, though Pineview consistently produces the largest fish. Grant Olsen joined the ksl.com team in 2012. He covers travel, outdoor adventures, and other interesting things. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.