Muskie Record Stands

Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts, and wild tales from the outdoors

Jan. 18, 2006

Muskie Record Stands

Long-gone Louis Spray’s world record will stand after members of the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame voted Monday to reject a request from an Illinois-based group to disqualify the 69-pound, 11-ounce whopper muskie Spray caught on Oct. 20, 1949. This week, we also report on the nation’s top dog, and a popular youth shooting program that’s being threatened in Arizona.

J.R. Absher

Louie’s Last Laugh

The late Wisconsin gadabout and fishing legend Louis Spray will retain the title as holder of the world record muskellunge after this week’s ruling by the board of directors of the Hayward, Wisconsin-based National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame’s board of directors rejected an Illinois fishing group’s challenge, saying it used flawed science in trying to prove the three record fish Spray caught during his lifetime were smaller than he claimed.

“The world record muskie record will not be overturned. We feel in many ways it has been further validated by our investigation,” Hall of Fame Executive Director Emmett Brown said after the board voted 8-0 with three abstentions to deny the challenge.

Using historic photographs of Spray and the fish, the Illinois-based World Record Muskie Alliance contended the record muskie could not have weighed 69 pounds, 11 ounces.

Louis Spray will maintain his title as holder of the world record muskie after a ruling by the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame.

The alliance contracted with a Canadian photo-analysis firm, which concluded that Spray’s world-record fish was only about 53.6 inches long, not 63 inches as Spray claimed and several affidavits supported.

The mount of Spray’s muskie was destroyed in a 1959 fire, so old photographs and sworn affidavits by those who saw and weighed the fish were the only evidence of the record’s veracity.

Spray, who died in 1982, was a colorful bootlegger, tavern owner and legendary angler. With a boast akin to Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield bleachers, Spray predicted he would catch the world record muskie three months before he landed his monster fish on the Chippewa Flowage in northern Wisconsin more than 56 years ago.

4-H Shooting Programs Back, For Now

The future of one of the most popular and productive youth shooting programs in the country, the 4-H Shooting Sports Program, remains uncertain in Arizona — the result of a gun-shy university board of regents. After pulling the plug on the program in December, the University of Arizona Board of Regents reinstated the program after three days of intense pressure from parents and supporters of 4-H shooting.

The Regents, who oversee the University of Arizona-sponsored 4-H programs, voted to halt the shooting program statewide after they discovered through an audit that the board was responsible for a gun-related course for young people.

Anne Barton, board of regents spokeswoman, said the board wasn’t comfortable with the university being responsible for the guns, according to The Arizona Republic. While the participants or clubs use and maintain their own guns, the UA, as the program sponsor, would be legally responsible if there were any accident or incident related to the guns.

As a land-grant university, the UA oversees programs such as 4-H, agriculture services and extension programs in the state. About 1,000 youngsters take part in the Arizona shooting program, which teaches firearms safety and coordinates competition at state and national tournaments.

Despite the Regents’ reversal last month, the Republic reports that the future remains uncertain.

“They thought it was important enough to at least give the opportunity to the university to bring back some more information,” Barton said. “The ball is back in the University of Arizona’s court.”

Obviously, we believe it is ludicrous for the Regents to have such a knee-jerk reaction to a program based solely on the fact that firearms are involved — particularly without a single documented case of an injury or incident. We would also venture to guess that popular university-sanctioned sports such as football, lacrosse, soccer, and others have a long track record of being far more hazardous to participants than this exceptional 4-H program.

Top Dog, Again

For the 16th consecutive year, the Labrador retriever is the most popular purebred dog in the U.S., according to registration figures released last week by the American Kennel Club (AKC). A longtime favorite among sportsmen, AKC-registered Labs numbered nearly three times more than any other breed in 2005.

Second to Labs in popularity was another retriever, the Golden, a breed that has held the No. 2 spot for multiple years. The diminutive Yorkshire terrier slipped into third place this year, surpassing the German shepherd for the first time.

The AKC also released data showing breed popularity by city. Predictably, Labs took top honors in most major metropolitan areas-except one.

Any guesses?

In New York City, poodles reign.

2005 Most Popular Purebred Dogs

1. Labrador Retriever (137,867)

2. Golden Retriever (48,509)

3. Yorkshire Terrier (47,238)

4. German Shepherd Dog (45,014)

5. Beagle (42,592)

6. Dachshund (38,566)

7. Boxer (37,268)

8. Poodle (31,638)

9. Shih Tzu (28,087)

10. Miniature Schnauzer (24,144)

Ohio Law Protects Hunter, Angler Fees

New legislation signed into law last week by Gov. Bob Taft prohibits the Ohio Department of Natural Resources from taking fees from the state’s fishing and hunting licenses and using them to fund any non-wildlife program.

House Bill 367, sponsored by Rep. Charles Calvert, R-Medina, was passed unanimously by the Senate and received overwhelming support in the House of Representatives. The legislation will effectively block attempts at using revenue from hunters and anglers for programs not related to hunting and fishing, including administrative costs of the Ohio DNR.

With the governor’s signing, the bill becomes law in early April.

Quote Of The Week

“I had to drop my camera to help Jones and Jim pull the animal from her perch. The branches broke in a shower; then the lioness, hissing, snarling, whirling, plunged down. She nearly jerked the rope out of our hands, but we lowered her to Emett, who noosed her hind paws in a flash.”

-Zane Grey

“Roping Lions in The Grand Canyon,” 1922

Zane Grey Books for Boys

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. Visit his Web sites, The Outdoor Pressroom ( and The Outdoor Weblog to find the latest outdoor news of interest. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for You may contact him at

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