Video of undersized muskie killed on Detroit River triggers investigation, online furor

By on September 10, 2014

An online video of a brazen angler allegedly killing and dumping an undersized muskie on the Detroit River has stirred up some corners of the Internet and launched an investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

For anglers who flaunt fishing regulations in an attempt to give their preferred species a leg up, the incident serves as a reminder that the rise of wearable cameras and personal YouTube channels will make getting caught more likely.

The video (warning: abundant profanity), posted Sept. 6 by the Big Game Musky Fishing channel, spurred fiery comments on YouTube, Facebook and fishing message boards. A shot of the offending boat’s registration number also prompted plenty of complaints to the Ontario MNR, which said they’re aware of the video and is investigating the incident.

The video shows two anglers jigging for muskie near Peche Island on the Canadian side of the Detroit River near its inlet on Lake St. Clair. The fishermen spot another angler landing a muskie before apparently dispatching it and throwing it back into the water. They motor over to the other boat, picking up the dead fish along the way and measuring it as short of the legal limit.

The two boats engage in a short, obscenity-laced discourse over whether all muskies should be killed and tossed overboard because they eat other sport fish, or whether that’s wrong because it’s illegal and muskie are a fine sport fish in their own right.

The victim (Credit: Big Game Musky Fishing)

The victim (Credit: Big Game Musky Fishing)

It’s not clear how often muskie are sacrificed for their supposed effects on other popular fish like walleye and perch. The Ontario MNR couldn’t comment in light of an ongoing investigation, and a request for comment made to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources law enforcement district that covers the St. Clair River-Lake St. Caire-Detroit River system wasn’t returned in time for publication.

It hasn’t risen to the attention of Captain Dan Hopkins in Gaylord, Michigan, who oversees statewide field districts of the MDNR’s Law Enforcement Division. But if it’s happening, it’s definitely against the law.

“If we ran into something like that where people were failing to secure their catch and wasting a resource, we do have the option of charging them with a wanton waste,” Hopkins said.

The video lends some credence to the lore of members of the anti-muskie underground sidling up to folks at the boat launch, imploring them to kill every muskie they catch.

Peche Island, near where the video was recorded, is a popular section of Detroit River for fishing (Credit: Angela, via Flickr)

Peche Island, near where the video was recorded, is a popular section of Detroit River for fishing (Credit: Angela, via Flickr)

Todd Willis, a fisheries research biologist MNDR’s Lake St. Clair Fisheries Research Station, couldn’t say how prevalent that mindset is, but it doesn’t have much basis in reality.

“Among people who don’t know a whole lot about how a food web works, (muskie) have a reputation for eating all of the quote-unquote more desirable,” he said. “If you have a balanced ecosystem with a balance of predator and prey base, they both keep each other in check.”

Vigilante ecosystem engineers are unlikely to make any significant dent in the population, according to Willis. That’s one good reason not to go indiscriminately killing muskie. There’s one more to keep in mind, especially as other anglers on the water are increasingly strapping cameras to their bodies and uploading the results to YouTube.

“It’s totally senseless, in my opinion, because you’re illegally killing a fish,” Willis said.

Update: Eddie Parent came to the Windsor Star and claimed to be the man in the video who killed the muskie and offered an apology.

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