The Case Of The Muskie: A Fish Story

muskie fish sunday morning
CBS
Fishing is big in Wisconsin and the muskie is the biggest fish of all. It's called the king of the freshwater fish. Others say that bass is just bait compared to the muskie. To some, the muskie is symbolic of Northern Wisconsin.

There are muskie signs, muskies on the wall of offices and in bars. There is even muskie beer and muskie merlot.

Hayward, Wis. is the muskie capital, where local codes seem to set a muskie minimum of one per wall. Emmett Brown is director of the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, which not surprisingly is in Hayward.

The muskie is part of the lore of the Northwoods. One man pulled a muskrat out of a muskie's mouth. Another was pulled out of a boat by the fish and legend has it that the muskie is a fish of 10,000 casts. A fisher could fish for days and never see one. So the local man who caught the biggest muskie ever is a legend.

In the hall of fame museum, the man, the late Louie Spray has an entire room. It showcases his wool fishing pants and shirt, fishing shoes and his old motor.

"He reminds me of the Babe Ruth of Muskie fishing both people had the same type of personalities," John Detloff, a resort owner and county historian, who authored a book on Louie Spray told Sunday Morning correspondent Bill Geist. "They both were flamboyant. They both were good time Charlies."

At Herman's Landing on Oct. 20, 1949 that Spray and two of his friends rented a small boat and headed out into the Chippewa flowage returning with a 69 pound 11 ounce muskie with two bullet holes in its head.

But now a group called the World Record Muskie Alliance has filed a 93-page challenge to Spray's world record, a document brimming with modern professional forensic analysis.

"We decided to apply some modern scientific processes to a lot of these old fish stories we hired an independent expert in the field of photogrammetry — it is the science of trying to determine measurements from photographic evidence with some high level mathematics," Rich Delaney, president of the alliance, said. "It's a technology that I believe NASA used to determine the size of objects on the moon. If you put length times girth the weight of the fish couldn't possibly approach the claim of Mr. Spray. 69 pounds, 11 ounces."

Rather, Delaney says the fish would have to be about 38 to 40 pounds. The report charges local favoritism, outright cheating and even unethical taxidermy. Delaney said evidence shows that the taxidermist augmented the fish by 10 inches to match Spray's story.