Pomme de Terre Muskies

Muskies are long, slender fish famous for their power and aggressiveness. The fish are green to yellow-green with dark, vertical bars along the flanks accompanied by elongated spots. Younger fish often look silvery with very light markings.

Muskies usually live in the cool waters of the northern United States and Canada, but there are several places closer to home to pursue these aggressive game fish. One such place is Lake Pomme de Terre.

Located 50 miles north of Springfield, Lake Pomme de Terre covers nearly 8,000 acres. With fairly clear water and a rocky bottom, the lake is a typical Ozark reservoir. It was built as a watershed lake to hold flood waters heading for Lake of the Ozarks. The lake was completed in 1961. The Conservation Department first stocked muskies in Pomme de Terre in 1966, and the fish have thrived there ever since.

Rich Meade, a fisheries biologist for the Conservation Department, said Pomme de Terre was originally chosen for muskie introduction because of its vast vegetation and clear water--both important habitat elements for the fish.

"Years ago, way before my time, the lake had dense vegetation, including coontail," Meade said. "There were a lot of shad, suckers and non-game fish that other gamefish don't use. So the lake was thought to be a good place for muskies."

As at other big reservoirs, Pomme de Terre's vegetation has disappeared as the lake has aged. Fortunately, the muskie population still remains healthy.

"We've got a good population (of muskie) in Pomme de Terre," Meade said. "The biggest one I've ever seen netted was 48 inches long and weighed 35 pounds. Before that, while electrofishing, a 48 1/2-inch fish was shocked."

Muskies don't reproduce naturally in Pomme de Terre, so the Conservation Department nets fish each spring and milks them for eggs. After the eggs are fertilized at the lake, the fish are released. The eggs are then taken to the Lost Valley Fish Hatchery near Warsaw to be hatched. By October, when they are released into Pomme de Terre and several other lakes in Missouri, the young muskies are 10 to 12 inches long.

"We released 10,600 muskies into Pomme do Terre in 2000," Meade said. "In 1999, about 5,400 were released."Pomme de Terre muskie guide Jim "Coach" Wilson has fished for muskies at Pomme de Terre for 15 years, and has traveled to Canada over a dozen times to chase big muskie on Lake of the Woods.