Hunting and fishing go hand in hand for many people, but for those who choose to angle for musky, a large freshwater predatory fish in the rivers and reservoirs of the Midwest, fishing is hunting.
"(Catching a musky) is more like hunting than fishing," said Bob Sisson, president of the Central Ohio Chapter of Muskies Inc.
Those who choose to hunt muskies – short for "muskellunge" – were lured to the Makoy Center in Hilliard for the annual Ohio Musky Show from Jan. 11 to 13.
The show has been a fixture at Hilliard's Makoy Center for eight years, Sisson said.
The Ohio Musky Show is a benefit for those who have never dropped a line in the water, according to Libby Gierach, president and CEO of the Hilliard Area Chamber of Commerce.
Hilliard's venues, including the Makoy Center, accommodate exhibits and shows that bring visitors not only from throughout Ohio, but other states, too, Gierach said.
"(The) visitors that come and stay at our hotels and go to our restaurants benefit our business community," she said.
Anglers recently drawn to the Ohio Musky Show included Dustin Scott, 29, of Wheeling, West Virginia, who attended the show Jan. 12 with his father, uncle and other family members and were not deterred by the forecast that delivered about 4 to 5 inches of snow around central Ohio that day.
Dustin Scott's uncle, Robert Scott, introduced him to musky fishing, he said.
Like many anglers, Robert Scott began hooking catfish and other kinds of fish before working up to muskies about eight years ago.
Robert Scott's largest catch is 49 inches, he said.
He, Dustin Scott and Dustin's father, Denny, said they most often cast lines in Leesville Lake Park and Piedmont Lake, both in Ohio.
Dustin Scott was at the show to choose new lures used for catching muskies.
Lures typically are artificial and made of fluorescent-colored composite plastic, known as a hard-body lure or "rubber," said Billy Brumett of Wisconsin-based Chaos Tackle.
The latter lends to the colorful vernacular among musky anglers that includes, "throwing big rubber on the St. Clair River (in Michigan)" to describe the choice of a lure, said Keith Lindsay, 41, of Clawson, Michigan, who with his brother, Kyle Lindsay, 37, drove south for the Ohio Musky Show.
The brothers had a budget on their trip of about $100 each to select rubber lures, but they allowed it is not uncommon to spend several hundred dollars for even the basics to pursue musky fishing.
"It's an expensive hobby but it's worth it," Kyle Lindsay said.
The brothers also traveled to the show last year.
"This is the biggest musky show, the creme de la creme, and we make a day trip every year," Keith Lindsay said.
In addition to the basics of lures and poles available at the Ohio Musky Show, anglers also can book guides and charters, have replica fish manufactured and listen to seminars from experts.
Though Ohio is good for musky fishing, many of the commercial charter-fishing expeditions for muskies are in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada, Sisson said.
In central Ohio, the best source for musky fishing is the Alum Creek Lake reservoir, but they also can be found in the Olentangy and Scioto rivers.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources stocks Alum Creek and eight other Ohio reservoirs each fall with musky and other kinds of fish, Sisson said.
Muskies are stocked at a rate of one fish per acre, while others, such as bass and walleye, are stocked at 200 fish per acre, Sisson said.
"Thus, on average, you are 200 times more likely to catch anything but a musky" on the 3,600-acre Alum Creek Lake reservoir, he said. "Because of the relative rarity, hunting musky can be an obsession."
Anglers typically prefer to fish on reservoirs because there are fewer restrictions on where boats can travel compared to rivers, where dams, bridges, shallows and no-wake zones limit navigability.
Reservoirs require stocking because it is more difficult for muskies to spawn in reservoirs than in rivers, Sisson said.
Though the ODNR has its own laws concerning fish harvesting, members of Muskies Inc. and the musky-fishing community in general follow their own mantra, he said.
"Our motto is CPR: catch, photo, release," Sisson said.
Muskies are stocked at a lower rate so they don't deplete the gizzard shad species other fish eat, he said.
"(Too few shad) could threaten many other species," Sisson said.
Thus, a balance of muskies is necessary in reservoirs.
"It's the king of the freshwater," Sisson said. "Nothing picks on a musky."
An average musky is 38 to 40 inches and weighs about 17 to 20 pounds, Sisson said, but a 25-year-old "trophy" musky can exceed 50 inches and weigh about 35 pounds.
A member of the Esox family, along with the northern pike and walleye, the musky is the largest of its class and because of its preference for cooler freshwater, it is not typically found in the country's southern regions.
"If it is over 80 degrees (in the air), we don't fish for musky because of the undue stress (of catch and release)," Sisson said.
The restocking of Ohio's reservoirs is possible in part because of the fundraising of Muskies Inc., he said.
In the past 10 years, the four Ohio chapters of Muskies Inc. have contributed about $150,000 to the Ohio Minnow Fund for restocking Ohio's reservoirs with muskies.