The National Championship Musky Open — the largest musky tournament anywhere — will celebrate its 25th anniversary in August when it returns to Eagle River, Wisconsin, on August 20, 21 and 22.
The event, which many refer to as the “Nationals,” annually draws between 1,000 and 1,100 fishermen and their families to the Eagle River area. Besides the fishing, a highlight of the weekend is the awarding of two brand new Ranger 1760 Angler boats equipped with 115-horsepower Mercury outboards, one going to a tournament fisherman and one to the winner of a raffle whose tickets are sold statewide in the months preceding the event.
While the tournament — which awards trophies to top fishermen but not cash — is a big deal in the Wisconsin musky world, it’s the proceeds from the event that are even more impressive. The NCMO is the major fundraiser for the Musky Clubs Alliance of Wisconsin, and in just the last 20 years alone, the Alliance has generated over $1 million for the musky fishery in the state.
The Alliance has 24 member clubs from across Wisconsin, including both independent clubs and Muskies, Inc. chapters. Some 7,000 people belong to these clubs. According to its Web site, the Alliance provides an “organizational framework in which the clubs can share information and work together to improve the musky fishery.”
Among the major beneficiaries of the Alliance’s efforts have been the clubs themselves. According to the Alliance, an astounding $795,000 has been distributed to the clubs for local projects and programs.
The Alliance has also spent $157,000 for stocking fingerling muskies across the state; donated $40,000 to the Great Lakes spotted musky program; spent $36,500 to support Portage, Wisconsin, area musky ponds; provided $34,000 for Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) projects; and awarded $25,000 worth of scholarships to fisheries students at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Numerous other programs, including Fishing Has No Boundaries, have benefited from monies raised by the Alliance.
The Alliance also serves the WDNR in an advisory capacity regarding statewide musky issues.
During the 2009 NCMO, 1,023 anglers registered 141 muskies. The tournament boat was won by Kay Yates of Libertyville, Illinois, and the raffle boat was won by Mike Brand of Crivitz, Wisconsin.
The Alliance and the Eagle River Area Chamber of Commerce conduct the NCMO. Major sponsors of the tournament include Ranger Boats, Mercury Outboards, St. Croix Rods, Shimano, G.Loomis, PowerPro, Shoeder’s RV & Marine, Super Slayer Tackle Co., and Musky Hunter Magazine.
Other sponsors include Fittante Replicas, H3O Sunglasses, Enticer Tackle, Wild Eagle Lodge, Miller Beer of the Northwoods, Ducktail Lures, Enticer Tackle and Suick Lure Company.
For more information about the 25th anniversary NCMO or to enter, visit www.eagleriver.org/ncmot.asp or call (800) 359-6315. Entry is $50 per person before August 1, and $55 afterward. For information about the Musky Clubs Alliance of Wisconsin, visit www.muskyclubsalliance.org