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WRMA debunks another muskie: Cal Johnson's

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Not that the muskie world ever needs agitating, but the World Record Muskie Alliance is stirring the pot again, releasing a major study this week debunking the record muskie claim of the late Cal Johnson.


The WRMA, which did a solid job refuting the legitimacy of Louie Spray's muskie, now takes on the world-record muskie recognized by the International Game Fish Association. Johnson reported catching the disputed muskie on July 24, 1949 from Lac Court Oreilles in northern Wisconsin. It supposedly measured 60 1/4 inches and weighed 67 pounds, 8 ounces.

The IGFA is the keeper of world records for fishing. Over the years, the IGFA has shown a willingness to examine and reexamine their records and admit mistakes, unlike another keeper of fishing records.

I'm still wading through this report, but it looks like another well-put together case by the WRMA.

This profoundly bothers me. It's one thing to tell a fish story, quite another to stretch a fish tale out into an official record. That's shameful, for the fisherman, for the body or group keeping records and for the general fishing world.

It isn't right and should not be accepted by thinking fishermen any where.

Here is the summary portion and what the WRMA recommends to the IGFA:

WRMA Johnson Summary

From the expert calculations made by DCM Technical Services, it is evident that all of the photographs commonly said to depict Mr. Johnson's IGFA All Tackle World Record muskellunge did not belong to a living fish measuring 60 ¼" in length. In fact, all the known photographs have been scientifically proven by DCM Technical to belong to a muskellunge with an upper jaw to end of tail length of only 53.2".

Another highly credentialed expert firm in the field of photogrammetry, Forensic Imaging, graciously provided a pro bono peer-review that ensures that DCM rigidly adhered to the highest professional standards in photogrammetry. With an overall maximum possible length of 54" (when lower jaw measurement is utilized), the fish in the photographs remains well short of the 60 ¼" set forth in the affidavits.

It has been visually and mathematically shown in the G/L% section that the photograph of Mr. Johnson's muskellunge does not represent a fish possessing a 33.5" girth. Separate scrutiny was applied in the visualization experiment that yielded similar results in both length and girth. Even the time honored 800 formula for calculating weight supports these findings and revealed a 25.185% discrepancy from the recorded weight/dimensions set forth on the affidavits themselves.

A peer-reviewed report conclusively proved that the skin mount of Mr. Johnson's
muskellunge is considerably longer than the fresh fish in the photographs said to be the same fish. Further, Douglas Taxidermy, a well recognized expert in his field has attested to a very real possibility that an approximate 50" fresh muskellunge could be made into an approximate 60" mounted mock replica.

There are only two rational conclusions that can be drawn regarding the mount of Mr. Johnson's muskellunge that is still in existence. Either the photographs and mount are two separate fish, or the overall dimensions were enhanced during the taxidermy process to create a mock replica that would coincide with the predetermined dimensions.

Considering the WRMA research provided runs so blatantly counter to the claims made on the affidavits, the affidavits alone cannot provide the type of tangible proof required for any form of legitimate record recognition.

Moving forward

It is of considerable relevance that The Field & Stream contest only recognized the 1st place finisher at the end of 1949 as their champion. In other words, even though the record was broken multiple times during that year, less scrutiny was afforded this lower contest entry due to it not being their official 1949 contest winner. Therefore, the IGFA is the only governing body to sanction Mr. Johnson's muskellunge as an official all tackle world record - and then nearly 50 years following its capture.

The inconsistent board and gunnysack method used by Mr. Johnson and his son coupled with no supporting documentation attesting to the accuracy of the scales leaves considerable doubt regarding the weight claimed on the affidavits.

It is clear that for record keepers, scientific analysis must trump eyewitness testimony whenever the two stand in such opposition. This is not to say that eyewitness testimony lacks value. However, just as in courtrooms of today, it is necessary to recognize that eyewitness testimony has fallen to a position of secondary importance relative to hard scientific fact.

We applaud the IGFA for addressing the difficult reality that today's standards must require a legitimate photograph be submitted to quantify a record. Clearly the IGFA has determined that eyewitness testimony can be inherently problematic and sought proactively to address this issue, as in the case of Mr. Arthur Lawton. We believe that the burden of establishing adequate proof for any angling record to be set aside, retired, or disqualified must fall squarely on the shoulders of the evidence presented. We feel that this burden of proof has been clearly met by the contents of this report.

It is obvious the WRMA has purposefully presented a variety of possible directives the IGFA may elect to pursue; it is also just as obvious which directive the WRMA feels is the correct one. We feel strongly that embracing the truth regarding Mr. Johnson's muskellunge will eventually add to the overall credibility of our beloved sport, and it is in this spirit we humbly submit our findings. North America's fast growing muskellunge community now looks toward the IGFA to establish a legitimate world record so the healing process can begin.

In closing, the preponderance of scientific and circumstantial evidence we have presented all point to the fresh fish photographs said to represent the IGFA All Tackle World Record belonged to a muskellunge well short of 67 lbs. 8 oz. The ramifications of this record lacking photographic proof, trustworthy dimensions, or acceptable scale or weighin method is incredibly damaging to the validity of a 67 lb. 8 oz. muskellunge having ever existed in the flesh.

It is therefore our recommendation that Mr. Johnson's records be promptly removed from record status.

Rich Delaney, President WRMA
Jerry Newman, founder WRMA
George Will, chief researcher WRMA

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WOW, I wish I had this kind of time on my hands. Now I know why I don't care about any form of competition fishing or record keeping of fish. Kind of takes the fun out of catching fish to know that there are people out there waiting to shoot you down and doubt everything you say.

Maybe these guys should use their resources (time, money) on something that will actually HELP musky fishing, like habitat improvement/improving water quality for example rather than debunking a record nobody has heard about or cares about.

You guys have got to be kidding? Seems like the classic "attack the messenger" because we don't like the message theme. That report is rocksolid. The WRMa should be commended for finding the truth.

It has nothing to do with taking the fun out of fishing, unless you're in the habit of not telling the truth. The WI state fish is the musky, and it does not belong in Hayward anymore!

Seems like Ken and 42 are using the old "kill the messenger" ploy... speaks volumes about what they think of the the contents of the report.

Myth, lore and legend are wonderful things, let's try not confuse them with the verifiable truth here. Simply stated, Cal Johnson lied about the size of this fish and it no longer deserves to be the record.

Nice job Dale!

As a former Chicagoan myself and the musky historian who has recently released the newly discovered photo of Cal Johnson's world record musky which clearly shows his fish to indeed be a 60" class fish, I was quite disappointed to see this newspaper wrongfully taint the angling accomplishment & character of one of their own, Cal Johnson, who also happened to be a fellow Chicagoan who wrote for the Chicago Sun Times' "sister publication", the Chicago Daily News, during the 1930s. A number of errors in the WRMA report now prove to invalidate its conclusion that Johnson's fish couldn't have been as big as claimed. Not only were the image exhibits they used of poor quality, or portrayed odd and inconsistent views, or had key endpoints hidden from view, but their primary base calculation that was used as a "known" proved to be in serious error. The report contained many other false statements; for instance, there is actaully good written documentation showing that Field & Stream truly did subject the Johnson musky to its full measure of scrutiny afforded to a world record entry. This fish is exceptionally well documented in every possible way with not the slightest shread of hard evidence against it. I would hope this newspaper would print a retraction of this story in the light of this new information supporting Johnson's record catch.

As a rule, I do not respond to absurd posts, but this deserves a quick one. Whether Cal Johnson was a Chicagoan or a former newspaperman has zero bearing on the story.

It is surely sad that Larry Ramsell has allowed his personal bias against the Cal Johnson family to cause him to abandon the tenants of competent research into the historic Musky catches of the past and influence fringe organizations like the WRMA to embrace his vendetta. Larry's actions have the potential to bring into question all of his print publications on Musky lore given his demonstrated bias. As an example consider:
Cal Johnson died in 1953 at the age of 62, however in Larry's recent 2007 publication concerning the Malo fish he stated:

"Cal Johnson, a former world record holder, popular outdoor writer for Sports Afield magazine, and Hayward resident, was a big promoter for Hayward and was outspoken against Malo's fish."
The Malo fish was caught on 6/6/54. Since Cal was dead at the time, it was impossible for him to make the statement Larry attributes to him...worse yet, Larry was aware of that before his 2007 publication.

The newly released photo of the Cal Johnson World Record catch will hopefully put this silliness to bed so that serious Musky anglers can concentrate on what will make them a better Musky angler.

Having used PhotoModler, the photogrpahy services measurements are indeed accurate. Using other models of a known length and pushing them into the camera, then measuring them, you can indeed make things look much bigger, sometimes by 6 to 7 inches. The larger question is not the photos, the proof is in the witnesses who are no longer with us.

Mr. Detloff is on record in the Saweyer County Record stating that Johnson was a "pioneer of conservations and envirnommentalism', which is a completely in accurate statement. So incorrect statements are equal on both parties.

Musky fishing needs something more than all of this.

Malice and Strife. Larry Ramsell was a very good man. Not a great man, but a good man. The WRMA has their moments. Whether we are talking about any of the World Record muskies that were caught during that time period, either accept them all, or accept none. In the year 2010, there are people today claiming they caught a *NEW* World Record, yet never has the proper documentation. Do they have record line-class catches? Maybe. Maybe not.

Do you know where the real world record musky is sitting, waiting, growing today? Go to Georgian Bay. Don't bitch. Go catch the World Record. Until then, the WRMA will never be satisfied. Also, bring a hundred people with you to verify and the proper IGFA scale. Do this, end it, and move on. Also, there is more than one big musky in Georgian Bay that can break any world record.

It only takes one cast for a World Record.

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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on November 29, 2009 8:50 PM.

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