Wisconsin’s Musky Whisperer spills his secret: Thinking like a scientist

Wisconsin’s Musky Whisperer spills his secret: Thinking like a scientist

Musky Shop August 08, 2022

by Anna Groves

DNR biologist Jordan Weeks has been living and breathing muskies for 24 years and has the catch rate to prove it. But what really sets him apart is how he does it: by thinking like a scientist.

He's even been given a classic Wisconsin nickname — "The Musky Whisperer” — a well-earned title, even if his friends give him grief for it.

As a kid, Weeks’ father used morning fishing trips as a reward for his doing well in school. One year, when the weather turned nice early in his hometown of Stoughton, he found that waiting for the May bass opener was hard to endure.

“When I was young, I couldn’t understand why the season was closed. Why can’t I go fishing if I’m just going to let it go?” Weeks recalls thinking to himself. “To be honest, I think it’s a dumb rule.”

He called the Department of Natural Resources office in Madison to ask about it.

Although he couldn't understand the rationale in their response, he waited until May to cast his first lure. But the question stuck with him all the way into his career as a DNR fisheries biologist. To this day, he says, “I like the thought of manipulating regulations to make fishing better.” 

As a senior in high school, Weeks recalls strolling past his school’s agriculture classroom and spotting the class fish tank. He enrolled in the class, and his favorite lessons soon involved feeding the fish, watching them grow, and measuring them.

By then, he had already applied to a college known for its strong natural resources programs: the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

“When I got there, I really understood why I wanted to do what I wanted to do.” He graduated with a double major in biology, and fisheries and water resources.

“He's a good friend, and a good family man, and a great guy to have working for the state,” professional musky angler Steve Heiting says of Weeks.

Heiting is managing editor of Musky Hunter magazine, for which Weeks writes, and has known Weeks for more than 15 years through the Wisconsin musky community.  

Working on his master’s thesis, also at UW-Stevens Point, Weeks radio-tagged muskellunge to learn about their movement patterns across lake chains. 

“I’ll never forget when he was doing it,” recalls Heiting, who was often out fishing while Weeks was out researching. “I would see him so many times out there in a little 14-foot boat, holding up what amounted to an old-timey television antenna. He was out there every day for months of the year trying to do that.”

The antenna picked up signals from the radio transmitters Weeks implanted in muskies and walleyes in the Manitowish Chain of Lakes in Vilas County.

Weeks discovered that after muskies spawned in specific locations, they would take off, swimming all over the lake chains. But once they arrived at their summer home range, they would stay in a smaller area.

“Everybody had presumed that fish moved from lake to lake in lake chains, but nobody had proved it. His study did, and it had implications,” Heiting says.

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