How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Friday, October 28, 2005

International Muskie Symposium

Thesea are abstracts from the 2005 International Muskie Symposium Abstracts - 10/25/2005. Courtesy of Muskies First.com

History of muskellunge management in Nebraska
Daryl Bauer

Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) were first introduced to Nebraska in 1958. By 1969 anglers were catching the first muskies from Nebraska waters. Tiger muskie culture and stocking started in Nebraska in 1983. Harvest regulations for muskie and tiger muskie were first established in 1977 with a daily bag limit of one muskie or tiger muskie of at least 30 inches in length. In 2000 the minimum length limit for muskie and tiger muskie was increased to 40 inches. Tiger muskie have been phased out in Nebraska; no tiger muskie are being produced in Nebraska hatcheries and none have been stocked in Nebraska waters since 2003. Beginning in 1998 muskie fingerlings have been held in Nebraska hatcheries until age-1 before stocking. Yearling muskies are raised on minnows and other small fish in Nebraska hatcheries and stocking success apparently is very good. Fishable populations of muskies can now be found in approximately seven Nebraska waters scattered across the state.


Muskellunge Management and Distribution Analysis in a
South East Wisconsin Urban Lake
Susan M. Beyler and Robert C. Anderson

Pewaukee Lake is a shallow 2,493-acre drainage lake in heavily populated Southeast Wisconsin. Musky management began in 1967 with the introduction of 1,200 musky fingerlings. Through 1981, average annual stocking was 1,625 fingerlings. Average annual stocking from 1982 through 1997 was 3,014 fingerlings. The Pewaukee Lake musky population was evaluated by use of fyke nets and electrofishing in spring 1998. Adult musky density was estimated at 0.52 per acre, both sexes combined. Muskellunge movement and home range size were evaluated based on 40 radio-tagged individuals over a four year period (1998-2002). Both external and internal radio transmitters were attached to muskellunge collected in fyke nets, by electroshocking, and by anglers. Average home range sizes were 43 acres for male and 85 acres for female muskellunge. Home range size and musky movement were greatest during spring and fall. Mean length of the sampled population was 33 inches for males and 37 inches for females. Random, stratified creel surveys were conducted in 1982 and 1998 to assess changes in fishing pressure and angler exploitation. Musky catch rate (per hour) dropped 43 percent and harvest rate dropped 70 percent, while directed angling effort increased 135 percent. Mean length of muskies harvested increased 46 percent, from 29.7 inches in 1982, under a 30-inch minimum length limit, to 43.5 inches in 1998, under a 34-inch size limit.


Muskellunge in MissouriA Ten-Year Strategic Plan
Mark F. Boone

In April 1995, a 10-year strategic plan for muskellunge program management in Missouri was developed by Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) fisheries staff. Our mission was to efficiently produce and manage muskellunge in order to provide high-quality angling opportunities in suitable, well-distributed impoundments throughout the state. This paper discusses some of the primary accomplishments during the past 10 years and will provide information regarding the 2005 revision of the plan.

A primary goal was to increase the number and improve the distribution of muskie fisheries in small impoundments throughout the state. At the time, our three existing muskie fisheries (Pomme de Terre, Pony Express, and Hazel Creek lakes) were in northwest and west central Missouri. From 1995 through 2001, six additional lakes, that met minimum criteria, were stocked with muskies in southeast, northeast, and central Missouri, plus the St. Louis area. Evaluation of the program occurred in 2003. We are currently managing five lakes for muskies.

A second goal was to maintain density and size structure of muskellunge populations commensurate with muskie angler expectations. Our objective was for muskie anglers to catch a muskie > 36 in 20-40 hours of angling. The Show-Me Muskie Project, a voluntary angler diary program, was initiated in 1996 to help evaluate this objective. Currently over 100 muskie anglers voluntarily keep records of their fishing results. Several other changes were made to help achieve this goal. In 1996, the statewide minimum length limit was increased from 30 to 36. Two lakes currently have a 42 minimum length limit. The plan dictated that stocked fingerlings should be at least 10 long and have been fed minnows for at least six weeks prior to stocking. From 1996-2000, fingerlings were 10-12 long. In 2001, we increased the size of stocked fingerlings to 12-14 to increase survival.

A third goal was to inform Missouri anglers about increased opportunities for high-quality muskie fishing. MDCs muskie web page was developed in 2002. Also in 2002, we developed a muskie release poster, which can be used by Muskies, Inc. and its chapters. In 2003, our muskie brochure was updated. During 2004, articles concerning Missouri muskie management and fishing were published in Outdoor Life, Musky Hunter, and Esox Angler magazines. Each year, our Show-Me Muskie Project cooperators receive two letters with a summary of their fishing success and current information on muskie management.


The New River, Virginia, Muskellunge Fishery: Population Dynamics, Harvest Regulation Modeling, and Angler Attitudes
Travis O. Brenden, Eric M. Hallerman, Brian R. Murphy, John R. Copeland, and Joseph A. Williams

Although muskellunge Esox masquinongy fisheries in northern U.S. states and Canada provinces are increasingly being managed with restrictive harvest regulations (e.g., 1,370-mm minimum length limits), southern U.S. muskellunge fisheries continue to be managed with comparatively liberal regulations (e.g., 762-mm minimum length limits). We studied the population dynamics of the New River, Virginia, muskellunge fishery and used predictive modeling to determine whether restrictive harvest regulations also might prove beneficial for a southern latitude fishery. Additionally, an access/roving creel survey on the New River was conducted to learn more about angler attitudes regarding the muskellunge fishery. New River muskellunge grew quickly, with fish reaching current harvestable lengths (762 mm) in 2 to 3 years. Muskellunge fishing pressure, harvest rates, and voluntary release rates were low compared to reports for more northern areas. Most anglers, regardless of how often they fished for muskellunge, defined trophy muskellunge to be approximately 1,050 to 1,100 mm in length. Although angler support for restrictive harvest regulations was low, abundance of memorable-length (d 1,070 mm) muskellunge was predicted to increase under all evaluated length limits. Muskellunge yield would remain fairly stable at 914 and 1,016-mm length limits because of fast growth rates, but yield would decline dramatically with a 1,143-mm size limit because male muskellunge rarely exceeded 1,100 mm. Because of fast growth and low release rates, implementation of higher length limits (e.g., 965 to 1067 mm) may indeed prove beneficial for augmenting trophy muskellunge production on the New River. Detection of size structure changes resulting from restrictive harvest regulations may be difficult because of variable recruitment and potential increases in fishing pressure, and so a long-term monitoring protocol, perhaps partially based on angler sampling, will be needed to assure that new regulations are indeed benefiting the fishery.


Movement and Habitat Use of Muskellunge in Kinkaid Lake
Ron Brooks

Kinkaid Lake is a 1112 ha, mesotrophic reservoir located in southern Illinois - the southern extremity of the muskellunge's range. Surface water temperatures can exceed 30 C during summer months. Although high numbers of quality fish (>1,016mm TL) are angled at Kinkaid, muskellunge of harvestable size (>1,219mm TL) are rare. Monitoring fish movement would provide valuable information concerning their habitat constraints and survival during warm-water periods. Our main goals for this study were to determine water temperatures and dissolved oxygen levels that the muskellunge inhabited throughout the year, monitor seasonal and diel movement, and compare our results with those reported for muskellunge in more northern latitudes. Twelve muskellunge (965mm-1,250mm TL) were surgically implanted with temperature sensitive, ultrasonic transmitters during March, 2004. Tracking by boat occurred every 3 days. Most fish were located each day, but all were located at least weekly. Temperature and dissolved oxygen profiles were taken at fish locations when the lake was stratified to determine available habitat, depth of fish, and thermal refuges. Several individuals were tracked during 24-h periods to determine diel habitat use and movement on three dates during each season. Movements of muskellunge associated with recreational boat traffic and weather conditions were documented. Musky anglers are concerned about effects of water temperature on hooking and handling stress. Attempts to catch musky during summer months failed, however transmitter fish caught by anglers during spring and fall were tracked for 24 h following capture.


The application of DNA-based genetic tools towards the conservation and management of the muskellunge. Esox masquingy.
Michael Butler and Chris Wilson

Persistent taxonomic controversies and poor resolution of stock structure have hindered the effective management and conservation of the muskellunge. In collaboration with anglers and management agencies, we used DNA sequence data from three mitochondrial genes to assess genetic relationships among native stocks across the entire species range. Populations were selected to include multiple representatives of putative species and subspecies and included common hatchery strains. Sequence divergence for all genes was very low (less than 0.1%) and few mutations were shared among populations. All of these data are consistent with the view that the named species Esox masquinongy is monotypic and that extant populations are derived from a population that survived the Wisconsinan glacial events in a single Mississippian refugium.

We are also using microsatellite DNA markers to address practical management questions in Ontario. The resultant data will enable the characterization of stock structure, management units, migration and effective population size of poorly understood wild muskellunge populations. These markers are also being used to assess potential sources for reintroducing muskellunge to Lake Simcoe, and to assess the results of a mixed-source stocking strategy for re-establishing a muskellunge in the Spanish River (Lake Huron).

Angler cooperation and participation have been key elements towards achieving these goals. In providing a few unwashed scales or small fin-clips for genetic analysis, catch-and-release oriented anglers affiliated with Muskies Inc., and Muskies Canada have been invaluable. We foresee the continued importance of muskie clubs in applying genetic tools to the management and conservation of muskellunge.


Genetic profiles of naturally occurring pike-muskellunge hybrids
Michael Butler, Hedrik Wachelka, Chris Wilson

Hybridization is a considered a major threat to a wide range of North American fishes. Within Esox, viable hybrids have been created through artificial crosses among all five species, and in areas of sympatry, presumed F1 hybrids of natural derivation have been widely documented. We utilized a suite of DNA-based molecular markers to assess hybridization between muskellunge and pike under natural conditions. We genetically profiled 60 putative natural hybrids along with representatives of parent species from Canada and the United States. The hybrid identity of each individual was confirmed or refuted by the presence or absence of species-specific microsatellite alleles and rDNA fragments. We detected in confirmed hybrids the presence of (maternally inherited) mitochondrial DNA indicating that the cross between parent species is asymmetrically bidirectional in the wild. We make additional inferences regarding the fertility of F1 hybrids. The results are discussed with reference to the conservation status of historically isolated muskellunge populations.


Best Practices for the Catch and Release of Muskellunge
Michael Butler and Paul Gasbarino

Voluntary catch and release has been widely credited with improvement in the quality of muskie fishing in North America. Among members of Muskies Inc., and Muskies Canada, release rates now exceed 98%. Compared to other high profile game fish, angling-related mortality in muskellunge remains understudied. It is realistic to suppose that under conditions of increasing angling pressure, the achievement of trophy management goals may be limited by seemingly low delayed mortality rates.
Despite the lack of empirical data for muskellunge, we feel that average survival rates may improve significantly by promoting a set of best practices informed by (1) studies of other species and (2) the expertise of fish physiologists and biomechanical engineers. We detail several effective release methods that incorporate innovative landing tools with the objective of minimizing, or eliminating, the exposure of angled fish to air.


Maintaining Muskellunge Populations and Quality Sports Fisheries: A Biological Basis for Setting Size Limits and Determining Minimum Ultimate Length or Trophy Standard - A Tribute to Dr. E.J. Crossman
John M. Casselman and Chris J. Robinson

Organized muskellunge anglers practising and promoting voluntary catch and release have been instrumental in helping to build and maintain quality muskellunge populations and associated fisheries. In addition, they have contributed substantially to the collection of biological samples, particularly cleithra, used for assessing age and growth and setting biologically based size limits associated with reproduction and growth potential (ultimate size). A system was developed for setting size limits based on minimum reproductive size (first maturity +2 yr) and the lower 99% confidence limits of ultimate sizeminimum ultimate size limit (MUSL). MUSL also provides a trophy standard and an index of growth status for comparing within and among populations. Guidelines are provided for determining minimum sample size (12) and minimum age (8.2 yr +/- 2.0 yr) required to produce valid von Bertalanffy growth trajectories. Specific details are given for males and females from 14 Ontario sources that were used to increase size limits in the mid-1980s and late 1990s, based on female growth trajectories in three broad categories (small-, medium-, and large-bodied growth potential). Muskellunge populations and fisheries are improving substantially, a direct outcome of working together and a tribute to Dr. E.J. Crossmans mentoring.


Missouris Muskie Program, Egg to Angler
Dale Cornelius

Abstract: The Missouri Department of Conservation introduced muskellunge into Missouri waters in 1966 when 51,000 small fingerlings (1.5 2.0 inches) and 1,500 large fingerlings (7.0 15.0 inches) were stocked into 7,820-acre Pomme de Terre Reservoir. The original objective of the Missouri Muskie Program was to provide anglers with a trophy fishery utilizing a predator that could prey upon large non-game fishes such as gizzard shad, carp and various sucker species and continues to be an objective today. In 1967 and 1968, 249 large fingerlings were stocked into Lake of the Ozarks. A muskie from this stocking was caught by a bass angler in 1981. This fish measured 49.5 inches, weighed 41 pounds 2 ounces and remains the current Missouri state record. From 1967 through 1975, the average stocking rate at Pomme de Terre Reservoir was one fish per 20 acres. The stocking rate increased to one fish per 5 acres from 1976 through 1982, then to one fish per three acres from 1983 through 1990. Beginning in 1995, Missouris muskie program was expanded to small lakes that met the minimum criteria for stocking muskie. Currently, Lost Valley Hatchery at Warsaw, MO conducts spawning and rearing of muskie for stocking in lakes Pomme de Terre, Hazel Creek, Fellows, Henry Sever, and Busch Conservation Area in Missouri.


Ecology of an introduced predator: muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) in the Saint John River of Maine and New Brunswick
R. Allen Curry, Chad A. Doherty, Tim Jardine, and Steven L. Currie

The muskellunge was introduced in the Saint John River system from stockings in a headwater lake in the 1970s. In the past two decades, muskies have migrated down the system establishing several populations including one at the rivers first dam (Mactaquac at Fredericton). The muskies are of concern because of their potential threat to the severely depleted Atlantic salmon stocks in the river. We radio tracked muskies over a two year period. They had home ranges up to 150 km within the reservoir and including moving upstream into riverine habitat during summer. They were less active in winter and used habitats >5m deep. Two individuals passed through the turbines or spillway at the dam. Downstream of the dam, home ranges were smaller (<20 km), including a tributary stream. Most spent 1+ months at the base of the dam with forays downstream in winter and summer. In May, all muskies downstream of the dam moved to an area of multiple, flooded islands for < 14 days and then dispersed to sites used in the previous summer. Stable isotope analyses of the fish community downstream of the dam indicated that muskies consumed prey similar to striped and smallmouth bass. Their diets appeared to be dominated by white perch and young alosids. Atlantic salmon smolts may have been consumed, but they were an insignificant component of the muskie diet. The muskie behaviour and diets are discussed in terms of their range expansion, establishment patterns, and the consequences for the native fishes of the Saint John River.


Human influences on natural spawning and reproductive success of muskellunge
James S. Diana, Ashley, Rust, and Sarah Zorn

Natural reproduction of muskellunge Esox masquinongy in northern Wisconsin is often insufficient to sustain populations in many lakes where the species is native. Presence of the congeneric northern pike E. lucius, low dissolved oxygen concentrations in spawning sediments, and human development are all suspected as contributing to the decline in natural reproduction of muskellunge. The purpose of this study was to further describe muskellunge spawning habitat and determine physical, chemical, biological, and land use characteristics that can be used to distinguish self-sustaining muskellunge lakes from lakes where stocking is required to maintain populations.

Spawning habitats in good reproductive lakes had softer sediments, with more organic nitrogen content, and occurred in lakes with few shoreline alterations. A multiple regression model for this relationship relating development to organic nitrogen content of spawning sediments included deadfall trees per kilometer and percent shore totally developed (adjusted R2 = 0.60, p < 0.01). The type of human development on the shoreline, was also correlated with fitness of spawning habitats. Direction of water level change during the spawning period, percent of woody debris on the spawning habitat sediment, number of deadfall trees per kilometer of shore, and percent of shore that was totally developed were the most important variables used in classifying the level of muskellunge reproduction a lake could support. The model developed in this study correctly classified 75% of good reproductive and 89% of poor reproductive lakes. If lake managers wish to use muskellunge stocking programs to re-establish self-sustaining populations, they should critically review each candidate lake by considering the Dombeck et al. (1986) model and the model derived in this study.


A Conceptual Model of Muskellunge Spawning Habitat in Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada
B. Farmer, P. Chow-Fraser, and T. Seilheimer

Georgian Bay in Lake Huron, Canada, has a potential to produce a trophy-status muskellunge fishery; however, some evidence suggests that the population is in decline, especially in areas impacted by recreational development. To assist research and management, we developed a conceptual model to predict spawning habitat of muskellunge, using meta-analysis of available peer-reviewed and technical literature. The model incorporates three primary variables: water temperature (7.5-15oC), dissolved oxygen (> 5 mg/L) at the sediment-water interface, and adequate separation of individual eggs after deposition. The model also assumes that muskellunge spawning occurs in wetlands because of their known association with aquatic vegetation. Secondary variables influencing primary conditions include (1) depth, current and substrate colour (assumed to have an effect on temperature); (2) current, sediment oxygen demand, sediment compactness and plant density (assumed to have an effect on dissolved oxygen concentrations); and (3) particle size and plant density (assumed to have an effect on egg separation). Field data will be used to validate the model and to help clarify the relative importance of each variable, and thus allow for refinement of the model.


Development, Implementation, and Evaluation of an International Muskellunge Management Strategy for the Upper St. Lawrence River
John M. Farrell Rodger M. Klindt, Steven R. LaPan, Albert Schiavone and John M. Casselman

The muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) fishery in the St. Lawrence River declined significantly from historical levels and reached critically low levels during the mid 1970s through the 1980s. Over exploitation caused by liberal angling regulations, and loss and alteration of critical spawning and nursery habitat likely contributed to this decline. In 1980, a St. Lawrence River Muskellunge Management Work Group, composed of resource managers and advisors including E. J. Crossman, to whom this symposium is dedicated, was created to address research and management needs. A trophy muskellunge management strategy was implemented including more restrictive harvest regulations, public education promoting catch and release, and protection of spawning and nursery habitats. Age and growth information obtained from cleithra analysis indicated the need for increased size limits to adequately protect spawning stocks. Research efforts have developed a biological information base and monitoring tools to guide management decisions and evaluate responses to these actions. Nearly 100 spawning and nursery locations have been identified in US and Canadian waters leading to improved protection of critical habitats. An angler diary program shows a decline in the number of fish being harvested and a local muskellunge release award program has logged over 500 releases of fish at least 44 since 1987. Adult muskellunge monitoring in twelve spawning areas indicates an increase in mean total length of nearly three inches following regulation changes. Monitoring of age-0 muskellunge catch-per-effort with seining surveys (1983-84, 1987-2004) indicates improved reproductive success with several apparent strong year-classes. Progressive management actions, a united community response, and possible links with recent declines in northern pike are attributed to the improvements in the muskellunge population and fishery.


The Green Bay Great Lakes Strain Muskellunge Reintroduction Program
Kevin L. Kapuscinski

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources started a three phase program in 1989 to reintroduce Great Lakes strain muskellunge to Green Bay, Lake Michigan, and its tributaries. Phase one of the program, to locate an egg source, obtain gametes, and successfully hatch, rear, and release muskellunge, has been completed. The Indian River Spreads, Michigan, was recognized as a potential source of gametes, and eyed-eggs were imported to the Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery during 1989-1993. More than 13,000 muskellunge fingerlings and yearlings were released into the lower Fox and Menominee rivers and Green Bay during 1989-1994. Phase two of the program, to develop a captive broodstock in Wisconsin that allows continued propagation, has also been completed. A captive broodstock was established at Long Lake, Waushara county, and gametes were taken from this broodstock population during 1995-2004. More than 73,000 fingerlings and yearlings were released into Fox, Peshtigo, and Menominee rivers, Sturgeon, Little Sturgeon, and Green bays, and the Winnebago system during 1995-2003. Phase three of the program, to establish a self-sustaining population in Green Bay, is still underway. More than 50 adult muskellunge in spawning condition were netted in the Fox River during 2004, and viable gametes were collected for propagation. Congregations of mature fish with viable reproductive products during the spring suggests that hatchery-reared muskellunge are spawning in the wild. However, we have not documented successful natural reproduction. Future program directions include: obtaining gametes from additional broodstock sources, continuing to release hatchery-reared muskellunge to increase population density, evaluating release locations and selecting locations that have the greatest potential to support natural reproduction, attempting to document spawning, evaluating spawning success and attempting to document recruitment of wild-born muskellunge to the adult population, and monitoring recruitment until self-sustainable levels are achieved.


Characteristics of Ontario Muskellunge Fisheries Based on Volunteer Angler Diary Information
Steven J. Kerr

This paper consolidates and summarizes information on Ontario muskellunge sport fisheries derived from angler diary programs sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) and Muskies Canada Inc. (MCI) over the past fifty years. Interest in muskellunge as a sport fish has increased substantially over the past 15-20 years. Muskellunge catches were found to be highly correlated with angling effort. Catch rates, expressed in terms of catch-per-unit-of-effort (CUE), have improved over the past decade to the point where, in 2003, the provincial CUE was 0.092. This improvement in angling quality is attributed to new minimum size limit regulations and increased catch-and-release angling practices. Over the period from 1979-2003, release rates by muskellunge anglers averaged 98%. Based on a sample size of 8,448 fish, the mean size of angled muskellunge over the past 25 years was 36.9 inches (93.7 cm). Numerous fish exceeding 50 inches (127 cm) are angled from Ontario waters each year. The incidence of lymphosarcoma, a highly contagious, malignant blood cancer, has averaged 2% since 1979. Based on an analysis of this information, Ontarios muskellunge fisheries appear to be stable and sustainable. Volunteer angler diary programs provide an accurate and cost-effective means to monitor the status of muskellunge fisheries in Ontario.


Spawning and Post-Spawning Movements of the St. Lawrence River
Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy)
Steven R. LaPan, Albert Schiavone, Rodger Klindt Robert G. Werner and John M. Farrell

Radiotelemetry tracking and long-term tagging studies revealed strong reproductive homing of muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) in the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River. Radiolocation also was useful in the identification of critical spawning and nursery habitats. From 1984 to 1989, 47 adult muskellunge were radio-tagged during the spawning season at 22 sites. Radio-tagged fish were located at least once daily during the spawning period. Capture sites of adult muskellunge and areas frequented by tagged muskellunge during the spawning period were subsequently seined to document the presence or absence of young-of-the-year (YOY) muskellunge. YOY muskellunge were collected at 13 of the 22 adult capture sites and also at an additional 14 sites frequented by radio-tagged adults. Post-spawning muskellunge generally migrated upstream to Lake Ontario, remained in the vicinity of their respective spawning site, or moved into deep water where they could not be located. Radio transmitters that functioned into the following spawning season revealed a high degree of reproductive homing. Strong muskellunge spawning site fidelity was also observed in tagging and recaptures during spring trapnetting surveys. Of 184 muskellunge tagged from 1990 to 2003 at twelve sites separated by over 35 km, 33/34(97%) were recaptured at the original tagging location. The one exception was a male muskellunge caught in an adjacent bay five years after the original tagging. Reproductive homing has important implications for management of muskellunge and their habitats.


Biological characteristics of record class muskellunge populations in
Georgian Bay and the North Channel, Lake Huron
A.P. Liskauskas

The nearshore waters of eastern Georgian Bay and the North Channel of Lake Huron comprise a vast area of diverse aquatic habitat supporting numerous muskellunge populations. Since 1996 muskellunge spawning surveys using live-capture trapnets have been conducted at eight locations distributed throughout the area. Captured fish were biologically sampled and tagged to assist in establishing home ranges and recapture rates in the recreational fishery. More than 500 adult muskellunge were captured during these surveys and several dozen potential spawning locations were identified. Ripe females were captured over a wide range of temperatures (8-22C) and over a prolonged time frame (4-6 weeks). The average size of muskellunge did not vary significantly between sites with females averaging 1174 mm (46.2 in) and males averaging 998 mm (39.3 in) in total length. The relative abundance of muskellunge varied across sampling sites, ranging from 0.11 to 1.53 fish per trapnet night. The recovery of tagged fish in subsequent years provided evidence for homing to specific spawning areas and of pair bonding. The results from these surveys have already proved beneficial in providing justification for the implementation of a record class designation for these waters (minimum size limit of 137 cm (54 inches)). In addition, the identification of sensitive spawning areas and acquisition of genetic material for establishment of population diversity, should contribute to the sustainable management of this important aquatic resource.


Diseases in Muskellunge
Susan Marcquenski

A review of diseases affecting muskellunge will be presented, including lymphosarcoma, piscirickettsiosis, handling trauma, and escocid herpesvirus 1 (blue spot). A CD of the presentation will be made available upon request, after the symposium.


Effects of a Single-hook Live Bait Angling Technique on Muskellunge Survival
Terry L. Margenau

Use of live bait is a popular method to fish muskellunge during fall months. However, muskellunge anglers have expressed concern that certain live bait techniques may cause muskellunge mortality to be unacceptably high. This study monitored the survival of adult muskellunge (31.5 to 42.3 in) for a period up to one year after being angled using a single-hook live bait rig where muskellunge were allowed to swallow the bait prior to hook set. Over a two-year period a total of 40 muskellunge (20 fish/year) were field transferred into a 1-acre lined hatchery pond in early September. After allowing muskellunge several weeks to acclimate to the hatchery pond, angling was initiated using live suckers (approximately 12 in) with a 10/0 single hook attached to the suckers snout and suspended from a bobber. A total of 22 muskellunge were hooked with the single-hook rig. Hooked fish were landed as quickly as possible, inspected for hooking location and injury, and released after cutting the leader. Average time from a strike until hook set averaged 17 minutes. Play-time (hook set to landing) averaged less than one minute, and handling time averaged approximately 5 minutes. Immediate mortality (first 24 h after hooking) of muskellunge was zero. Short-term delayed mortality (24 h until ice formation; approximately 45 d) was 22%. Cumulative mortality (hooking until one year) was 83%. Results from this study have several implications for management agencies and anglers. First, all fish hooked appeared healthy after being caught and released, thus leading an angler to believe that the release was successful. Second, delayed and long-term mortality appeared related to the extent of internal damage suffered from the hook. Finally, while mortality to one year is unacceptable for fisheries that rely upon successful release, not all fish perished. Those fish surviving to one year maintained good relative weight values and appeared externally healthy.


Biological Characteristics of a Riverine Muskellunge Population
Scott Morrison, Christopher O'Bara, and Joel Harrison

Abstract-- Muskellunge Esox masquinongy ohioensis examined to determine movement patterns and habitat preferences in Middle Island Creek, a stream in West Central West Virginia. Since 2002, over 120 muskellunge were collected with pDC- boatmounted electrofishing equipment. Individual fish were measured and inserted with PIT tags prior to release. Release locations were noted with GPS and later included into a GIS based system. Approximately 40 fish have been recaptured during subsequent electrofishing-based surveys and via anglers. Recaptured locations were noted with GPS, included in a GIS based system, and compared with initial capture locations. Movement distances varied both between sexed and size of fish. Growth patterns were also dependent on sex and to some degrees location and year of capture.


The use of angler diary surveys to evaluate long-term changes in muskie populations on Lake of the Woods, Ontario
Tom Mosindy and Mark Duffy

Reported improvements in the muskie angling fishery on Lake of the Woods, Ontario over the last two decades have paralleled a decline in commercial fishing activity, an increase in the practice of catch and release angling, and an increase in minimum size regulations for this species. The overall status of muskie populations in this large, complex lake has proven difficult to monitor using standard assessment methods. A muskie angler diary program, established in 1988, has provided a cost effective method of gathering a large amount of information with which to track this fishery and associated populations. Besides traditional parametres such as catch per unit effort, angler diary data have been used to calculate catch equality indices which are sensitive to changes in population abundance. Increases in the minimum length regulation during 1987 - 2001 have yet to produce more quality sized fish in angler catches, although diary survey data would indicate that recruitment has increased. Muskie angler diaries have also proven useful in identifying changes in northern pike populations which have responded to many of the same factors as muskie on Lake of the Woods.


Quantification of native muskellunge nursery habitat in the upper St. Lawrence River: influences of fish community and habitat structure on occurrence, abundance, and production
Brent A. Murry and John M. Farrell

We quantified the physical habitat and fish communities associated with muskellunge nursery habitats to determine the factors that contribute to young of the year success. Twelve historic muskellunge spawning embayments were sampled each July and August over a three year period (2002-2004) using standard seining techniques. Habitat variables including water depth and temperature, vegetation diversity, density, and structure, substrate type, and physical attributes of each bay including exposure, distance to the river channel, and percent area less than and greater than 1.5m were measured in each study site. Additionally, all fish captured in seine hauls were identified, enumerated, and a subsample of each species was measured for total length. Data from fish collections were synthesized into relative community densities in terms of species abundance and overall size structure. All habitat and fish community parameters were used in step-wise multiple regression and discriminant analysis models to determine the factors that contribute to young of the year muskellunge presence/absence, abundance, and production (P/B). During the three year study we completed over 550 seine hauls and captured 467 young of the year muskellunge. Muskellunge nursery habitat was dominated by cyprinids, yellow perch, and sunfish. Preliminary models indicate that muskellunge presence/absence is best predicted by physical attributes, such as depth and coverage of submerged macrophytes, while abundance shows stronger relationships to fish community parameters.


Considerations in muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) introductions:, A management dilemma?
John E. Nelson, Timothy D. Simonson, and Terry L. Margenau

The increasing popularity of muskellunge fishing has led to a desire by anglers and fisheries managers to expand the range of muskellunge. Often the expansions are proposed close to population centers well outside the original range of the species. Several biological and social considerations are appropriate in deciding if and where the introductions are to take place. In Wisconsin, an Environmental Assessment (EA) must be prepared for initial introductions. The EA then receives public review, with approval dependent on the results of that review. Factors considered in the review include the impact of the introduction on the existing fish community, the availability of forage, the cost of long term management (stocking), the likelihood of successful development of a fishable population of muskellunge, the social acceptance of a muskellunge fishery and the ethical consideration of range expansion. A review of the original and current range of muskellunge will be presented.


Expulsion of Miniature Radio Transmitters along with Eggs of Northern Pike and Muskellunge A New Method for Locating Critical Spawning Habitat
Rodney B. Pierce, Jerry A. Younk, and Cynthia M. Tomcko

Natural shorelines and their associated watersheds are under increasing pressure from human development that has caused degradation of fish habitat. Identification and protection of critical spawning habitat for northern pike Esox lucius and muskellunge Esox masquinongy is important for conserving the reproductive potential of both species. In this study, we implanted miniature radio transmitters through the oviduct into the egg masses of female northern pike and muskellunge just prior to spawning. This non-surgical procedure is a novel approach for identifying spawning sites if transmitters are expelled with the eggs during egg deposition. Spawning sites can then be located by finding the shed transmitters.

Preliminary studies in three lakes showed that northern pike and muskellunge deposited transmitters in likely spawning habitat. A relatively high proportion (70%) of large northern pike expelled transmitters in a previously known spawning area in Willow Lake, Minnesota. Shoreline in that area consists primarily of sedges, and water off that shoreline is shallow with substrate consisting of large mats of water bulrush. A lower proportion (50%) of muskellunge expelled transmitters in Elk Lake, Minnesota. The 15-25 day period between implanting and transmitter deposition in Elk Lake may be due to prolonged fractional spawning by muskellunge. In Moose Lake, Minnesota, 90% of northern pike and 60% of muskellunge expelled transmitters. Both species deposited transmitters on deep-water bars in addition to near-shore habitat, and Chara beds were an important substrate where transmitters were expelled in Moose Lake. Size of the transmitters in relation to fish size was an important factor influencing expulsion of transmitters.


Factors Affecting Historical Year-Class Strengths of Trophy Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) Populations
Chris J. Robinson and John M. Casselman

The longevity, relative rarity, and consequent perceived value of muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) have made the assessment of population characteristics through traditional fisheries methods difficult for this species. Using a subset of 1351 angler-contributed samples (mean age 10.6 years) collected by the Cleithrum Project since 1978, we are now able to quantitatively examine historical year-class strengths for 15 muskellunge populations, with emphasis on four populations in Ontario. Cleithra were interpreted for age, and proportional year-class strengths calculated for each population to account for multiple, sporadic, years of capture. Temperature, water level, size-limit changes, and the presence of northern pike were examined for correlations with year-class strength. Year-class strength histories had varying correlations with summer (Lake St. Clair: p=0.009, r2=0.36; all Ontario populations: p=0.044, r2=0.13) or spring (Kawartha lakes populations: p=0.044, r2=0.15) temperatures in the first year of life, but no significant relationships were observed with the other factors. In one instance, populations from water bodies of similar characteristics had strongly similar year-class histories (Eagle Lake and Lake of the Woods, Ontario; p=0.0016, r2=0.546). The 11 Wisconsin muskellunge populations, which only had summer air temperature examined, had p-values ranging from 0.014 (Buckatabon Lake) to 0.814 (Lac Vieux Desert). We discuss the implications of these results for future muskellunge management.


Historical Trends in Body Growth of Five Ontario Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) Populations
Chris J. Robinson and John M. Casselman

Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) management in Ontario has primarily focused on harvest control through minimum size limits, requiring information on the growth potential, responses, and variability of populations. We examined historical muskellunge body growth trends, as recorded in the cleithrum bone, from five muskellunge populations, including two populations with extended data sets (overall n=456). Two measures were digitally collected - an index of annual growth and cleithrum size at age eight - and linearly regressed against log-transformed mean daily summer temperatures. There were no significant correlations between temperature and annual growth (p=0.120 to 0.762). However, cleithrum size at age eight increased significantly over time (Lake St. Clair p=0.026; St. Lawrence River p<0.0001); mean temperature and growth over eight-year periods had a significant but weak relationship in the St. Lawrence River population (p=0.020; r2=0.055). Analysis of a significant difference (p=0.004) in growth amongst five-year year-class groupings of the St. Lawrence River population showed muskellunge produced from 1975 to 1989 were 9.3% larger than those produced from 1940 to 1959. Temperature has had a significant but relatively minor direct effect on growth of muskellunge, and factors such as prey composition, behavioral thermoregulation, and handling may have overridden or compensated for temperature effects.


Development of Muskellunge Fisheries in Lakes Monona and Wingra, Wisconsin.
R. Scot Stewart, Kurt Welke, and Mike Vogelsang

When dreaming of muskellunge and the lakes they inhabit, most anglers do not picture urban settings. However, in densely populated Madison, WI, Lakes Monona and Wingra have progressed to regionally renowned fisheries characterized by excellent densities of robust fish. These populations developed due to a unique combination of aggressive stocking involving the state and the public, restrictive size limits, and a rotation of sampling to periodically quantify the populations. Annual stocking of both hybrid and true muskellunge began as early as the mid-70s, with a shift to predominantly true muskie in the early 90s. A stocking rate of 2 fish per acre annually led to a population of approximately 4 fish per acre by 1997, in Lake Wingra. The stocking rate was reduced in subsequent years and an updated population estimate for muskie in the lake will be complete in the spring of 2005. In Lake Monona, an average stocking rate of 0.6 fish per acre annually resulted in a population of 0.49 fish per acre. The Capital City Chapter of Muskie Inc. and the Oregon Muskie Busters have made substantial financial contributions to supplement state stocking. In 2004, the minimum size limit on both lakes was raised from the statewide 34 limit to a 45 limit. We plan to use our future sampling rotation to evaluate not only muskie density and size structure, but also to continue to fine tune stocking rates and watch for possible impacts on other fish populations.


Analysis of 40 Years of Lake St. Clair Muskie Fishing Records
Michael V. Thomas and Robert Haas

The Michigan-Ontario Muskie Club (MOMC) has been the major organization representing muskie anglers in the Lake St. Clair area since the 1950s. Among other activities, the club sponsored derbies or tournaments each year. Through the years, catch records were diligently maintained by club officers. These records present a historical documentation of trends in the muskie population and muskie fishery of Lake St. Clair over more than 4 decades. In this paper, we analyze MOMC catch records for trends in the context of changes in the ecology of the lake and fishing regulations. With permission from the club, we conducted a time series analysis of: 1. the single heaviest fish entered in all club events within each year 2. the ten heaviest fish entered in all club events within each year and 3. the top 250 heaviest fish entered in all club events across the time series. Our analysis revealed a consistent pattern of heavier fish in the catch since 1990. This coincides with significant ecological and regulatory changes during the 1980s. Additionally, voluntary catch and release of muskie became widely practiced by Lake St. Clair muskie anglers during the 1980s. We submit that the MOMC catch records provide valuable insight into the response of the Lake St. Clair muskie population to ecological and regulatory changes. We encourage other fishing clubs and organizations to carefully record their catches. Similarly, we suggest that resource management agencies can glean useful data from well-maintained catch records of fishing groups when they are available.


Evaluation of Differences in Growth, Survival, and Thermal Selection among Genetic Stocks of Muskellunge
Curtis P. Wagner and David H. Wahl

Genetic differences among muskellunge Esox masquinongy populations are related to major river drainage origins, suggesting the existence of divergent stocks. Previous research has compared the bioenergetics of young-of-year (YOY) muskellunge among populations and stocks in the laboratory. We examined differences in growth, survival, and thermal selection among populations and stocks of muskellunge in reservoir and pond experiments spanning a latitudinal gradient representing the variation in thermal regimes found throughout Illinois. Muskellunge from the Ohio River drainage stock (New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky populations) and Upper Mississippi River drainage stock (Minnesota and Wisconsin populations), in addition to the current Illinois broodstock population, were used for comparisons. Growth of YOY and juvenile muskellunge in three Illinois reservoirs were similar among stocks, with muskellunge from the Ohio River drainage stock having slightly higher survival rates. Experiments in ponds found that muskellunge from the Ohio River drainage exhibited faster growth rates than muskellunge from the Upper Mississippi River drainage. Radio telemetry conducted in a southern Illinois reservoir revealed that age-2 muskellunge from the Upper Mississippi River drainage stock consistently choose cooler water temperatures than fish from the Ohio River drainage stock. Our experiments support the hypothesis that physiological differences exist among populations and stocks of muskellunge and these differences have management implications for introductions of muskellunge into lower Midwestern reservoirs.


Muskellunge movement in the Manitowish Chain, Vilas County, Wisconsin
Jordan G. Weeks, Michael J. Hansen and Patrick J. Schmalz

We quantified movement and spawning site fidelity of muskellunge in the Manitowish Chain of 10 interconnected lakes in Vilas County Wisconsin. We marked 314 muskellunge (16-60 fish per lake) with T-bar anchor tags and tabulated tag returns from catches in electrofishing, trap-netting, angler returns and creel surveys. During the first summer after spawning in spring 2004, 3.47% of tagged muskellunge were recovered (0.0-10.5% per lake). Over all lakes, 51.7% of muskellunge (0.0-1.0% per lake) were recovered in the same lake in which they were tagged. We will quantify spawning site fidelity through spring of 2005 and seasonal movement and home range through summer of 2005. Our findings will be used to determine if spearing and angling fisheries should be managed for individual lakes or for the entire set of interconnected lakes within the chain.


An Examination of Minnesotas Muskellunge Waters
Jerry A. Younk and Donald L. Pereira

We examined Minnesotas muskellunge Esox masquinongy waters using various data sets including spring trap net assessments, angler diary surveys, and stocking records. We confronted a potentially problematic data set that had a large number of zero catches by applying the delta distribution, and fitted logistic models to the presence/absence data set and gaussian linear models to the subset of the data that included catches with one fish or more. Currently, 107 lakes have been identified as muskellunge waters, of which 63 lakes have been created and maintained by stocking. Anglers averaged more muskellunge specific angling trips in 1996-98 than in 1986-89. Minimum size regulations have progressively increased over the past 10 years, while stocking numbers have been decreasing. It appears from trap net analysis that the abundance of 40 inch and larger muskellunge has been increasing over time. The proportion of successful anglers has increased over time, but catch rates remained the same. Both trap net and angler data provide some indications that size of muskellunge caught has also increased over time. Angler-caught muskellunge averaged 11 years of age and 45.1 inches total length. All evidence, although limited by inconsistent data sampling sets, appears to indicate a successful management program.

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