Muskellunge Management: Fifty Years of Cooperation Among Anglers, Scientists, and Fisheries Biologists
Characteristics of the Muskellunge Fishery in the St. Lawrence River, Québec, Based on Angler Diaries [Abstract]
Philippe Brodeur, Rémi Bacon, and Daniel Hatin
Muskellunge Esox masquinongy declined during the first half of the 20th century in the Québec portion of the St. Lawrence River. Muskellunge stocking was conducted from 1950 to 1997 in order to support the recreational fishery. This study aimed to monitor the Muskellunge fishery using angler diaries. Fishing effort and success, as well as fish length and sex, were noted from 2010 to 2013 in five sectors of the St. Lawrence River. A total of 2,619 individuals were captured with an angling effort of 12,503 rod-hours. Angling success varied from 0.17 and 0.30 Muskellunge/rod-hour, depending on sector. Based on historical data, size of angled fish increased over the past century. The proportion of catch larger than 44 in increased from 19% in 1918–1927 to 53% in 2010–2013. However, the proportion of catch smaller than 35 in (88.9 cm) was low in the downstream sectors of the river, suggesting recruitment failure in recent years. The status of Muskellunge stocks appears healthy in the upstream sectors of the St. Lawrence River but remains fragile downstream. In the context of large-scale habitat losses observed during the past decade, studies are needed to measure genetic structure of populations and to identify, restore, and protect critical spawning, nursery, and growth habitats. Angler diaries have proven to be an effective management tool that should be maintained or expanded in the future.