Muskellunge Management: Fifty Years of Cooperation Among Anglers, Scientists, and Fisheries Biologists
Maintaining Momentum in Ohio’s Stocked Muskellunge Fisheries through an Angler-Agency Partnership [Abstract]
R. Scott Hale, Kevin S. Page, and Curtis P. Wagner
Ohio anglers and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife maintain a long-standing partnership that originated from a voluntary catch reporting system to promote and sustain high-quality Muskellunge Esox masquinongy fisheries in reservoirs. An agency initiative to restore quality Muskellunge fishing in Ohio during the 1950s followed decades of habitat degradation that reduced and constrained natural populations. 20th century construction of on-stream reservoirs for flood control provided opportunities to establish Muskellunge fisheries in selected waters with suitable habitat, abundant prey, and good angler access through put-grow-take stocking. In 1960, less than a decade after reservoir stocking began, ODNR created a voluntary catch reporting system by forming the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club. The club provided a means to recognize angler catches, monitor stocking success, and communicate with anglers through a formal angler–agency relationship. Eventually, this relationship expanded to include five Ohio chapters of Muskies, Inc. The unified partnership between these anglers and the agency has facilitated program changes that capitalized on adaptive management, scientific research, and advances in technology. Mutual appreciation of the partnership and shared interests have allowed progress to continue, facilitated by routine angler summits, club commitments to support fish production and research, dedicated agency outreach, and an online catch-reporting application, the Ohio Muskie Angler Log. Partnerships like this are essential to ensuring the future of Muskellunge fisheries maintained by annual stocking as fish and wildlife agencies continue to face challenges associated with habitat quality, declining participation in fishing, and reduced funding.