Muskellunge Management: Fifty Years of Cooperation Among Anglers, Scientists, and Fisheries Biologists
The Muskies, Inc. Lunge Log Database: 370,000 Muskellunge and Growing [Extended Abstract]
Muskies, Inc. is the largest organization in the world dedicated to the conservation of Muskellunge Esox masquinongy and the enjoyment of Muskellunge fishing. It was formed in 1966 by Gil Hamm to conserve, protect, and restore Muskellunge fisheries in North America. Since 2006, the membership of Muskies, Inc. has fluctuated between 6,000 and 7,000.
One of the most notable accomplishments of Muskies, Inc. relates to the establishment of the Lunge Log database in 1970. The Lunge Log is a standardized voluntary reporting system through which members of Muskies, Inc. register Muskellunge they catch and, by doing so, participate in an annual members-only fishing contest (MOFC).
Instead of harvesting a Muskellunge, members can opt to receive a release certificate and patch and have their released fish recorded in the Lunge Log. Lunge Log entries are used to determine the standings in the annual MOFC. Contest updates and related stories are highlighted in the official publication of Muskies, Inc., MUSKIE Magazine. Each year three anglers win replicas of their released Muskellunge provided by Muskies, Inc. and Fittante Replicas; they are the anglers who have released the longest Muskellunge in each of the three main MOFC divisions (“men’s,” “women’s,” and “youth”). The recognition provided by Muskies, Inc. and its chapters and the positive peer pressure among our members have been two essential elements leading to the major paradigm shift towards catch-and-release fishing for Muskellunge. Fisheries managers have capitalized on angler support of catch and release and have implemented management strategies and regulations to promote sustainability of Muskellunge populations.
Information from Kermit Benson’s book History of Muskies, Inc: The First Twenty-Six Years of Progress (Benson 1993) helps to put the paradigm shift in perspective. In the 1960s, Muskellunge fishing was a catch-and-kill sport, and the few Muskellunge tournaments being held were based on the weight of harvested fish. In 1967, Muskies, Inc. initiated the MOFC to help attract and retain members, and in 1968, the catch-and-release concept was promoted. In 1970, a “release” category was added to the MOFC, and that year was the first for which records were saved for the database now known as the Lunge Log.