Muskellunge Management: Fifty Years of Cooperation Among Anglers, Scientists, and Fisheries Biologists

Evaluating Spawning Habitat and Natural Recruitment of Muskellunge in Green Bay, Lake Michigan

Kyle D. Battige, James S. Diana, and David C. Rowe


Abstract.—The identification, protection, and restoration of spawning habitat for Muskellunge Esox masquinongy in Green Bay, Lake Michigan are vital steps for re-establishing a self-sustaining population. This study was designed to locate spawning areas, document and model spawning habitat preferences, assess natural recruitment, and determine if suitable habitat was found throughout Green Bay (Fox River, lower Green Bay, Menominee River, and Little Sturgeon Bay). Radio transmitters were inserted into the oviduct of mature female Muskellunge prior to spawning and expelled transmitters were later located using radio telemetry to identify spawning locations. Between 2009 and 2010, 26 of 37 (70%) implanted transmitters were located as deposited at spawning locations. Using identified spawning locations, habitat selection was estimated for key environmental variables, and MaxEnt (maximum entropy) was utilized to model Muskellunge spawning habitat in the Menominee River, as it was the only study area where natural reproduction was documented. Menominee River Muskellunge showed significant preferences for spawning in areas with shallow bottom slopes (5%), with medium-to-high submerged aquatic vegetation coverage (>33%), where coarse woody debris was present, and where dominant substrates were sand or cobble. MaxEnt modeling predicted a ~2.5 magnitude greater likelihood of spawning at an average spawning location compared to an average background location. Comparisons of available habitat among study areas showed the Menominee River contained more spawning habitat with preferred characteristics. Results from this study are important steps in identifying spawning habitat as a potential limiting factor to successful Muskellunge reintroduction and models could be used to locate suitable areas to stock and guide delineation of critical spawning habitat to designate for protection.