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

Historical and Contemporary Genetics of Muskellunge in Lake Simcoe: Options for Restoration

Chris C. Wilson and Kristyne M. Wozney

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874462.ch36

Abstract.—Genetic assessment of Muskellunge Esox masquinongy in Lake Simcoe, Ontario is being used to inform ongoing management and rehabilitation efforts. Muskellunge were historically abundant in Lake Simcoe and supported a commercial fishery in the late 19th century, but the population collapsed in the mid-20th century due to a combination of overharvest, habitat loss, and other stressors. Several decades of supplemental stocking failed to prevent the loss of Muskellunge from Lake Simcoe. As part of the recent effort to re-establish Muskellunge in the watershed, we assessed the historical genetics of the Lake Simcoe population using archived scale samples (1960s to 1990s) to resolve its relationship with historical and recent stocking sources. Based on data from 20 microsatellite loci, we found no evidence that the original Lake Simcoe population was closely related to contemporary Great Lakes populations as has been suggested. Rather, the majority of historical Muskellunge samples appear to be more closely related to populations in the contiguous Kawartha Lakes and Lake Couchiching. Recent captures of immigrant Muskellunge adults from the Kawartha Lakes in Lake Simcoe suggest that conditions are once again suitable for supporting Muskellunge.