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

A Preliminary Comparison of Two Strains of Stocked Muskellunge in Lake Monona, Wisconsin [Extended Abstract]

David C. Rowe, Michael Rennicke, and R. Scot Stewart

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874462.ch41

The Muskellunge Esox masquinongy is managed as a trophy species in Wisconsin. Potential growth and ultimate size of individuals are assumed to be controlled in part by genetics (Margenau and Hanson 1996; Miller et al. 2009). Selecting genetic broodstocks that provide high ultimate size, as well as good survival of stocked fish, is desired by stakeholders and fish mangers to effectively manage for angler expectations. Choosing the best performing genetic stock for lakes where protecting naturally reproducing populations is not a concern (Jennings et al. 2010) will allow managers to provide the best opportunity for anglers to catch more Muskellunge of trophy size (>50 in [1 in = 2.54 cm]; Wingate and Younk 2007). Concerns have been raised that Wisconsin broodstock populations do not have the capability to produce the expected trophy-sized fish in stocked waters.

In 2006, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and the Capital City Chapter of Muskies, Inc. began an evaluation of two genetic strains of Muskellunge to compare the length at age and ultimate size achieved in Lake Monona, Wisconsin. Lake Monona, which is outside the native range of Muskellunge, requires maintenance stocking, so it is considered a universal receptor lake for Muskellunge stocking by the WDNR (Simonson 2016). Lake Monona is a 3,274-acre (1,324.9 ha) lake with a maximum depth of 64 ft (19.5 m).

The primary objective of this study was to compare length at age and ultimate size of Leech Lake strain (LLS) and Chippewa River strain (CRS) Muskellunge stocked in Lake Monona. Wisconsin River strain (WRS) fish were stocked in 2013 instead of CRS.

Approximately 500 fall fingerling Muskellunge of each strain were passive integrated transponder (PIT)-tagged prior to release into Lake Monona, between the months of September and November in each year of the study (2006–2015). A total of 4,620 CRS, 3,826 LLS, and 496 WRS Muskellunge were tagged and stocked into Lake Monona between 2006 and 2015. Additional unmarked CRS Muskellunge were stocked at the same time as the PIT-tagged fish in each of the study years.