Muskellunge Management: Fifty Years of Cooperation Among Anglers, Scientists, and Fisheries Biologists
Muskellunge in South Dakota [Extended Abstract]
Brian G. Blackwell, David O. Lucchesi, and Matthew J. Ward
The South Dakota Muskellunge Esox masquinongy program began in 1975 when 2,000 Muskellunge fingerlings were introduced into Amsden Dam (95 ha) in northeast South Dakota. Muskellunge were introduced into a total of 14 waters between 1975 and 1999, including three Missouri River reservoirs (Figure 1). Stockings were made using various sizes of fish (i.e., fry, fingerlings, and yearlings) and both Muskellunge and tiger muskellunge (Muskellunge × Northern Pike E. lucius) were stocked. Unfortunately, most of the stockings during this period provided only a limited return to anglers and were deemed unsuccessful. Amsden Dam was the only Muskellunge fishery to become established. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Amsden Dam attracted anglers targeting Muskellunge; the current South Dakota state record Muskellunge was caught from Amsden Dam in 1991 and weighed 18.1 kg.
Muskellunge stockings since 2000 have been more successful. Fisheries have been established in five additional eastern South Dakota waters: Lynn Lake (648 ha), West 81 Lake (554 ha), North Island Lake (101 ha), Lake Sinai (486 ha), and Middle Lynn Lake (425 ha). Muskellunge were introduced into Lynn Lake in 2001, West 81 Lake in 2005, North Island Lake in 2009, and Lake Sinai in 2011, and Middle Lynn Lake was first stocked in 2015, although some fish had moved from Lynn Lake to Middle Lynn Lake during a high water period. These five lakes are currently stocked biennially in the fall with Muskellunge. Program goals are to maintain low-density populations that can diversify fishing opportunities and provide anglers with a chance to catch a trophy-sized fish. South Dakota currently has a statewide 1,016-mm minimum length limit with a daily limit of one Muskellunge or tiger muskellunge.