Muskellunge Management: Fifty Years of Cooperation Among Anglers, Scientists, and Fisheries Biologists
Managing Muskellunge in Minnesota: Deliberate Steps to Better Fishing in the Next Two Decades [Abstract]
Mike Habrat, T. J. DeBates, Steve Mero, and Jim Wolters
Minnesota boasts 99 water bodies managed for Muskellunge Esox masquinongy, of which 46 were created and are maintained by stocking. Although widely recognized as a destination for Muskellunge anglers, much remains to be learned about the efficacy of Muskellunge stocking in Minnesota. Generally, past practice has been to use an experimental approach on individual lakes to derive optimal stocking densities and frequencies, within broad guidelines. In an attempt to simplify future management evaluations, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources refined stocking rates and frequencies by reducing the number of stocking strategies available to managers. These strategies were not stratified by lake groupings (i.e., lake size, latitude, etc.) due to the diversity of Muskellunge waters within Minnesota. Moreover, waters with a long history of consistent stocking strategies were left unchanged, largely because these particular waters were stocked at considerably higher or lower densities. Perhaps most significant was the prioritization of individual waters for stocking based upon their importance to Muskellunge culture, the angling community, and future management evaluations. Strict adherence to these stocking priorities comes with an understanding that Muskellunge fingerling distribution may be inefficient during years of below-average fingerling production. Extensive use of passive integrated transponder tags in newly established fisheries will aid in evaluations of natural reproduction and maximum age and will provide a better understanding of recruitment of stocked fingerlings as populations mature.