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

Trends in Muskellunge Fishing Tournaments in North Central Wisconsin [Abstract]

David A. Seibel and Timothy D. Simonson


Muskellunge Esox masquinongy fishing tournaments are popular among anglers. Beginning in 1994, Wisconsin required a permit for tournaments meeting certain criteria. Reporting of the number of anglers, fishing hours, and number of fish registered was required. Our objective was to examine number of tournaments, number of anglers, catch rates, and number and size of fish registered in Lincoln County, Wisconsin to determine if trends in tournament data corresponded with statewide trends and with independent fisheries data. From 1994 through 2015, 58 Muskellunge tournaments were held, which included 3,726 anglers fishing 690 tournament-hours for a total of 46,390 angler-hours. A total of 276, 34-in (1 in = 2.54 cm) and larger Muskellunge were registered. On average, 4.8 Muskellunge were registered per tournament with a mean catch rate of 168 angler-hours/Muskellunge. From 1994 to 2004, the mean catch rate was 276 angler-hours/Muskellunge, but this dropped to 97 angler-hours/Muskellunge during 2005–2015. Mean length of Muskellunge registered was 38.7 in and increased from about 38.0 in by the early 2000s to 39.5 in by the early 2010s. From 1995 to 2015, mean length of 40-in and larger Muskellunge registered did not change and was 43 in. Independent netting surveys on tournament waters showed no change in Muskellunge density from the early 2000s to the early 2010s. However, tournament angler catch rates increased over this time. Both netting surveys and tournament angler catches showed an increase in Muskellunge size over this period. Number of Muskellunge tournaments and anglers/tournament increased from 1995 to 2007 and then declined after 2010. A similar trend was seen in the number of statewide Muskellunge tournaments and participation. Decreases in Muskellunge tournaments and anglers since 2010 have occurred despite increases in tournament catch rates and average size of registered Muskellunge, which may suggest that tournament burnout or tournament saturation occurred.