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

Managing and Monitoring Muskellunge Populations in Eastern Georgian Bay and the North Channel of Lake Huron: A Twenty-Year Retrospective [Extended Abstract]

Arunas P. Liskauskas

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874462.ch8

The nearshore waters of eastern Georgian Bay and the North Channel of Lake Huron support the largest contiguous distribution of Muskellunge Esox masquinongy populations in the Great Lakes. Prior to 1996 very little was known about the status of this species, yet the area was perceived by ardent anglers as supporting a world class fishery (Liskauskas 1996). Efforts to rehabilitate extirpated Great Lakes populations of Muskellunge in the Spanish River in Lake Huron and Green Bay in Lake Michigan provided the management impetus for exploratory netting to determine the population characteristics of Muskellunge in Lake Huron.

An internally developed targeted netting survey protocol (Liskauskas 2004) referred to as spring Muskellunge index netting (SMIN) was the primary means used to capture spawning Muskellunge. Live capture, 1.83-m trap nets were set at locations in close proximity to shorelines containing coastal wetlands in embayments or riverine inlets. Nets were regularly moved to new locations depending on whether Muskellunge were successfully captured over three consecutive nights of effort. Netting efforts were initiated when surface temperatures approached 8°C and ended when temperatures exceeded 20°C. Captured muskellunge were sampled for size (fork length, total length, weight, and girth) and externally sexed, tissue samples (scales and caudal fin clip) were retained for genetic analysis, and the muskellunge were affixed with a t-bar tag adjacent to the dorsal fin. Additional samples were available from incidentally captured Muskellunge from two other spring surveys, spring Walleye index netting (SWIN), using similar live capture trap nets set for Walleye Sander vitreus near tributary spawning habitats, and end of spring trap netting (ESTN), a provincially standardized fish community netting survey using live capture trap nets.