John Anderson Talks Ottawa River Muskie

Paul Shibata talks with Ottawa River muskie guide John Anderson about the 2015 season, keys to success and how new gear helps make you a better angler.

We’re still a couple of months away from getting on the water, but listen in and get your self ready (like you haven’t been ready since the day after the season closed last year …..)

This was originally aired on Renegade Bass Radio in October 2015.

Distribution and Management of Muskellunge in North America: An Overview

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Kerr, S. J. 2011. Distribution and management of muskellunge in North America: An overview. Fisheries Policy Section, Biodiversity Branch. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Peterborough, Ontario. 22 p. + appendices.

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Introduction
This report has been prepared to document current muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) distribution in North America as well as summarize and compare management approaches used in various jurisdictions.
This is not the first survey, regarding muskellunge management activities in North America, to be conducted. A similar agency questionnaire was carried out by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in 1985 (Ragan et al. 1986). The Esocid Technical Committee, Northcentral Division, American Fisheries Society, compiled information on esocid research and management in 1992 (ETC 1992), esocid angling regulations in 1995 (ETC 1997a), and esocid stocking in 1996 (ETC 1997b). I am also aware of a mail survey conducted in 1981 (Miller 1983) but was unable to obtain results from that undertaking.
Information contained in this report was derived from a number of sources including a survey of state/provincial staff (conducted during the fall of 2010), an internet search of muskellunge regulations in various jurisdictions, and a review of published literature. Completed surveys were received from 59 individuals (see Appendix 1) representing 56 different North American jurisdictions. In most instances, a single response was received from an individual jurisdiction. In other cases, several responses were received and combined to form a provincial or state response. Survey responses were not received from Alabama, Delaware, Idaho, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and South Carolina. Much of the outstanding information (e.g., number of muskellunge waters, numbers of fish stocked, etc.) for non-responding jurisdictions was obtained from agency websites.

Read/download the full report by clicking the link below (PDF – 546 KB)
Distribution and Management of Muskellunge in North America: An Overview_2011

Trophy-Sized Muskellunge Angled from Ontario Waters, 1917-2010

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Kerr, S. J., A. Kirkpatrick, and T. J. Haxton. 2011. Characteristics of Trophy-Sized Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) Angled from Ontario Waters, 1917-2010. Fisheries Policy Section, Biodiversity Branch. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Peterborough, Ontario. 7 p. + appendices.

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Executive Summary
An effort was made to compile a listing of trophy-sized muskellunge which have been angled from Ontario waters. A trophy-sized muskellunge in this study was defined as a fish exceeding 114 cm (45 inches) in length or 10.0 kg (22 pounds) in weight. Information was obtained for a total of 9,708 muskellunge which were angled in Ontario between 1917 and 2010. The majority of records originated from volunteer angler diaries maintained by members of Muskies Inc. and Muskies Canada Inc. Most trophy-sized muskellunge were angled early in the season and numbers decreased as the season progressed. The geographic distribution of trophy-sized muskellunge was spread well over their Ontario range. There was a significant positive trend in the maximum size of muskellunge reported annually. There was also a significant increase in the maximum size of muskellunge reported after the changes to minimum size limit regulations in 2001.
An increase in the catch-and-release angling ethic in conjunction with the implementation of new minimum size limit regulations is believed to be responsible for the increased number of trophy-sized muskellunge being angled in Ontario. Based on the number of Ontario waters producing trophy-sized muskellunge and the increasing number of trophy-sized fish being reported annually, Ontario’s muskellunge management strategy appears to be achieving the objective of providing a diversity of trophy angling opportunities.

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Des efforts ont été faits en vue de créer une liste des maskinongés-trophées pêchés à la ligne en eau ontarienne. Dans cette étude, pour être considéré comme un trophée, la longueur d’un maskinongé doit dépasser 114 cm (45 pouces) et son poids dépasser les 10 kg (22 livres). Des renseignements ont été obtenus concernant 9 708 maskinongés au total pêchés en eau ontarienne entre 1917 et 2010. La majorité des données provient des registres de pêcheurs bénévoles membres de Muskies Inc. et Muskies Canada Inc. La plupart des maskinongés-trophées ont été pêchés à la ligne tôt en saison et les nombres décroissaient progressivement pendant la saison. Les maskinongés-trophées se répartissent bien sur l’aire géographique ontarienne occupée par l’espèce. Les rapports annuels concernant la taille maximum des maskinongés révèlent une tendance positive marquée. Il y a aussi eu un accroissement substantiel de la taille maximum des maskinongés rapportée après les changements aux règlements de 2001 concernant les tailles limites.
On croit que l’accroissement du nombre de maskinongés-trophées pêchés à la ligne en eau ontarienne est attribuable à des facteurs conjugués, soit l’augmentation de la popularité du principe éthique de remise des prises à l’eau conjuguée et la mise en oeuvre de nouveaux règlements concernant les limites de taille. En se basant sur le nombre de plans d’eau ontariens produisant des maskinongés-trophées et le nombre croissant de maskinongés-trophées rapporté annuellement, la stratégie de gestion du maskinongé de l’Ontario semble répondre à l’objectif de procurer une gamme de possibilités de pêche à la ligne de poissons-trophées.

Read/download the full report by clicking the link below (PDF – 438 KB)
OMNR_Characteristics of Trophy-Sized Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) Angled from Ontario Waters, 1917-2010

Muskellunge of the Ottawa River

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Kerr, S. J. 2010. Muskellunge of the Ottawa River. Biodiversity Branch. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Peterborough, Ontario. 21 p. + appendices

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Ecology of Ottawa River Muskellunge
Muskellunge Habitat
Generally, the habitat preferences of muskellunge may be described as heavily
vegetated lakes; stumpy, weedy bays; and slow-flowing river systems (see Appendix 1). They have the ability to withstand water temperatures as high as 32º C as well as low dissolved oxygen levels. Larger muskellunge may also be found in deeper, less vegetated waters.
There is considerable evidence to demonstrate reproductive homing in muskellunge (Crossman 1990, LaPan et al. 1996). Muskellunge spawning habitat generally occurs in shallow (38 – 51 cm deep), vegetated flooded areas at water temperatures between 10-15ºC (Scott and Crossman 1973, Cook and Solomon 1987, Zorn et al. 1998). Construction of the Carillon dam in 1964 flooded large areas of low lying land mostly on the Québec side of the lower Ottawa River. This resulted in the creation of spawning and nursery habitat for a number of fish species including muskellunge.

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OMNR_Muskellunge of the Ottawa River_2010

Guidelines for Competitive Fishing Events for Muskellunge in Ontario

August 2007. Guidelines for Competitive Fishing Events for Muskellunge in Ontario. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Peterborough, Ontario.

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Introduction
Competitive fishing is a growing industry in Ontario (Kerr and Kamke 2003, Kerr 2004). Bass (Micropterus spp.) are the most commonly targeted species at these events. Although competitive fishing events for muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) have been relatively uncommon to date, there apparently is increasing interest in organizing these events on some of Ontario’s trophy muskellunge waters. There are already several large muskellunge tournaments in adjacent U.S. jurisdictions.
Muskellunge are subject to physiological stress associated with capture and handling (Miles et al. 1974, Beggs et al. 1980). With the unique nature of wild muskellunge stocks in Ontario, their vulnerability as a low density predator, and a strong desire to protect the fishery, there was the need to develop best management practices for tournaments specifically directed toward muskellunge.
While it is believed that large prize tournaments for muskellunge should be strongly discouraged due to the unique characteristics of the species (low density populations and high susceptibility to post-release mortality), the following guidelines have been developed for tournament organizers who may still choose to hold a muskellunge tournament in Ontario. These guidelines endorse a varying or “tiered” approach for different events depending upon the magnitude of the event, characteristics of the muskellunge population in that water body, and the minimum size limits which are in place. It is proposed that a more cautious approach be taken in those events being held in low population density, less sustainable fisheries (e.g., trophy waters) and where fish are being retained for longer periods of time in order to verify size for entry into the event. Appendix 1 provides an outline of the Tiered Approach to Tournament Guidelines.
Guidelines on good catch-and-release practices for one species may not be appropriate for other species (Tufts 1999, Cooke and Suski 2004). These guidelines are not intended to apply to tournaments involving other fish species although there may be some practical application of these practices to other fisheries.
Key Principles
There are a number of key principles which form the foundation of these guidelines.
1. Competitive fishing is recognized as a legitimate activity in Ontario with many
social and economic benefits.
2. At catch-and-release events every effort should be made to ensure fish
experience minimal stress in order to maximize post-release survival. Catchand-
kill events for muskellunge should be discouraged.
3. Competitive fishing events should not threaten sustainability of the resource.
4. Competitive fishing events must comply with the Ontario Fishery Regulations and
the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.
5. Safety sho

Catch and Release Angling: A Review with Guidelines for Proper Fish Handling Practices

Casselman, S. J. 2005. Catch-and-release angling: a review with guidelines for proper fish handling practices. Fish & Wildlife Branch. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Peterborough, Ontario. 26 p.

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 Executive Summary

The use of catch-and-release practices by anglers is increasing. This increase is a result of both anglers viewing the process as a conservation technique and also because catch-and-release practices are being mandated by fisheries managers. Despite the widespread use of catch-and-release, there is generally a lack of understanding regarding the mortality caused by the practice and how variation in catch-and-release techniques may affect the level of mortality.
Fortunately, the increase in catch-and-release practice by anglers has coincided with an increase in research examining catch-and-release practices. While most of the studies to date have been species specific, there are general recommendations that can be made based on the available information.
While catch-and-release is physiologically stressful, stress and therefore mortality can be minimized by following some general catch-and-release guidelines. Gear should be appropriate for the species being angled, allowing for quick retrieval. The use of barbless hooks and circle hooks should be considered to reduce the amount of time required to release fish. Air exposure should be minimized and fish should be released quickly. Depth of capture, hooking location and bleeding should be taken into account when deciding on whether or not to release a fish.
When performed correctly, catch-and-release can be successful with minimal harm to the fish and should be encouraged. However, due to the variation among species in response to catch-and-release techniques, it is recommended that further research is needed to create species-specific guidelines.

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Les pêcheurs pratiquent de plus en plus la prise et remise à l’eau du poisson vivant. Cette augmentation a deux raisons : les pêcheurs considèrent que la technique va dans le sens de la conservation et les gestionnaires des pêches la prescrivent. Malgré le recours très fréquent à la prise et remise à l’eau, il existe en règle générale un manque de compréhension concernant la mortalité qu’elle engendre et l’incidence que peut avoir la variété des techniques sur le taux de mortalité.
Heureusement, l’élargissement de cette pratique par les pêcheurs a coïncidé avec des recherches poussées dans ce sens. Quoique la majorité des études à ce jour aient porté sur des espèces particulières, il est possible de faire des recommandations d’ordre général en fonction des renseignements disponibles.
Bien que la pêche avec remise à l’eau soit psychologiquement stressante, ce stress et par conséquent la mortalité peuvent être minimisés si on respecte certaines directives générales. Les pêcheurs doivent posséder du matériel de pêche approprié à l’espèce pêchée, permettant ainsi une capture rapide. L’usage d’hameçons sans barbe et d’hameçons circulaires devrait être envisagé afin de réduire le temps de remise à l’eau requis. Le poisson devrait passer un minimum de temps hors de l’eau et être relâché rapidement. Il doit être tenu compte de la profondeur de capture, de l’emplacement de l’hameçon et de la quantité de sang perdu avant de décider si un poisson doit être remis à l’eau on non.
Le poisson sera blessé le moins possible si l’opération de prise et remise à l’eau est effectuée correctement. Cette pratique dans ce cas devrait être encouragée. Toutefois, en raison des différences existant entre les espèces relativement aux techniques de prise et remise à l’eau, on recommande la poursuite des recherches afin d’élaborer des directives particulières aux espèces.

Read/download the full report by clicking the link below (PDF – 323 KB)

OMNR – Catch and Release Angling: A Review with Guidelines for Proper Fish Handling Practices_2005

OMNR – Characteristics of Ontario Muskellunge Fisheries Based on Volunteer Angler Diary Information_2004

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Kerr, S. J. 2004. Characteristics of Ontario muskellunge fisheries based on volunteer angler diary information. Fish and Wildlife Branch. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Peterborough, Ontario. 19 p. + appendices.

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Abstract
This report consolidates volunteer angler diary information, collected from a variety of sources over a period of more than forty years, to provide an overview of muskellunge sport fisheries in Ontario. Based on reported angling effort it is obvious that muskellunge are becoming an increasingly popular species. Muskellunge catches were found to be strongly correlated with reported angling effort. Angling success, in terms of catch-per-unit-effort, has improved over the past twenty-five years and Ontario waters now provide some of the highest quality muskellunge fisheries in North America. Muskellunge in excess of 50 inches are captured from several waters each year. It is expected that the next world record muskellunge will be angled from somewhere in Ontario. Voluntary release rates of muskellunge among muskellunge anglers have also increased over the past two decades to the point where approximately 98% of all angled muskellunge are now released after capture. Overall, Ontario’s muskellunge fisheries appear to be stable and sustainable. This can be attributed to an increase in the catch-and-release ethic as well as new minimum size limit regulations. Volunteer angler diary programs should continue to be used to monitor the status of Ontario’s muskellunge fisheries in the future.

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OMNR – Characteristics of Ontario Muskellunge Fisheries Based on Volunteer Angler Diary Information_2004

Effective Release Techniques for Muskellunge – 1999

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1999. Effective Release Techniques for Muskellunge – 1999. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Peterborough, Ontario.

The muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) or muskie as it is commonly known, is a fast growing predator and highly prized torophy fish.  The muskie is closely related to the northern pike (Esox lucius) which leads some inexperienced anglers to mistake the two since their shapes are nearly identical.

Colouration is probably the easiest way to separate the species.  The colour of the muskie is variable, ranging from silver-green to dark brown, but is consistent with dark markings on a light background.  In contrast, the northern pike has light markings on a dark background.  Muskies have a pointed tail and angular fins: the pike’s tail and fins are rounded.  Musies have more scales on their cheeks and more sub-mandibular pors than pike.

Read/download the full report by clicking the link below (PDF – 850 KB)
OMNR_Effective Release Techniques for Muskellunge_1999