Muskies Canada is very proud to announce the return of the Release Journal!
Over the years the Release Journal has evolved from a typed newsletter of a few pages to a professional quality magazine that has become the go-to for muskellunge fishing enthusiasts.
Producing such a publication required a lot of effort from one or two volunteers, so we had to take a step back to find a better solution to produce the same quality content, but more efficiently.
So there you have it, like the phoenix, the Release Journal has risen from the ashes today thanks to the colossal work of our editor Rob Dykens and his team. We must also mention the excellent work of Dave Cunningham and the Release Journal committee who retought the production of the magazine in order to ensure its continuity.
The content of the 2022 fall edition of the Release journal is once again very diverse. Ranging from research to fishing techniques, everyone will find something entertaining.
The Release Journal is available to all Muskies Canada members. To subscribe to the magazine, all you have to do is become a member! Plus, you’ll have access to the magazine’s archives dating back to 1979!
Briefing & Consultation Session March 12, 2022, 9.00 -11.00 am
Organized by Muskies Canada.
If you love fishing Muskies on the Upper St. Lawrence, dont miss this workshop. It’s for both Canadian and American anglers.
Hear the Latest:
Dr. John Farrell (Thousand Islands Biological Station) will give a presentation on latest issues and status of the Upper St. Lawrence Muskie Fishery.
Colin Lake, Of the Lake Ontario Management Unit, MNDMNRF, will speak about Muskellunge assessment and management in the Ontario section of the St. Lawrence River.
This is your chance to bring forward comments, concerns and observations from the Muskie angling community. An important part of this workshop will be to hear from you to provide input for planning and management.
Muskies Canada is hosting this important session on Zoom.
Jordanna N. Bergman, PhD Candidate | Department of Biology, Carleton University
The Rideau Canal Waterway, located in eastern Ontario, is a 202-kilometres continuous route that forms a hydrological connection between the Ottawa River, at Canada’s capital city of Ottawa, and Lake Ontario, at the city of Kingston. Constructed 1826 to 1832, the system was originally created for Canadian commercial shipping and national defence; today, the Rideau Canal is primarily operated for recreation. The completed Rideau Canal includes a series of rivers, lakes, and constructed channels interconnected by 24 operating lockstations that form the navigable waterway, many with adjacent water-control dams. As a National Historic Site of Canada, a Canadian Heritage River, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal is internationally significant and, as a result, is highly regulated by the federal agency Parks Canada.Parks Canada is legally mandated to prioritize public safety, meet navigation requirements, and protect federally listed at-risk species; although their focus is not wildlife conservation, continuous management of the system has indeed supported the organisms residing within. The Rideau Canal has been described as having one of the most diverse fish assemblages (107 documented fish species) in Canada, and additionally, it supports one of the few wild urban muskellunge fisheries in North America supported by natural reproduction. Similar to most freshwater ecosystems, muskellunge in the Rideau Canal are ecologically important as apex predators and are also recreationally important as iconic sportfish.
During the Rideau Canal’s navigation season, which runs each year mid-May to mid-October, a channel along the entire waterway is maintained (minimum depth 1.5-metres) for boaters to travel safely. Outside of the navigation season, however, water levels in many reaches of the system are lowered (i.e., drawdowns). Each winter, in an 8.2-kilometre stretch of the waterway from Black Rapids Lockstation (45.321438, -75.698007) to Long Island Lockstation (45.250954, -75.702111), water levels are lowered by approximately 3-metres (10-feet). We refer to this section as the “Eccolands Reach” because of the nearby local Eccolands park. Most of the Eccolands Reach ranges in depth from 4.5-7.5-metres with a max depth of 9.1-metres; lowering the water levels by 3-metres for winter therefore significantly reduces the amount of habitat available for aquatic animals to overwinter in.
Protecting habitat – critical habitats in particular – plays a key role in effective conservation. Critical habitat is defined as “the habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a (listed) wildlife species,” and specific to aquatic species, critical habitat includes “areas on which aquatic species depend directly or indirectly in order to carry out their life processes.” Thus, any area that supports a life history process necessary for the survival of a species would therefore be considered “critical.” Though not explicitly stated, habitats which supports overwintering of aquatic organisms in Canada are consequently critical. Winter in North America is already an ecologically challenging season for freshwater fishes, and annual winter drawdowns can exacerbate challenges fish are already experiencing like reduced habitat and refuge from areas with lethal dissolved oxygen levels. Our goal is to not wait until it’s too late, and instead take proactive measures to ensure critical habitat of muskellunge is protected. Of serious concern to the Eccolands Reach muskellunge population are the highly urbanized surrounding lands. Previous research has shown that persistent anthropogenic disturbances and environmental modifications, like shoreline alteration, runoff from developments, and decreased water quality, can be detrimental to freshwater ecosystems, particularly to habitat quality and quantity. By discovering what areas of the Rideau Canal are most important to muskellunge survival and population health, we can proactively take steps to protect (and potentially even enhance) those areas and work against population declines. Because of the significant winter water drawdowns, and project timing, we decided to evaluate overwintering habitats first.
We use acoustic telemetry to track muskellunge movements in the Eccolands Reach. Acoustic telemetry essentially has two parts to it: 1) acoustic tags and 2) acoustic receivers. The tags are surgically implanted into muskellunge and each tag emits a “ping” every 20-seconds with a unique ID and timestamp. Acoustic receivers are deployed and sit at the bottom of the river, waiting for a tagged fish to swim by. When a tagged fish swims by a receiver and its tag emits a ping, the receiver stores that information, providing a corresponding time and date for when that individual fish was near that specific receiver. Acoustic receivers are essentially “listening stations” whereby the receivers are listening for detections (“pings”) from tagged fish. In this way, as a long as the tagged fish is within the detection range of the receiver, we can determine where each fish was and when. With the generous help and expertise of Muskies Canada Inc. (MCI) Ottawa Chapter anglers, we captured and tagged 15 muskellunge in October 2020 for our overwintering study. Eleven acoustic receivers were deployed, relatively evenly spaced out, in the Eccolands Reach to monitor fish movements. We also deployed two receivers downstream of Black Rapids (into the Mooney’s Bay Reach) to see if fish left the reach by moving over the weir, but none of our tagged muskellunge were detected downstream. Interestingly, all our muskellunge were detected only upstream of the Eccolands boat launch, many of which in November showed upstream movements, potentially in search of the best available winter habitat.
Several interesting patterns emerged from movement analysis. First, fish moved more so than I anticipated – I expected muskellunge to be detected on the same 1-2 acoustic receivers for the duration of winter, but interestingly most fish were detected consistently across several stations, moving often through habitats across a 1-mile distance. Second, most fish overwintered near tributaries where there were deep areas (4.5-6-metres/15-20-feet). Third, it appears the portion of the river beneath the Vimy Bridge is so shallow that during winter it acts as a potential barrier to winter connectivity; essentially, once ice freezes over in December, if fish were upstream or downstream of the Vimy Bridge then that’s where they were confined to until ice-off in April. To date, it is unclear to what extent winterkill events occur in the Eccolands Reach, or if events are region/site specific. If muskellunge winterkill events are occurring in certain areas upstream or downstream of the Vimy Bridge, providing a connection between those areas could offer a chance for fish to escape. It therefore could be important to increase depths beneath the bridge to allow fish to move freely. Finally, we found that several of the larger, presumably sexually mature, individuals showed increased movements in April. Evaluating spawning movements was not an original objective of our overwintering study, however it may be one of the most important findings. We believe that the increased activities we noted in April are most likely linked with muskellunge pre-spawning movements in search of spawning sites. Parks Canada does not (start to) raise water levels in the Eccolands Reach for the navigation season until early May, so if muskellunge are searching for spawning areas in April when water levels are still low, their reproductive efforts may end up unsuccessful because habitat is still so limited at that time. Fish movements are highly regulated and directed by water temperatures – if it’s a warm spring (muskellunge usually spawn when water temperatures are 9-15°C), spawning has been documented in northern-latitude lakes as early as mid-April. We have not incorporated this data yet as special temperature loggers have just been recently recovered, but we will be carefully inspecting temperature data to see when muskellunge spawning might have commenced this past spring.
We are currently in the process of finalizing data analysis and have been fortunate to collaborate with hydraulic engineers, Parks Canada scientists, researchers, and MCI anglers to ensure we have a thorough understanding of muskellunge spatial ecology. Our goal is to factor in environmental characteristics of the river, like depth and bottom composition (e.g., sand, pebbles, boulders), to determine which areas are most suitable to muskellunge. We will also be evaluating if fish size has any effect on habitat preferences, as it may be that larger fish choose different areas compared to smaller fish. Though we have investigated overwintering of muskellunge in the Rideau Canal, this is only one annual aspect of their spatial ecology; because the winter drawdowns are so considerable in this reach, we felt it was best to quickly evaluate those movements and release that information rapidly. We are, however, tracking muskellunge movements year-round in the Eccolands Reach, and will be doing so until 2023. In the spring of 2021 MCI anglers again donated their time and expertise, and with their efforts to supplement ours, we tagged an additional seven muskellunge (we currently have 23 acoustically tagged muskellunge in the Eccolands Reach). Our aim is to assess other critical habitats used, like spawning habitats, and additionally we know very little about lock connectivity. We also note that protecting habitat and connectivity is only one part of conserving muskellunge; there are several other issues that threaten the local population like water quality and invasive species. We are working with several universities, the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, and Parks Canada to evaluate the various threats to species within the Rideau Canal. Investigating muskellunge movements is only component of my PhD research – we are also tracking the movements of several other native and invasive fish species and will be compounding that information with our muskellunge movement data to better understand overall fish connectivity in the Rideau Canal. If you’d like to find out more information about our work, you can check out Dr. Steven Cooke’s Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology website at http://www.fecpl.ca/ or my personal website at https://jordannabergman.wixsite.com/jordannabergman.
We use acoustic telemetry to track fish in the Rideau Canal. Size-specific acoustic tags (top left) are surgically implanted into our study species so that we can monitor their movements year-round. In the Eccolands Reach of the Rideau Canal, we are focusing our efforts towards monitoring the movements of muskellunge. In other parts of the waterway, however, we are also tracking northern pike, largemouth bass, common carp, and round goby. Acoustic receivers (bottom left) are stationed beneath the waters’ surface and are essentially “listening stations” – when a tagged fish swims by one of our receivers, and that tag emits a “ping” with a unique ID and timestamp, the receiver detects and stores that information so we can later determine where each tagged muskellunge was swimming and when.
I wanted to share this exciting news from John Anderson at the Ottawa River Musky Factory about this new Seminar series I am excited to be a part of:
Announcing the Musky Monday Seminar Series for 2021
Beginning Tuesday January 5th (because France’s birthday is on Monday the 4th) and every Monday evening after that at 7 pm I will be hosting a live educational event online on the Musky Factory Baits Page.
These evenings will feature a different topic each week and a different special guest to do a presentation, talk muskies, and answer your questions. Behaviour and tactics are at the core of this series with a focus on real world applications to catch more muskies.
Topics and guests so far include:
Tuesday January 5th – Everything Inlines and Spinnerbaits with Mike Spratt from Musky Factory Baits. We will talk construction, materials, action, vibration, colours, repairing your baits, and what makes some baits work so much better than others
Monday January 11th – Musky 101 with Brent Bochek – Brent have given this seminar for Muskies Canada members a number of times including at the last Musky Odyssey. This is an intro level presentation to talk equipment, behavior, and presentation basics.
Monday January 18th – Musky Equipment with JP DeRose – You know JP from countless TV programs. He knows more about fishing equipment specs, construction, and use than anyone I know. We will talk rods, reels, line, leaders, knots, and applying the right equipment at the right times as well as tactics and behavior.
Stay tuned for future seminar topics and guests but here is some of what and who we have lined up for you:
Pete Bowman on over 30 years of filming muskies on Fish’n’ Canada TV
The History of Muskies in Ottawa with Big Jim McGlaughlin.
Everything Jerkbaits with Mike Suick from Suick Lures and Brent Bochek from Setting the Hook TV, and Suicks first ever female pro staffer, Lisa Goodier
Musky Myths Exposed & Outside the Box Tactics with Wally Robins – Jigging and other forgotten gold with a diversely experienced outdoor writer.
Everything Crankbait with Noah Clarke from Clarkey Baits and Brynn Roach from B&R Baits
Soft Plastics – Where, When, Why, How
Using Technology and Reading your Fish Finder with RJ (Rob Jackson)
How Muskies Canada Catches You More Fish and what is in store for MCI nationally and and chapter by chapter for the 2021 season. If you are not a member you will want to be.
Ashley Rae – Multi-species expert, guide, writer, and all around super outdoors woman Ashley Rae takes us into her world.
Musky Research and Sustainable Fishing with Lawrence Gunther from Bluefish Canada – past, present, and future
The Other Ottawa Rivers – The Rideau, The Madawaska, The Gatineau, The Jock, and some surprises too.
The St. Lawrence River – An evaluation of current conditions and populations
More great speakers and topics are in discussion right now. If you have an idea for a guest or a show topic please let us know.
From the very beginning, the constitution of Muskies Canada specifies that the family of a member of Muskies Canada is also a member.
An active member is a person, including their family: i.e. their spouse and all children less than eighteen years of age and living in the same residence or who are attending school on a full time basis;
This aspect of Muskies Canada membership has never really been put forward, so few people are aware of it. In addition, until now our member management system did not handle family membership.
This has just changed. You can now add your spouse and children as a member of Muskies Canada for free! They can now have their own access to the forum and to the members area. They will be able to enter their own logs and interact on the Muskies Canad forums.
To add a family member, you must login in the Members Area and select Add a family member.
From there complete the registration and it’s done. The registration will be immediately placed has pending review and our membership director will activate it after making some due diligence.
Note that family members will expire at the same time as the main member regardless of their registration date.
It’s up to you to take advantage of it and make Muskies Canada grow!
By Jordanna N. Bergman, PhD Student, Carleton University and Steven J. Cooke, Professor, Carleton University
The Rideau Canal Waterway is a 202 km route of picturesque lakes, rivers, and artificial canals connected by 23 active lockstations and 45 locks. Originally constructed in the mid 1800s to facilitate commercial and military transport between Lake Ontario and the Ottawa River, today the Rideau Canal is almost entirely operated to support recreational, cultural, and economic activities. In fact, the system is so iconic and unique that it received World Heritage Site designation from the United Nations. Managed by Parks Canada, the lock system is used by recreational boaters, canoeists, and kayakers during the navigation season (mid-May to mid-October) to travel throughout the waterway. With pristine aquatic habitats and one of the most diverse fish communities in Canada, the Rideau Canal is home to firstclass fishing and supports an important tourismbased industry for eastern Ontario. Trophy gamefish can be found in the waterway, including Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides and M. dolomieu), Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy), and northern pike (Esox lucius).
Have you ever wondered what else might be passing through locks with you beneath the surface? There’s a chance as you travel through a lockstation, fish are travelling right alongside you. Although lockmasters, anglers, and boaters have reported seeing fish inside locks, little is known about fish movement and behaviour related to lock-and-dam infrastructure. Do fish purposefully move through locks, or is it accidental? If they do move through locks, to what extent?
Are movements species-specific and/or seasonally driven? Students in the Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Lab at Carleton University are using acoustic telemetry equipment and generous help from anglers to investigate fish movements and the ecological connectivity of the Rideau Canal Waterway.
Biotelemetry, the tracking of animals using electronic tags, provides information on movement patterns of wild fish necessary to conservation and management efforts. Acoustic transmitters (i.e. tags) are surgically implanted into focal fish species and emit an underwater sound signal that sends unique identification information about that specific fish to acoustic receivers. Receivers, which are strategically placed beneath the water surface throughout the waterway prior to tagging, receive the sound signals and convert them to digital data that can be used to determine tag positions.
In the summer of 2019, we acoustically tagged 245 fish; these include two gamefish species, largemouth bass and northern pike, and two invasive species, common carp (Cyprinus carpio) and round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) Additional efforts and experimental projects were focused on northern pike given that they are known to travel relatively long distances (up to 8km daily). The team deployed 90 acoustic receivers throughout the waterway in the spring and in November they will be braving the cold to retrieve them to download data and analyze fish movement patterns.
Another interesting aspect of our acoustic telemetry research involves the inclusion of invasive species. We acoustically tagged both common carp and the recently discovered round goby this past summer. Round Goby are of special concern as they are a newly introduced invasive species to the Rideau Canal. We are hopeful that we may be able to prevent their further spread by understanding, and exploiting, their spatial ecology (when and where a species distributes themselves over time to reside, avoid predation, forage, and for sexually mature individuals, reproduce). Round Goby were first documented in the canal during a scheduled water drawdown in Edmonds Lockstation in Smiths Falls in 2018. The round goby is a small (25cm max), highly aggressive, bottomdwellingfish that has been observed to predate on the eggs and young of nesting gamefish, appears to contribute to increased incidences of avian botulism, and as a result of competitive exclusion, often displaces native species to suboptimal habitat. Although our team struggled to capture round goby for weeks (a bittersweet sign, as we interpret this to mean population densities are still low) we finally identified a successful capture method using a backpack electrofishing unit. We implanted acoustic tags into 45 Round Goby. Upon retrieval of our acoustic receivers in November, round goby movements will be at the top of the list for analysis.
In addition to the aforementioned electronic tagging studies, we are also conducting an extensive external tagging study to investigate broadscale fish movements in the Rideau Canal. We are striving to tag and release 10,000 fish with external identification tags, also known as anchor tags. Besides a unique ID number, the tag also has contact information (email: firstname.lastname@example.org and phone number: (613) 520-2600 x4377) for anglers to report their catches. By partnering with anglers who report their catches of tagged fish, we can compare the original location the fish was tagged to the recapture location, and importantly, determine if that fish passed through any barriers (e.g. locks, dams) to adjacent water bodies. To date, we have tagged approximately 4,500 fish and will continue to tag fish until we reach our goal. Tagged fish species include Black Crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus), Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), Bullhead (Ictalurus spp.), Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike, Pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus), Rock Bass (Ambloplites rupestris), Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens), Walleye (Stizostedium vitreum), Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush), White Sucker (Catastomus commersoni), Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio), and Muskellunge. To date, 171 fish have been recaptured as of October 2019, none of which were recaptured in canal reaches other than where they were initially tagged.
Over the next three years our team will continue working towards meeting the objective of tagging 10,000 fish and acoustically tagging a variety of fish species. By analyzing acoustic telemetry data in conjunction with anglerrecapture data, we hope to better understand fish connectivity in the Rideau Canal Waterway and use that information to support economically important gamefish and simultaneously minimize invasive species impacts. If you are curious to learn more about our research, or see a video of how fish are tagged, you can check out our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Cook eFECPL/ or visit our lab website at http://www.fecpl.ca/
By Alexandria Trahan1, John Anderson1, Andy J. Danylchuk3 and Steven J. Cooke1
1 Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Laboratory, Department of Biology and Institute of Environmental and Interdisciplinary Science, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, K1S 5B6, Canada
2 The Ottawa River Musky Factory, John Anderson, The Ottawa River Musky Factory 106 County Road 9, Plantagenet, Ontario, Canada, K0B 1L0, Canada.
3 Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 160 Holdsworth Way, Amherst, MA, 01003, USA
Autumn skies are upon us and musky are in a flurry to fatten up before winter hits. As you enjoy the time on the water with a stick bait trailing behind the boat, SLAM….your heart is now pounding as you fight that prized Muskie and successfully get it to the boat. Upon landing you notice that one of the gills was nicked by a hook, and the water around the fish is stained with blood. All you can think is, now what? Will the fish survive or is there a way to stop the bleeding? You then recall seeing a video online that went viral not long, showing Mountain Dew being poured over the gills of a bass to stop bleeding. As you look to your cooler for something even close to Mountain Dew, you then also remember the discussion and debate online by anglers, writers and scientists, with some arguing that this is indeed an approach that should be embraced, while others urging caution since no scientific study has been done yet evaluating whether carbonated beverages control bleeding and improve the survival of injured fish. With no resolve, you do the best you can with this particular musky, and end your day hoping that this debate would soon be effectively put to rest.
This is where we come in. For the past few months we have been systematically testing whether a bleeding fish should have a carbonated beverage poured over bleeding gills following capture on hook and line. Although we had hoped to work on Muskies, given their rarity and size, we selected its sister species – northern pike – for the research. Given that we test this on live fish, we first needed to demonstrate that our science had valid purpose, and that our proposed procedures were in line with criteria laid out by the Canadian Council on Animal Care. Specific to our study design was experimentally injuring gills of fish by cutting out a standardized portion of gill filaments from a gill arch (see Image 1), and then pouring a selection of carbonated liquids over the gills to see if the bleeding stopped and for how long (details below).
What helped us get approval was that our research would resolve the frantic online debate, as well as provide evidence as to whether pouring carbonated beverages over bleeding gills would improve the outcome for an injured fish if it had to be released.
With a scientific collection permit in hand from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, it was time to start with the systematic and controlled evaluation of this longstanding questions. As with any systematic, scientific study, we had to consider and control for as many factors as possible, including water temperature, the size of the fish, and the type, amount, and temperature of carbonated beverage to be poured on the fish’s gills. Given that water temperature has a dramatic effect on the biology of fish, we opted to focus on late spring conditions when water temperature was between 11-18 C, and late summer when the temperature was 24-27 C. To then determine what type of carbonated beverage to use, we explored the different social media platforms that revealed the most common beverage being used by anglers on fish – that being Mountain Dew and Coca Cola. We also used plain carbonated lake water as a third liquid to be poured over bleeding gills, allowing us to test whether the additives in the soft drinks made a difference or it was just carbonation. For additional scientific rigor, we included two additional groups one ‘reference’ group where the fish’s gills were cut but nothing was poured on the wound, and the other being a ‘baseline’ group where nothing was done to the fish (it was simply held in a cooler for the same sampling period as the other fish).
For the experiment, fish were angled, landed, and placed into a trough filled with lake water. Fish were then measured and had their gill colour compared to a standardized scale (see Image 2), prior to being selected for one of the five groups mentioned above. Gill colour was recorded because it is relative to the amount of blood loss, with gills full of blood (most common) being bright red, and gills with lower and lower blood flow progressively lighter and lighter, to almost becoming white if fish bleed out.
For groups where gill tissue was removed, fish were individually placed in a cooler, and evaluated for relative bleeding intensity and the time it took for bleeding to stop. Relative bleeding intensity was based on the following scale: 0, no bleeding; 1, little bleeding, hard to see; 2, obviously bleeding, easy to see; and 3, intense bleeding, pulsatile blood flow. For the ‘popped’ or carbonated lake water groups, we recorded bleeding intensity immediately before and after a set volume of liquid poured directly onto the wounded gills. This would help us evaluate claims online suggesting that carbonated beverages reduced the amount of the blood loss. For all fish, additional bleeding values were recorded at range of intervals during a 20-minute holding period. After 20 minutes of holding the vigour and condition of the fish was recorded, and fish that were not moribund were released. To test whether the temperature of the pop makes a difference, we repeated the above series of experiments comparing how bleeding is affected by Mountain Dew at both 4 C (as if the pop just came out of an icefilled cooler) to 2 C (as if the pop had been sitting in a can in a koozie on the console of the boat for a few hours). We stuck to Mountain Dew for this experiment since it was the most common beverage being used in the videos online.
For both experiments combined we caught and evaluated over 200 northern pike. We are still analyzing the data to determine whether the different carbonated beverage treatments had an effect on bleeding. Stay tuned for more details and whether you are best to keep the carbonated beverages for yourself or to share them with your fish.
A roaming muskie dubbed James Bond is helping scientists spy on muskies that are so difficult to catch, they’re called the fish of 10,000 casts.
Researchers have tracked a muskie with 007 in its identifying records from the Detroit River to the far end of Lake Erie near Buffalo to Lake St. Clair and back to Lake Erie.
That is the most well-travelled muskellunge in an international study that is tracking 111 muskies with surgically implanted transmitters to understand what these large predator fish with a mouthful of teeth are doing.
This year we were delighted to have moved to a big new facility in Bowmanville, On. The Garnet B. Rickard Recreational Complex is a spacious facility with auditorium space to handle about 400 plus a whole rink pad for our exhibitors. This was one of the most important changes for the new Odyssey. The event had been poised to grow but our former location in St. Catherine’s On. was not big enough to accommodate our increasing number of exhibitor/vendors, and the larger crowds of muskie enthusiasts that we hoped would come.
Previous Odysseys attracted 425-450 people, but for 2019 we were hoping for a significant increase in attendees. Our challenge to increase attendance meant that we needed to put together a really strong educational program with some of Canada’s best muskie experts.
During the fall and early winter period we promoted the speaker line-up very heavy through the Muskies Canada web site and Facebook page. Our goal was to attract new people in addition to our regular fanatics. IN the New Year we began to promote the absolutely incredible ensemble of industry leaders and bait makers that had signed up to be part of the big show. Hats off to our MCI Web Director, Pierre Masson. During the last month before the show, one-by-one we featured these incredible vendors on our Facebook page.
On Thursday, April 11 we began the installations to set up the venue. Our electrical contractor and our draping supplier came in and set up the arena area.
Volunteers made it work:
Friday, April 12, we welcomed our volunteers, who came from Muskies Canada chapters everywhere. Volunteers have always been the heart of the Odyssey. This show is unique in that it is not a commercial, for-profit show. All the other muskie shows throughout the US are held by private interests as moneymakers for private investors. The Odyssey is the only one that is a not-for-profit show. It is the biggest fundraiser for Canada’s muskie fishery. Everyone embraced this idea and volunteered time and effort to contribute to the success of the show. Speakers paid their own travel costs to be part of the program and contribute their expertise.
Early on in the planning we recognized the important role that volunteers world inevitably play in making it all work. Knowing that we would need a lot of volunteers and that this would prove to be an important contributor to the success of the show, we asked Past-President, Chris Purdy to be volunteer coordinator. We decided to create a high-visibility t-shirt that identified each of our volunteers. These red shirts and the wonderful volunteers that filled them were a big hit at the Odyssey. See the note from Danna Parker, of Handlebarz.
The industry came together:
The new Odyssey plan was very attractive to our exhibitors and vendors. We drew up a floor plan with over 50% more space than ever before as we had room for 72 booths in the arena. After a lot of personal contact working with industry and baitmakers, this space completely sold out and we began a waiting list. Many of the vendors paid with product, which we were eager to have for the silent auctions and draws to be held during the event. Everyone understood the fundraising objective and chipped in to help. Some went above and beyond what was required to bring additional donations of services or products. Some who couldn’t be there (like DK Muskie Lures), donated baits or other products to help with our fundraising. One DK bait sold on Saturday for a record $550 at auction.
Friday morning we were ready for our vendors to come in and set up throughout the day. As they came in and discovered the new, attractive location, their spirits were high as they prepared their booths and tables for the good crowds we all hoped would come on Saturday. Load-in was smooth and effective. The buzz was very positive as industry members of our Canadian Muskie community got together and renewed friendships and business arrangements.
One of the new things we did for this year’s Odyssey was to produce nametags for the vendors and their pro-staff teams. It took a while to identify who would be there as part of the exhibitors’ teams but we were able to turn that into over 200 name tags that featured the Muskies Canada logo and identified the person wearing it as part of the expert staff that was available on the floor, ready to welcome attendees. Everyone that wore a nametag was promoting Muskies Canada and what we are doing.
Expert speakers drew a great audience:
Our speakers were awesome. We had so much positive response that we had more speakers than we could fit into the busy schedule. To organize the sessions, we developed themes that we thought would appeal to our existing clientele while attracting new people interested in muskies. The Women and Muskies panel was new and innovative, addressing this growing part of the muskie community. We also wanted to provide a place for the muskie fly-fishing community. They had 5 great speakers in a full-day program running concurrently with the main program. Of course, basic and advanced muskie fishing were important sessions, especially for the new audiences that are interested in how to get started (the right way with the right tools and techniques). Tech issues are always important as sonar and GPS technology changes and improves. Joslyn Leung is a popular speaker to help in this area. One of Canada’s best documentarians of the muskie experience is Bill Hamblin, author of “120 Days”, his very popular book. Finally we put together an extraordinary panel of experts showcasing the some of the best experts on Canada’s muskies. Jim Saric was brought in by Shimano Canada. Pro guides Mike Lazarus, John Anderson, Bill Barber, Rob Cowan, and Shawn Maher were hosted in a Q&A session by John Cowan, Mississauga member and sometimes co-host of Musky Hunter Television.
Managing the crowds:
We were hoping to almost double the attendance to 800. Our first sign that it would be popular was our advance ticket sales, which soared to over 600 by midnight the day before the event. Our next sign was the line-up that started at 2.30 am on show day. We had prepared the way for line-ups by offering to let advance-ticket holders to check in beginning at 7.30 am, a full hour before the exhibit area doors opened. When we began this at 7.30 we had over 250 people ready to come in. Fortunately the facility was big enough that we could bring everyone inside in an orderly line-up. When the exhort area doors opened at 8.30 am, we had an orderly inflow of excited people to kick things off. Our red-shirted volunteers were all on hand to help make it work smoothly. Total attendance was over 1,100.
Our biggest fundraiser:
All of this is to raise funds for Muskie research, education and conservation. The 2019 Odyssey produced a net proceeds of $18,358.02. These funds will go into a special Muskies Canada account to be used for the fishery.
The success of the 2019 Odyssey is the result of extraordinary teamwork. The Odyssey Committee included Pete Bostelmann, Bryan Mathes, Angelo DiDomizio, Chris Purdy, Jason Newell and Peter Levick. Meetings were held regularly throughout the year to work out the new plans and we were able to consult regularly with the Board of Directors. The team grew to include our growing number of volunteers so that by Odyssey day we were over 30 on the Odyssey team. Everyone was helpful and did a great job to assist with the exhibitors, attendees, media and contractors that were part of this record-breaking event.
See you next year:
Based on the success of the 2019 Muskie Odyssey, the Board of Directors has voted to hold the Odyssey annually.
Thank you to all that helped make the event work so well: