Managing muskies in the ’90s. Workshop Proceedings

The muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) enjoys an almost mystical reputation among Ontario anglers. It’s elusive nature, voracious appetite, fighting qualities when hooked and ability to attain an immense size all contribute to its stature as one of the most highly prized fish species in Ontario. In addition to its value from a recreational aspect, muskellunge also provide direct economic benefits estimated at several million dollars in Ontario annually (Scott and Crossman 1973). The distribution of muskellunge in Canada is confined to small portions of northwestern Ontario and western Quebec as well as the lower Great Lakes and inland waters of southern Ontario (Crossman 1978). They are known to exist in 302 inland lakes and several river systems in Ontario (OMNR 1987). Perhaps with no other species of fish is the partnership more evident between researchers, anglers and managers than is the case with muskellunge. Muskies Inc. and, more recently, Muskies Canada Inc., have a long and distinquished history of data collection, public education and support of muskellunge research. Two earlier symposia have established benchmarks in the knowledge of muskellunge and the fisheries they provide. The “Coolwater Fishes of North America Symposium” (AFS 1978) was held at St. Paul, Minnesota in 1978. In 1984, the first major collaborative effort to assemble and synthesize information solely on muskellunge was the “Managing Muskies” symposium held at LaCrosse, Wisconsin (AFS 1986). Discussions are currently underway for a second international muskellunge symposium in 1997.

A two-day workshop, entitled “Managing Muskies in the ’90s” was held at the Kemptville College of Agricultural Technology onAugust 16-17, 1995. The workshop was organized by the Science & Technology Transfer Unit, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and sponsored by local chapters of Muskies Canada Inc. This workshop was organized to assemble a mix of researchers, managers, anglers and selected outdoor writers to transfer results of current and ongoing muskellunge research and discuss issues regarding management of the species. The format included formal presentations by 17 individual speakers from Quebec, New York, Wisconsin and across Ontario. Presentations were grouped according to the general topics of management strategies, movements and habitat utilization and status reports on different fisheries. The second component of the agenda involved breaking into informal discussion groups to discuss two current management issues: (i) Muskellunge Stocking: Is it a viable option? and (ii) Size limits: Do they work? The interest in muskellunge was evident by the fact that at least 75 people attended the workshop. These proceedings have been prepared to disseminate information presented to those who were unable to attend. It is hoped that this document will provide useful information for future management of this “noble” fish

Conference report: Muskellunge science and management: Progress through partnerships

Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) are an elusive yet highly prized species in eastern North America that can attain trophy sizes. As a result, a dedicated catch-and-release recreational Muskellunge fishery has developed throughout their range. Management of this fishery has largely been facilitated by partnerships between anglers, researchers, and managers. To explore and encourage interactions among these groups a 2-day workshop was held in Ottawa, Canada in August 2014. Three key themes emerged from presentations at this workshop highlighting: 1) the success of Muskellunge management in most of their natural range, 2) knowledge gaps regarding their habitat requirements at various life-stages, and 3) the utility of genetic tools to assist with their management. Through a series of facilitated discussions, concerns were raised by participants regarding the threat posed by non-specialized anglers, the response of Muskellunge populations under future novel conditions, the appropriate scale for management of populations, the potential consequences of cumulative stressors, and the challenges associated with managing cumulative effects and threats. The major take-home message from the workshop was that Muskellunge management is largely a success story that can serve as an example for other recreational fisheries, particularly in terms of building productive partnerships that engage anglers, managers and scientists. Here we present a discussion of the major themes and concerns identified through the workshop in the hopes of spurring future research on Muskellunge, and encouraging managers of other fisheries to adopt some of the strategies that have made Muskellunge fishery management successful.