An overview of the Lake Simcoe muskellunge restoration project, Lake Simcoe, Ontario

The muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) is native to Lake Simcoe, Ontario, and historically supported commercial and sport fisheries. After significant overharvest, habitat lost and ecological change in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Lake Simcoe populations was substantially reduced by the 1930s through to the late 1960s. Muskellunge were rarely detected beyond the 1980s although the sport fishery remained open until 2005. More recently, restoration feasibility and habitat inventory studies determined that restoration of the Lake Simcoe muskellunge population is a realistic management objective. The goal of the Lake Simcoe muskellunge restoration project is to restore a self-sustaining muskellunge population to Lake Simcoe through a long term collaborative effort that includes habitat enhancement, rehabilitative stocking and effectiveness monitoring. Rehabilitative stocking was initiated in 2005 and habitat rehabilitation efforts focused on critical spawning and nursery areas. Here, we provide recent results from early effectiveness monitoring efforts and identify challenges related to restoring muskellunge and their habitats. These and other obstacles are being addressed through the ongoing partnerships that have guided this long term restoration project to date.