Characteristics of Ontario muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) fisheries based on volunteer angler diary information

This paper consolidates and summarizes information on Ontario muskellunge, Esox masquinongy, sport fisheries derived from angler diary programs sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) and Muskies Canada Incorporated (MCI) from 1979 to 2004. Interest in muskellunge as a sport fish has increased substantially over the past 10–15 years. Muskellunge catches were found to be highly correlated with angling effort. Catch rates, expressed in terms of catch-per-unit-of-effort (CUE), have improved over the past decade to the point where, in 2001, the provincial CUE was 0.119. The long term catch rate is 0.069. This improvement in angling quality is attributed to new minimum size limit regulations and increased catch-and-release angling practices. Over the period from 1979–2004, release rates by muskellunge anglers have averaged 94%. Based on a sample size of 9,499 fish, the mean size of angled muskellunge over the past 26 years was 37.0 inches (94 cm). Numerous fish exceeding 50 inches (127 cm) are angled from Ontario waters each year. The incidence of lymphosarcoma, a highly contagious, malignant blood cancer, has averaged only 2% since 1979. Based on an analysis of this information, Ontario’s muskellunge fisheries appear to be stable and sustainable. Volunteer angler diary programs provide an accurate and cost-effective means to monitor the status of muskellunge fisheries in Ontario