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.