Movement patterns and spawning sites of muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) in the Antrum chain of lakes, Michigan

The purpose of this study was to identify spawning habitat, determine home ranges, and examine movement patterns for a naturally reproducing population of Great Lakes muskellunge in the lower Antrim County chain of lakes, Michigan. Muskellunge spawning sites were identified by tracking of implanted muskellunge using a directional hydrophone and by nighttime spotlight surveys. All spawning fish tagged in Torch or Clam Lake spawned in Clam Lake, while most spawning fish tagged in Elk or Skegemog Lake spawned in the Torch River; one appeared to spawn in Lake Skegemog. Of the 32 potential spawning sites, 28 (87.5 %) contained submerged aquatic vegetation as the dominant habitat type, while the remaining 4 sites were divided equally between woody debris (6.25 %) and bare substrate. All but one implanted muskellunge returned from spawning sites to the same lake in which they were captured and implanted. Of the 24 tagged muskellunge, four were harvested via angling or spearing within 1 year after tagging, and two additional fish were assumed harvested when contact was lost. Implanted muskellunge tended to remain in the lakes during the winter, then move into spawning areas in spring, eventually returning to open lake sites where they resided over summer. Muskellunge movement behavior diverged after spawning each year, with 11 tagged fish (61.1 %) remaining in Skegemog or Clam Lake for the summer, and seven individuals traveling to Elk or Torch Lake. Muskellunge home ranges averaged 612 ha and ranged from 17 to 5,287 ha.