Muskellunge habitat with guidelines for habitat management

Loss or alteration of habitat, especially reproductive habitat, is considered to be a major cause of a decline of native muskellunge populations. Active habitat management programs specifically for muskellunge are virtually nonexistent. This paper summarizes muskellunge habitat needs and problems and suggest guidelines for its management.

Adult muskellunge are strongly associated with submergent vegetation while juveniles seem to prefer emergents; both are associated with woody debris such as submerged tree tops, stumps and loges in rivers and littoral zones of lakes. Dissolved oxygen (DO) depletion from accumulation of flocculent organic mucks and dense aquatic vegetation in spawning areas has been associated with poor natural reproduction. Invasion of formerly exclusive muskellunge waters by northern pike has also been associated with the decline of natural muskellunge populations.

Proposed muskellunge habitat management guidelines include control of northern pike populations, maintenance of balanced fish populations, identification of spawning areas and acquisition of adjacent lands, monitoring of DO at spawning sites and rehabilitation of unsuitable substrates, timber management of riparian areas adjacent to spawning areas and management of watershed to maintain high water quality.