My, my, how far we’ve come: An examination of the impacts of catch-and-release angling for muskies

Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) angling has undergone enormous change since the mid 1900s when catch-and-kill regined supreme. When the angling organizations of Muskies Canada Inc. and Muskies Inc. were found in the later 1960s-early 1970s, a paradigm shift occurred and the implementation of catch-and-release practices became increasingly prevelant. Changes to angling equipment, landing devices, angler knowledge (e.g., the impacts of air exposure and water temperature) and attitudes led to the development of today’s handling methods. In 2009, a research project began to test the impact of current prac5ticies and compared them against a gentler alternative procedure. Over two years, 77 muskellunge, up to 132 cm, were angled and blood sampled to examine the physiological changes associated with the two angling treatments. A subsample of 30 fish were radio-tagged to determine the short term behavioural impacts of the catch-and-release process and to determine survival rates. Little physiological change or short term behavioural impacts were noted between ntreatments. All radio-tagged fish survived. The results indicate that today’s handling practices greatly reduced the impacts associated with catch-and-release angling on muskellunge. Furthermore, our research illustrates how angling groups can effectively co-manage resources by ensuring as many fish stay within a population as possible and to ultimately improve the fisheries they use.