opulation dynamics and angler exploitation of the unique muskellunge population in Shoepack Lake, Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

A unique population of muskellunge Esox masquinongy inhabits Shoepack Lake in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota. Little is known about its status, dynamics, and angler exploitation, and there is concern for the long-term viability of this population. We used intensive sampling and mark–recapture methods to quantify abundance, survival, growth, condition, age at maturity and fecundity and angler surveys to quantify angler pressure, catch rates, and exploitation. During our study, heavy rain washed out a dam constructed by beavers Castor canadensis which regulates the water level at the lake outlet, resulting in a nearly 50% reduction in surface area. We estimated a population size of 1,120 adult fish at the beginning of the study. No immediate reduction in population size was detected in response to the loss of lake area, although there was a gradual, but significant, decline in population size over the 2-year study. Adults grew less than 50 mm per year, and relative weight (W r) averaged roughly 80. Anglers were successful in catching, on average, two fish during a full day of angling, but harvest was negligible. Shoepack Lake muskellunge exhibit much slower growth rates and lower condition, but much higher densities and angler catch per unit effort (CPUE), than other muskellunge populations. The unique nature, limited distribution, and location of this population in a national park require special consideration for management. The results of this study provide the basis for assessing the long-term viability of the Shoepack Lake muskellunge population through simulations of long-term population dynamics and genetically effective population size.