Quantifying the success of muskellunge catch-and-release programs: A summary of cooperative angler tagging studies

Catch-and-release fishing for muskellunge is one direct method by which anglers can contribute to the future of quality of their fishing experience and enhance the survival of these trophy fish. Muskellunge fishing club members from seven states participated in tagging studies in an effort to quantify survival of angler-caught and released muskellunge. Data from over 1,600 fish tagged and released since 1976 were examined for this summary. Approximately 17% of these angler-tagged muskellunge were recaptured by anglers. Recapture rates for 578 muskellunge caught, tagged and released by 16 experienced anglers ranged from 22% to 44% and averaged 28%. These rates equal or exceed most muskellunge exploitation estimates reported by fisheries agencies, which indicates excellent survival and tag retention for the fish handled by these anglers. In the future, even more extensive tagging studies on fewer bodies of water may provide even more useful information on the positive effects of muskellunge catch-and-release fishing.