Recapture rates and size selectivity of muskellunge by anglers within two Minnesota fisheries

Increases in catch‐and‐release practices in addition to angler engagement in management activities to evaluate and improve the trophy potential of muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) fisheries have become prevalent in recent decades. An expectation of conservative angling practices and regulations is that released fish can be recaptured by anglers at a later time and potentially at a larger size. Although several studies have evaluated Muskellunge recapture rates, no studies have estimated the number of recaptured Muskellunge relative to the number present in the population. Additionally, few studies have evaluated angling size selectivity and the potential benefits or biases of incorporating those data into traditional Muskellunge assessments. This study evaluated the proportion of muskellunge that were caught and recaptured relative to the population estimates in two Minnesota water bodies and the potential length‐related bias from angler‐caught fish. Data were obtained from traditional sampling gears (i.e., trap netting, boat electrofishing) and angling by volunteer anglers in the Mississippi and Crow Wing rivers and Baby and Man lakes. Participating anglers captured 11–22% of the population, of which 1–3% were subsequently recaptured at both sites annually. Recaptured fish accounted for 5–16% of the annual catch. At the Mississippi River site, proportionally larger fish were angled compared with the modeled population size structure, whereas angler catch from Baby and Man lakes was similar to the modeled size structure, likely due to the differing techniques used by anglers in the two water bodies. A more thorough understanding of recapture rates and size selectivity may be particularly important when managing a low‐density species as angling pressure and angler involvement in management activities increase.