The Lake Simcoe muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) restoration program, 2005-2016: A review

This report has been prepared to assemble and summarize information in order to evaluate the Lake Simcoe Muskellunge Restoration Program (LSMRP)..The program was initiated in 2005 after a feasibility study and a habitat assessment were documented and concluded the restoration of muskellunge was feasible. Design of the restoration program included identification of long term goals, selection of appropriate genetic strains for re-stocking, identification of muskellunge culture sites and the development of egg collection and netting protocols as well as assessment techniques.

Rehabilitative stocking efforts were intiated in 2005. Between 2005 and 2016, a total of 16, 359 juvenile (predominantly fall fingerlings) muskellunge were stocked at nine selected sites in Lake Simcoe. Netting for egg collections in Gloucester Pool enabled the identification of muskellunge spawning sites, documentation of spawning dates and water temperatures, and collection of information regarding muskellunge growth rates, maturation and movements. From a habitat perspective, the LSMRP also involve planting of soft stem bulrush (Scirpus validus) and wild rice (Zizania sp.) to enhance muskellunge spawning habitats at selected sites as well as rehabilitation measures which involved 15,904 m2 of shoreline.

To date, the LSMRP has been heavily dependent on partnerships, in terms of both volunteer participation and financing. A number of problems and issues were identified during the course of the program to date. A variety of assessment techniques have recently been implemented to evaluate the success of the program. Only limited success has been documented to date given the long term nature of species restoration programs, however ongoing monitoring efforts in the future should enable a better evaluation of program success.