Originally published in the Muskies Canada Release Journal 2005
A worrisome and ignorant activity carried out by non reasoning anglers is pre-season angling for muskellunge. This usually occurs during the month of May and early June – the muskie spawning period in most northerly locales, usually under the guise of pike fishing.
These muskies are usually released but a question remains- What was the impact of angling stress on the subsequent spawning activities and spawning results for these angled muskellunge?
Studies on other species are eye opening. Research on largemouth bass and trout caught and released during the spawning period indicate a surprising impact on the fry- the next generation. It was discovered that young of the year fish from stressed parents were smaller, weigh less, and have later swim up times than fry from a control group of non angled fish.
During the following winter it is common that smaller YOY fish usually fail to survive the cold water season as nature culls the weak. These results provide evidence that stress before spawning has the potential to negatively impact a fish’s future reproductive success. From these results on offspring, anglers should be discouraged from targeting muskellunge during the preseason beyond the usual reason of bad form (fishing illegally out of season) but also their negative potential impact on the future of wild muskie stocks.