Current Challenges and Threats to Great Lakes Muskellunge and Northern Pike Populations

Monday, September 9, 2013: 1:40 PM
White Oak (The Marriott Little Rock)
John M. Farrell , Environmental and Forest Biology, State University of New York - College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY
Despite their ecological role as large apex predators, members of the Esocidae, most notably Northern Pike (Esox lucius) and Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) are sensitive species, especially during early life.  Their life histories are adapted to the dynamic nearshore environmental conditions of the Laurentian Great Lakes, including among others, the Georgian Bay, Lake St. Clair and connecting channels including the Niagara and St. Lawrence Rivers.  Muskellunge populations once thriving in Lake Erie are near complete extirpation and others have declined in core areas such as the upper St. Lawrence River.   Both Northern Pike and Muskellunge declines have been traditionally attributed to reproductive habitat loss and change coupled with past overexploitation.   But disease outbreaks, invasive species, prey community shifts, and climate change are recently identified additional stresses that potentially affect esocids and deserve consideration.  Ongoing interest in esocid fisheries and their ecological roles has led to heightened management efforts targeting population and habitat restoration.  To address the question of future population expectations and potential for intervention, this presentation looks at scientific advances relative to patterns of change for consideration with ongoing management decision making.