Spawning Habitat for Muskellunge Is Far More Variable Than We Ever Expected

Monday, September 9, 2013: 1:00 PM
White Oak (The Marriott Little Rock)
James Diana , School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Muskellunge have been studied for quite some time due to their unique nature, large adult size, and importance to sport fishing.  One of the main limitations to current muskellunge distributions is the loss of spawning habitat due to encroachment by human development.  Human alterations of littoral habitat, along with changes in water levels due to dams and diversions, have resulted in dramatic declines in muskellunge throughout their range.  Early studies focusing on the habitat characteristics selected by spawning muskellunge showed that they often selected back bay areas with soft substrates and some emergent and submergent vegetation.  As we have continued to evaluate spawning site selection for muskellunge in a wider variety of habitats, we have found that they select a wide variety of sites, including sandy and rocky substrates and open shoreline as well as back bays.  Often the site selected was forced upon the fish by the lack of their preferred habitat characteristics in a given lake or river, but at the same time these fish do reproduce successfully in this less than optimal habitat.  This presentation will review studies on spawning habitat done in the north central region of the US, and relate them to the type of habitat available as well as to human alteration.