Emigration and Angler Utilization of Stocked Muskellunge in Ohio Reservoirs: A Preliminary Look At a Long-Term Tagging Project

Monday, September 9, 2013: 4:40 PM
White Oak (The Marriott Little Rock)
Curtis Wagner , Wildlife District Three, Ohio Division of Wildlife, Akron, OH
Kevin Page , Inland Fisheries Research Unit, Ohio Division of Wildlife, Hebron, OH
Although native to Ohio, habitat loss and pollution have greatly reduced muskellunge numbers in the state and self-sustaining populations are rare.  Consequently, the Ohio Division of Wildlife maintains muskellunge fisheries in Ohio reservoirs through fall advanced fingerling stockings.  However, the fate of muskellunge post-stocking, particularly the extent of emigration from reservoirs and the dynamics underlying the recruitment of these stocked fish to the fishery, is unknown.  Monitoring of these fisheries relies entirely on angler reports of muskellunge catches through an online reporting system called the Muskie Angler Log (MAL).  Beginning in 2013, advanced fingerlings will be tagged and stocked into four reservoirs for ten consecutive years.  All muskellunge will be tagged externally with a T-bar tag and also implanted with a passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag.  Throughout the duration of the study, tagged muskellunge will be actively sampled through angler captures reported to the MAL and also passively sampled through a continuously operating PIT tag reader station in each spillway.  Capture histories of tagged fish will be analysed using Program MARK to determine the probabilities of emigration, angler catch/recapture, harvest, and in-reservoir survival – information vital for understanding the fishery and identifying opportunities for improving muskellunge fishing in Ohio.