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Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 79, Issue 1–2, pp 111–123 | Cite as

Development, implementation, and evaluation of an international muskellunge management strategy for the upper St Lawrence River

  • John M. Farrell
  • Rodger M. Klindt
  • John M. Casselman
  • Steven R. LaPan
  • Robert G. Werner
  • Albert Schiavone
CROSSMAN

Abstract

The muskellunge, Esox masquinongy, fishery in the St Lawrence River is believed to have declined significantly from historical levels and reached critically low levels during the 1970s. Over-exploitation caused by liberal angling regulations, and loss and alteration of critical spawning and nursery habitat probably contributed to this decline. In 1980, a St Lawrence River Muskellunge Management Work Group comprising resource managers and several advisors, including E.J. Crossman, to whom this symposium is dedicated, was created to address research and management needs. A trophy muskellunge management strategy was implemented including more restrictive harvest regulations, public education promoting “catch and release”, and protection of spawning and nursery habitats. Age and growth information obtained from cleithra analysis indicated the need for increased size limits to adequately protect spawning stocks. Research efforts have developed a biological information base and monitoring tools to guide management decisions and evaluate responses. Over 100 spawning and nursery locations have been identified in US and Canadian waters leading to improved protection of critical habitats. An angler diary program shows a decline in the number of fish being harvested and a local muskellunge release award program implemented in 1987 has logged over 1000 releases of fish at least 44″ in length. Adult muskellunge monitoring in eleven spawning areas revealed an increase in mean total length of over 63 mm (>2.5 inches) after the regulation changes. Monitoring of age-0 muskellunge by use of seining surveys (1997–2005) indicates consistent reproductive success with the potential for several strong year-classes. Improvements in the muskellunge population and fishery are attributed to the progressive management action and a united community response.

Keywords

Muskellunge Management Monitoring St Lawrence River 

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Notes

Acknowledgements

The primary source of funding was through the Federal Aid in Sportfish Restoration FA-5-R and FA-48-R. We thank Doug Stang, Patrick Festa, and Steve Hurst of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for their support of and comments on this research. We also thank members of the Esocid Working Group for helping to guide our research and management efforts. We are indebted to the staff of the Thousand Islands Biological Station, including Brent Murry, Kristen Hawley, Tom Hughes, Lea Calhoun, Sarah Walsh, Sue Sabik, and previous employees and countless volunteers who have assisted with data collection. We thank K. Farrell for reviews of this manuscript. This work is a contribution of the Thousand Islands Biological Station and is dedicated to the memory of E.J. Crossman.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • John M. Farrell
    • 1
  • Rodger M. Klindt
    • 2
  • John M. Casselman
    • 3
  • Steven R. LaPan
    • 4
  • Robert G. Werner
    • 1
  • Albert Schiavone
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Forest BiologyState University of New York College of Environmental Science and ForestrySyracuseUSA
  2. 2.New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Region 6Bureau of Fish Wildlife and Marine ResourcesWatertownUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyQueen's UniversityKingstonCanada
  4. 4.New York State Department of Environmental ConservationCape VincentUSA

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