A program for successful muskellunge management—A Minnesota success story
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Minnesota has established a successful muskellunge, Esox masquinongy, stocking program as a result of a series of research studies that enabled area fisheries managers to make informed management decisions. The previous propagation and stocking program (pre-1982) reared muskellunge progeny from Shoepack Lake near the Minnesota–Ontario border, but these fish were not attaining trophy size. Protein electrophoresis showed there were two different muskellunge strains in the state. A controlled study was conducted on progeny from natural muskellunge populations from Leech and Shoepack lakes. Fish from these populations, together, were used to stock two other Minnesota lakes, and their growth rates, age of maturity, and maximum size attained were compared. Leech Lake muskellunge grew faster and attained a larger maximum size than the Shoepack Lake strain. As a result, a new stocking program based on the Leech Lake strain was developed. Because it was difficult to collect Leech Lake gametes, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources created seven brood stock lakes using Leech Lake progeny. As a result of combining genetic considerations, new research on spawning sites, more restrictive harvest regulations, and catch-and-release fishing, anglers’ catch of trophy-sized muskellunge in Minnesota has increased.
KeywordsStocking Genetics Research Adaptive management
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The authors wish to thank the many Muskie, Inc. members who assisted us over the years in evaluating this new program. We also wish to thank R. Pierce, M. Drake, and D. Schupp, and four anonymous reviewers, for many helpful editorial comments on the draft manuscript.
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