The muskellunge (Esox masquinongy), a native to the northeast and one of the largest freshwater predatory fish, is both an important ecological and economic resource to the State of New York and the Province of Ontario. St. Lawrence River muskellunge (E. m. masquinongy) are genetically unique to the Great Lakes and are important top predators and ecosystem function indicators. Its large size, unmatched aesthetic appearance, and secretive nature make it one of the most revered and sought after freshwater game fish.
Significant declines in angler catches through the 1970' s led to concerns about the future of the St. Lawrence River muskellunge population. Little was known of muskellunge population biology needed to effectively manage the fishery. The St. Lawrence River Muskellunge Management Plan first drafted in 1980 and updated in 1990 and 2002, led to development of an International Muskellunge Working Group with members from the US and Canada. The group identified research and management information needs and led to a partnership between NYSDEC and ESF focused on population restoration.
The decline in the St. Lawrence River muskellunge population has been met with a community response that is leading to recovery of this remarkable resource. Long term research and management strategies have helped lead population recovery efforts involving ESF, NYSDEC, OMNR, Save The River, Guides Associations, and the community.
Habitat Identification and Protection
Phase one of research at TIBS included identification and characterization of spawning and nursery habitats. Since this program's inception over ninety sites in the US and Canada have been identified. Designation of a location as critical muskellunge habitat gives added protection from development.
The recent Phase III update of the St. Lawrence River muskellunge management plan (Update of the Strategic Plan for Management of the St. Lawrence River Muskellunge Population and Sportfishery, Phase III: 2003-2010) as prescribed by the St. Lawrence River Esocid Working Group, guides the proposed work for muskellunge. The plan highlights the need for continued critical habitat identification and population monitoring.
Spring trapnetting surveys are conducted every third year to monitor the health of adult muskellunge spawning populations in eleven bays from Cape Vincent to Alexandria Bay.
Studies at TIBS focus on the effects environmental conditions have on the success of muskellunge. Seining surveys monitor reproductive success.