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Angler help sought with muskie survey

Ongoing effort focuses on species location, size, angler data

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is asking those who fish for muskellunge to help with its ongoing efforts to investigate these fish through the DNR’s online muskie angler survey. Anglers are asked to provide answers to a variety of questions to help fisheries management. Here Will Schultz is shown with a muskie on downstate Lake Ovid in Sleepy Hollow State Park. (Photo courtesy of the DNR)

MARQUETTE — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is asking those who fish for muskellunge to help with its ongoing efforts to investigate these fish through the DNR’s online muskie angler survey.

Since 2014, this survey has gathered information about muskie angler demographics and catch data, such as length of fish caught, angler effort, body of water fished and methods used.

Anglers are asked questions such as the name of the body of water fished, time spent fishing, targeted fish species and method used the most during the trip, among other details.

Fisheries managers have used this data to recommend fishing regulation changes to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission, evaluate the muskie stocking program and understand more about self-sustaining populations.

Traditional methods, including in-person creel surveys and postcards, have not been as successful as the online survey at collecting this type of information, the DNR said. Anglers may fill out one survey per person, per trip and are encouraged to complete a survey for each muskie fishing trip they make.

“Because muskellunge are so elusive in our netting and electrofishing sampling efforts, muskellunge management relies heavily on angler reports to understand more about population abundance and angling success,” said Matt Diana, DNR fisheries biologist in downstate Plainwell, in a news release.

Muskie are open to catch and immediate release year-round, with the possession season opening statewide the first Saturday in June. For additional season dates and fish length limits, see the 2021 Michigan Fishing Guide at Michigan.gov/DNRDigests.

Anglers are reminded they are limited to taking only one muskie per license year and are required to register their harvest by calling 888-636-7778 or online at Michigan.gov/RegisterFish.

The current survey and past survey data can be viewed at at Michigan.gov/Muskie.

2020 angler survey results include this information:

≤ A total of 607 trips were reported — 325 online and 282 diary.

≤ A total of 78 individual anglers provided contact information.

≤ There were 4,851.75 total reported angler hours.

≤ A total of 414 muskie were caught.

≤ On average, an angler made 7.8 trips.

≤ The average angler trip was 8.4 hours.

≤ The muskie catch rate equaled 0.085 fish/hour.

≤ On average, anglers caught .72 fish per trip, taking roughly 1.5 trips to catch at least one muskie.

Anglers frequented stocked waters 23% more than they did non-stocked waters, the survey said. The data also indicated that top bodies of waters fished for muskie in 2020 included the Tahquamenon River and Brevoort Lake.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, muskellunge, also called “the fish of a thousand casts,” can be hard to come by because they are slow to mature and take many years to reach the mid-40-inch range.

Many anglers consider these fish to be a trophy if they just catch one, the DNR said on its website, but fish more than 50 inches are elusive and of the utmost challenge.

“If accidentally caught by an angler, they are difficult to land because of their large size and sharp teeth, often breaking lines. Usually found in shallow, weedy lakes and rivers with log jams and fallen timber, muskellunge retreat into deeper water during the heat of the summer,” the website reads.

They can be caught by casting or trolling with very large plugs, spoons and spinners — usually behind a wire leader — that are retrieved or trolled at a fast rate or by bait anglers using large suckers, according to the DNR, which noted that although they are primarily fish eaters, muskellunge will take waterfowl or rodents when available.

The DNR rears Great Lakes muskellunge at the Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery in downstate Mattawan.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.

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