Author Topic: Lake Erie -- the new musky capital (April 07, 2005)  (Read 17744 times)

Anonymous

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Fred, I had a conversation with one of the census kids last summer and he mentioned the large numbers of musky showing up in samplings in the west end, particularly breast and maumee bays in the deep water weed beds. I'd be interested in where you think this fishery is headed in our lake.

Offline OHfishing.com

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Re: Lake Erie -- the new musky capital (April 07, 2005)
« Reply #1 on: 11/16/05, 14:54 »
I have also noticed a few large Northerns that hit my trolling spoons in the central basin's weedy harbours ... places where I never saw a pike before

Offline Eugene Braig, Ohio Sea Grant

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Re: Lake Erie -- the new musky capital (April 07, 2005)
« Reply #2 on: 11/16/05, 14:59 »
Well, "large numbers" might be a little generous, but they certainly are becoming more numerous. A few years ago, expecting the coming trend, I had played with the notion of trying to establish small reproducing populations of muskie through stocking in some grated marshes off the western basin; grant money never panned out. Travis Hartman, a friend of mine with the Division of Wildlife (ODW) and very avid muskie angler, has been informally following recent muskie catches. Travis heard of 19 fish coming from Ohio waters in 2004: 1 was taken in an ODW fall gill net, 4 were taken in commercial trap nets and released, and 14 were taken through recreational angling. Only a few of the 14 recreationally caught fish were documented in formal creel survey interviews; word of many came from word of mouth, photos posted at bait shops, etc. (mighty informal indeed). It doesn't sound like much, but that number is way up from recent years. Fish ranged in size from 24" to 41.25". There was a 45.5" fish taken in 2003! Most of these fish came from W. Sister and the Erie Islands, Sandusky Bay, the Portage River mouth, and some from the Huron and Vermilion Rivers. John Hageman even took an 8"-er off Gibraltar Island in, I believe, 2002.

Before I was with Ohio Sea Grant, I spent a good deal of time following the evolution of the fish assemblage associated with the restoration of Metzger Marsh, a site between Port Clinton and Toledo. In 1999, the first year the Marsh's hydrology had been reopened to Lake Erie, Susan Wells, USFWS collected a single small northern pike in a herp trap. By 2003, I expected to see a pike or two ranging from young of the year to 30" adult fish every time I ran monthly trap nets from spring into fall.

The success of esocid spawn (that of the pike and muskie family) is closely linked to quality, shallow-water vegetation. When Erie's vegetation was devastated by eutrophication and poor water clarity, esocid reproduction in viable numbers was functionally eliminated from all but a tiny few sites on Erie proper. With recent increases of healthy marshlands and associated vegetation, esocids are making a comeback. This return will be gradual because esocids have relatively strong spawning site fidelity; i.e., muskie like to spawn in the place they themselves were spawned. The spread of a reproducing population requires fish that are willing to stray or that have been far enough removed from their original spawning site to make return impractical (e.g., washing into Erie out of Lake St. Clair).

There aren't enough data to draw good conclusions yet, but it doesn't appear to me that harvest could be having much impact on the growing population. Of course, serious muskie fisherman are famous for their complete lack of harvest. Of the 19 fish that Travis knows were caught in 2004, only four were removed from the population and only three through recreational angling. The more likely reason for the length of time it's taking for muskie numbers to increase in Erie is their site fidelity (currently to other places) and the lack of a preexisting reproducing population in Erie. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I'd guess esocid populations in Erie would continue to increase slowly, gradually spreading in from the far ends of the Lake.

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Re: Lake Erie -- the new musky capital (April 07, 2005)
« Reply #3 on: 11/16/05, 14:59 »
I submitted a question to this board before concerning a similar issue, They quit dredging the harbour at Conneaut, and within 1 year the weeds were up, and the Pike appeared. I never caught pike there for years , but as soon as the weeds showed up...so did the pike

G Horoky

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Re: Lake Erie -- the new musky capital (April 07, 2005)
« Reply #4 on: 11/16/05, 15:00 »
My associates and I have probably hooked and released about 10 fish a year in the Colchester area, each year for the past 3 years. Interesting observation, when we were prototyping the snap weight system for Off-Shore Tackle a dozen years ago I happened to catch 3 small muskies in one day in the 1/8 oz snap weight. We figured these fish took our harnesses just under the surface.
Because we fish walleye in the lower reaches of the water column we are probably only seeing a fraction of the fish in the system.

Offline Eugene Braig, Ohio Sea Grant

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Re: Lake Erie -- the new musky capital (April 07, 2005)
« Reply #5 on: 11/16/05, 15:00 »
Interesting, GHoroky. I'm assuming all of your ca. 10 fish per year are muskie and not pike? Around Colchester, you are about as close to St. Clair as you can be in fishing Erie. I'm guessing those fish originated in a Detroit R./L. St. Clair population.

John

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Re: Lake Erie -- the new musky capital (April 07, 2005)
« Reply #6 on: 11/16/05, 15:01 »
I have seen several muskie catches in extreme western part of Erie. These areas include Maumee Bay, Brest Bay and River Raisan areas. These have all be while fishing for other fish, but with the frequency of the catches they are showing up in more numbers. The sizes have ranged 25" to 48". I am a muskie nut and will be spending some time this summer targeting fish in these areas.

G Horoky

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Re: Lake Erie -- the new musky capital (April 07, 2005)
« Reply #7 on: 11/16/05, 15:01 »
All the fish we are seeing are Muskies, I have not seen a pike lately although a few old timers have them mounted on their walls at home. They tell me they used to catch them in the Big Creek area.

CritterGitter

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Re: Lake Erie -- the new musky capital (April 07, 2005)
« Reply #8 on: 11/16/05, 15:02 »
Very interesting information being shared here. I don't know that Erie would or could become a musky capital(hard to out do Lake of The Woods), but I think it would be a plus to see there numbers increase.

jc

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Re: Lake Erie -- the new musky capital (April 07, 2005)
« Reply #9 on: 11/16/05, 15:03 »
From prev post--------"A few years ago, expecting the coming trend, I had played with the notion of trying to establish small reproducing populations of muskie through stocking in some grated marshes off the western basin; grant money never panned out."

Eugene,

I'm not expecting detailed answers, just your (& others) opinion whether a restoration program is a practical idea and maybe ideas about funding options.

What would it take? Any chance of using State Tax donation money "...for conservation of endangered species and wildlife diversity:"? Restoration of a native species that won't become a nuisance and should eventually provide recreational activity sounds like it would merit consideration.

How much $? How long for a demo, and subsequently a full scale restoration? Would a demo be necessary or would knowledge of historical populations, St Clair, etc., be enough to skip that if the money was there?

It seems the older I get, the longer the drive to St Clair...I'd rather spend my muskie money in Ohio

Your time and consideration is appreciated.

Thanks,
jc

jc

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Re: Lake Erie -- the new musky capital (April 07, 2005)
« Reply #10 on: 11/16/05, 15:03 »
I apologize, I should have reviewed other questions before posting. I just saw the Pike and Musky stocking thread and it answers my questions.

jc

Offline Fred Snyder, Ohio Sea Grant Extension

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Re: Lake Erie -- the new musky capital (April 07, 2005)
« Reply #11 on: 11/16/05, 15:03 »
JC,

Eugene has gone to cast lures into North Woods lakes for a few days, but if I might add, the real key to bringing back muskies in Lake Erie lies in habitat development.

It was the disappearance of rooted aquatic vegetation that reduced what was once a very large muskie population (in the early 1800s muskies were harvested commercially). The resurgence we are seeing now is linked to the return of these aquatic plants in Lake St. Clair and small parts of Lake Erie. The best programs to bring more muskies back to Erie are clean water programs that will improve water clarity and allow aquatic plants to return.

Captain Nemo

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Re: Lake Erie -- the new musky capital (April 07, 2005)
« Reply #12 on: 11/16/05, 15:04 »
For a number of years there have been reports and catches in the extreme west end of the lake. The area around the Huron River and the Detroit River entrance light house. There are muskies and pike here but few fish for them. Hope the population continues to grow.

Offline Eugene Braig, Ohio Sea Grant

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Re: Lake Erie -- the new musky capital (April 07, 2005)
« Reply #13 on: 11/16/05, 15:04 »
I'm back to read here and find myself in wholehearted agreement with Fred; the key to quality in recreational fisheries usually is to maintain/restore quality habitat.

What I had intended when I'd stewed on muskie experiments several years ago, JC, was to stock juvenile fish for several years at rates used by the Division of Wildlife for their reservoir programs (ca. 1 fish/ac) in an effort to establish small, semi-captive populations within grated, diked marshes. The principal goal was to experiment with biomanipulation. The muskie were intended to indirectly enhance macrophyte (i.e., plant) and water quality by cropping rough fish (i.e., carp and goldfish) that were small enough to enter via the grates and thus prevent the establishment of spawning populations of carp. The hope was that this would reduce or bypass the need for marsh managers--managing mostly to attract waterfowl--to renovate by periodically eradicating rough fish with toxicants like rotenone.

The grates would not only prevent big carp from entering, but would have prevented muskie of spawning size from leaving. Juvenile muskie would be free to roam. However, contributions to Erie's muskie recruitment likely would have been very localized and trivial in comparison to the lake at large.

Frankly, a lake-wide stocking program for muskie seems a near-impossible consideration. However, a series of small-scale, localized, monitored experimental efforts as habitat improves would be interesting. Even without, I would wager muskie and pike would continue to slowly increase their numbers and spread if quality marshes and aquatic vegetation remain to receive them.

Tony SanGregory, DU

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Re: Lake Erie -- the new musky capital (April 07, 2005)
« Reply #14 on: 11/16/05, 15:07 »
There was a small tavern at Whites landing on Sandusky Bay years ago which is gone now. At one time a little guy ran it that they called "shorty". I stopped in for a sandwich one day after ice fishing - maybe 25 or 30 years ago. The man on the next bar stool pointed up to a northern pike hanging on the wall and said "Hey Shorty tell this guy about those pike." Shorty told this story. He was doctoring for a nervous condition and the doctor suggested that since he lived right on the bay, that he go out his back door every day and do a little fishing. Shorty decided to cast doll flies and he did it every morning. If memory is correct he said he caught 28 northerns in that past year along with - I don't know how many - bass.

When I started duck hunting on Sandusky bay 50 years ago there were immense weed beds that would constantly foul up a small outboard prop. We'd run a zig-sag course to get around the weeds, then stop and put 'er in reverse every now and then to get the weeds off. Should have been perfect habitat for Northerns and Muskies. I don't think the weed beds are there any more.