Southern Ohio Muskie Hunters

Ohio Muskie Stockings


Almost 100% of the Muskies caught in Ohio are stocked fish. The Ohio Division of Wildlife stocks muskie fingerlings in selected lakes each fall. Ohio raises muskie in two Ohio hatcheries, Kincaid and London. All muskies stocked by the State are pure bred. Most of the fish are "ADVANCED FINGERLINGS" if you want to catch muskies in Ohio you will need to know what lakes are stocked. Listed below you will find the lakes stocked for 1994, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99,and 2000.
Water Area 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Alum Creek Res. 3400 1408 3411 7238 3400 3787 5100
Burr Oak Lake 47,000 None None None None None None
Caesar Creek Res None None None None 5660 5660 3854
Clear Fork Lake 2000 2000 1000 2000 1000 2000 1500
Cowan Lake 1384 692 926 1521 692 705 692
Piedmont Lake 2310 2310 2310 4647 2321 2317 3465
Lake Milton None None None 1685 1692 1586 1685
Leesville Lake 2000 2000 1000 2000 1000 2000 1500
Pymatuning Lake None None None 5000 5000 4900 5000
Rocky Fork Lake 4502 2080 None 4160 None None None
Salt Fork Lake 7941 2952 1021 5904 2952 5266 3854
West Branch Res 5200 2651 2650 3975 2650 4053 3975
Totals 75,737 16,093 12,318 38,130 26,367 32,274 30,625
Grand Total ( 231,544)


(Esox rnasquinongy)

Management History

The muskellunge is an indigenous Ohio species found in both the lake Erie and Ohio River drainage basins. Historically it was abundant in the bays and tributaries of Lake Erie, primarily from Sandusky Bay westward and in many streams in the Ohio River drainage (Trautman 1981). By the year 1900 muskellunge populations had declined significantly, especially in the Lake Erie drainage area, as a result of urbanization and the draining of the vast marshlands for agriculture. Today, native muskellunge are rare in the Lake Erie drainage basin with a few catches reported from tributary streams, the lake proper, and sightings in commercial seining operations in Sandusky Bay. There is a lack of information concerning Lake Erie muskellunge catch. Although they are somewhat more abundant in southern Ohio River drainage streams, habitat degradation is continuing to negatively impact these populations.

The best lake muskellunge habitat is heavily vegetated lakes with stumpy, weedy bays. A substantial amount of submerged stumps, brush, and logs may be an adequate substitute for aquatic vegetation. However, large muskies are often found in or over deeper, less vegetated water. Muskies prefer soft-rayed prey such as suckers and gizzard shad. Prime stream muskellunge habitat is generally considered to be long pools (at least 0.2 mile) with a minimum depth of at least 3-4 feet and an abundance of submerged woody structure. Muskellunge spawn in shallow water in heavily vegetated flooded areas.

Lake spawning habitat is extremely limited. Natural reproduction is known to occur in one lake, Berlin, and suspected in one other, Milton. The Grand River is the only Ohio Lake Erie drainage basin stream where natural reproduction has been documented during the past decade. Most of the quality habitat for adult muskellunge is found in northeastern Ohio lakes; the remainder of the state contains very limited habitat. Because of pollution and detrimental land use practices, stream muskellunge habitat is limited to perhaps less than 10 southern Ohio streams. Habitat loss is occurring within these stream systems also.

With the exception of the flathead catfish, the muskellunge is Ohio's largest game fish. The attainment of a large size and the fine fighting qualities of this predaceous species stimulated an interest in its management in the 1870s. Initial attempts to spawn muskellunge failed. No further attempts to manage muskellunge occurred until 1925 when efforts were made by the Division of Conservation to obtain muskellunge from other states. In the early 1930s muskellunge fry were obtained from the state of New York and stocked in several rivers. Success of these stockings was probably poor. After 1935, no further introductions occurred until 1951 when the first reservoir, Mosquito Creek, was stocked with 100,000 fry. The first successful rearing of muskellunge (Ohio River strain) in a Division of Wildlife hatchery took place in 1953 after six years of effort.

Over the next decade, muskellunge were stocked in 37 lakes and six rivers and streams. Success of these stockings was highly variable. From 1964-1981, statewide muskellunge stockings ranged from 7,000 to 25,000 fingerlings, of various sizes, annually. During this period, studies by Erickson (1968) and Gall (1973) indicated that stocking success appeared to be related to the size of fingerlings planted. Angler catch records during this period indicated that at least one muskellunge had been caught from 39 lakes and 27 streams.

In 1982, the Fish Management and Research Section redirected its muskellunge management toward the production of fewer but larger (10 inch) fingerlings and stocking them in fewer water areas in accordance with the concept of providing a trophy fishery. Stocking rates were targeted at two per acre in primary muskellunge lakes. The first year class (1982) was recruited in the fishery in 1984 and catch records began to increase immediately.

Other facets of management include regulations, habitat manipulation, and access development. A daily bag limit of two muskellunge has been in effect since 1973. The following regulations on muskellunge harvest have been used at Pymatuming Reservoir: two daily bag limit since 1963 and an additional 30-inch minimum size limit since 1969. These regulations were established by the Pennsylvania Fish Commission, and Ohio accepted them to avoid confusion by anglers fishing this lake. An experimental 40 inch minimum length limit was established at Berlin Lake in 1991 and will be maintained through 1996. The objective of this regulation is to determine if a 40-inch limit will enable muskellunge to produce a self-sustaining stock of at least 0.2 fish per acre of age 4 or older fish by spring 1996. Effective March 1, 1994 Ohio has a 30 inch minimum size limit and a daily possession limit of two muskellunge in the Ohio River and its embayments and tributaries to the first riffle or dam. These regulations are unified with those of West Virginia and Kentucky with regard to the Ohio River fishery along our mutual borders of the river. Agreements have been made with the regulating agencies at some reservoirs to maintain stable water levels during muskellunge spawning periods. Also, lime and sodium hydroxide were applied to a portion of Piedmont Lake to reverse a trend of aquatic vegetation loss due to acid runoff from coal mines. Access to most muskellunge lakes is good; public access to most stream muskellunge fishing is generally limited to tailwater areas and bridges.

Over the past eight years, the Division of Wildlife has completed evaluations of the introduction of hybrid muskellunge (Marshall and Hillman 1986), survival rates of advanced fingerling stockings (Day and Stevenson 1989) and survival of purebred muskellunge reared by different methods (Day and Stevenson 1991). Present studies include a dry diet production experiment (Schmidt 1992) and an evaluation of a high minimum size limit on density in a naturally reproducing population.

 Presently, the Division of Wildlife is attempting to bring the cost of production down, improve survival, enhance returns of muskellunge catches through the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club, and increase opportunities for catching trophy muskellunge.

Supply and Demand

Current. The number of muskellunge in Ohio has not been estimated. However, research conducted at Clear Fork Reservoir from 1982-1987 indicated that the density of muskellunge, larger than 25 inches, was approximately 1.0 per acre. Subsequent density estimates conducted in 1991 and 1993 were 1.7 and 1.4 muskellunge per acre. Population density of the other 28 lakes and 19 streams where muskellunge have been caught since 1983 is unknown except for Berlin Lake where density of muskellunge larger than 22 inches was estimated at .10, .09, .06, and .02 per acre in 1982, 1983, 1991, and 1993, respectively.

Supply is also somewhat controlled by stocking, as natural reproduction is only known to occur in one reservoir. From 1988-1993, the Division stocked annually an average of 19,019 large (x = minimum of 7.8 inches) muskellunge in 10 water bodies. Research at Clear Fork Reservoir indicated that survival rates for large fingerlings through age 1 averaged 54%. Survival rate from age I to age 2 was not estimated, but was probably around 50%. The survival rate for males (ages 3-8) was 36% and 53% for females (ages 4-10). If these survival rates are applied to the average number of large fingerlings stocked, then a minimum of 9,280 age 2 and older muskellunge should be present. Naturally reproducing populations in Berlin Lake and Ohio riverine systems will also contribute additional muskellunge available to the fishery.

In 1982, an estimated 1.1% of the total statewide fishing trips were for muskellunge (Paxton and Isbell 1983). Based on this figure, muskellunge anglers fish approximately 75,000-150,000 hours (15,000-30,000 five-hour trips) annually. Fishing pressure among lakes appears to be highly variable. Muskellunge anglers expended an average of 28% of the total angler hours at Clear Fork Reservoir (1982-1985) and 36% at Leesville Lake (1987) as compared to 2.6% at Pymatuning Lake (1985), 8.5% at Cowan Lake (1990), 2.9% at Salt Fork Lake (1988), 2.5% at Rocky Fork Lake (1988), and .3% at Berlin Lake (1988) and Hargus Lake (1989). Conflicts among user groups, movement of muskellunge anglers between fisheries and ignorance of the fishery are influencing potential use of muskellunge at some water areas.

A minimum estimate of the number of muskellunge 30 inches and larger caught annually (based on voluntary catch reports to the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club) has grown steadily from 195 in 1965, to 316 in 1975 and 1,067 in 1985. In 1986 and 1987, catch reports dropped slightly to 961 and 905 respectively. Catch reports dropped to a modern day Iow of 824 in 1988 and then increased to 945 in 1989, to 969 in 1990, to 1,113 in 1991, to 1,209 in 1992, and 1,388 in 1993.

 The number of 40 inch and larger muskellunge reported caught has increased 111% from 153 in 1988 to 323 in 1993. The strategic plan trophy catch objective of 160 muskellunge 40 inches or larger reported caught was exceeded in 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993 by 18, 151, 94, and 163 fish respectively. The 1988 reported catch was 153 and the 1989 total was 147.

Many muskellunge caught are released. Huskie Muskie Club catch data from Clear Fork Reservoir in 1986 and 1987 indicated that of the 552 muskellunge reported caught, 486 were released and of the 66 kept, only three (less than 1%) were less than 30 inches long (Stevenson and Day 1986, 1987). Concessionaire logbook entries for the same period demonstrated that 99 of the 292 captured muskellunge were kept and only seven of these were less than 30 inches long. The estimated catch for Leesville Lake, derived from the 1987 creel census, was 1,168 muskellunge of which 850 (73%) were released. The smallest muskellunge measured and kept was 29 inches long. The estimated catch for Clear Fork Reservoir was 359, 927, and 1,609 for the years 1983, 1984 and 1985 respectively. The percentage of fish released ranged from 69-87 and averaged 83% during this period. Ohio Huskie Muskie Club records indicate the annual release rate has increased from 73% in 1988 to 90% in 1992 and 1993. The release rate of muskellunge less than 30 inches long was 94% over the same period. Minimum exploitation (harvest) rates based on tag returns from three muskellunge fisheries varied from a mean of 8.8% in Clear Fork Reservoir, to 10.5% in Berlin Lake. Exploitation of the Rocky Fork Lake population in 1982 was 16.9%

Accurate catch rate data for muskellunge are scarce. Catch rates at Clear Fork Reservoir for anglers seeking muskellunge ranged from 0.016 and 0.035 fish/hour (63 hours/fish to 29 hours/fish) over a three-year period. The highest catch rate occurred in 1985 after the recruitment of two year classes stocked as large (11-12 inch) fingerlings. The catch rate for the 1987 fishing season at Leesville Reservoir was 0.030 muskellunge/hour (33 hours/fish). Estimates of catch rates for stream muskellunge fisheries have not been determined.

Future. Muskellunge angling is presently a very specialized form of angling and will continue to be so in the future. Shifts in demographic and social aspects of Ohio's population identified by the trends analysis group indicates that an opportunity exists to attract young and new anglers to this type of sport fishery.

The Division's present management philosophy would indicate that any increases in supply would be derived from production enhancements such as rearing technology or biomanipulation. Greater angler participation in the "catch and release" aspect of muskellunge fisheries should also maintain or increase the available supply.

Some declines in supply can be anticipated from loss of habitat via waterfront development by public and private entities. Further declines, especially in rivers and streams, will result from more intense land use in the watershed in the future. Therefore, the Division will probably see an increased interest or pressure for rehabilitation of natural muskellunge stocks.

Demand for muskellunge and muskellunge fishing opportunities will probably increase in the future. As indicated previously, present management policy dictates that this demand will be partially satisfied by improved technology at the production level as to numbers or providing a superior animal. This demand could also be partially satisfied through the willingness of organized interests to participate in supplemental source funding such as user fees. Other funding sources such as direct contributions from organized interests have helped in the past and should continue in the future.

Program Goal

1. To maintain high quality muskellunge fisheries at selected water areas.

Six-Year Objectives

1. To sustain an annual average of 150,000 angler-hours of muskellunge fishing and an annual catch of 1,700 muskellunge 30 inches and larger.

2. To sustain an annual average catch of 317 muskellunge 42 inches or larger.

Needs and Strategies

1. There is a need to meet stocking requests for existing muskellunge fisheries with increased efficiency.

a. Maintain the integrity of the egg source through broodstock protection policies.
b. Participate in efforts to establish or maintain certification of needed aquacultural
therapeutants with professional organizations and state or federal agencies. (F,A)
c. Periodically review stocking priority criteria. (F)

2. There is a need to improve post-stocking survival.
a. Improve culture techniques. (F)
b. Evaluate post-stocking survival in lakes. (F)

3. Evaluation of muskellunge fishing effort, catch and harvest is difficult to obtain
through conventional methods.
a. Maintain relationships with the existing muskellunge fishing interest groups. (F,A,I)
b. Examine alternative methods of obtaining muskellunge fishing statistics. (F)

4. There are some muskellunge fisheries in Ohio that have greater potential use.
a. Publicize the Ohio muskellunge fishery to both resident and out-of-state
muskellunge anglers through diverse sources. (F,I)
b. Increase effort by muskellunge clubs to introduce youths to fishing. (F,I)
c. Communicate with other agencies and user groups the need for cooperation to
alleviate the space and time constraints that contribute to multiple use conflicts.

5. In streams, muskellunge populations and angling opportunities are limited by habitat degradation and lack of access, respectively.

a. Encourage resource agencies, conservation clubs, and private entities to maintain
habitat integrity. (F,I,A,L)
b. Initiate a stream access program. (F,A,L)

6. Over-harvest may reduce the opportunity for trophy muskellunge at some water
a. Identify affected fisheries. (F)
b. Implement restrictive harvest regulations where appropriate. (F,L)



Day, R. E., and F. Stevenson. 1986. An evaluation of muskellunge management in Clear Fork Reservoir. Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife. Federal Aid Performance Report, F-29-R-26, Study 102. 22pp.

1987. An evaluation of muskellunge management in Clear Fork Reservoir. Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife. Federal Aid Performance Report, F-29-R-27, Study 102. 25pp.

1989. Evaluation of muskellunge management in Clear Fork Reservoir. Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife. Federal Aid Final Report, F-29-R-28, Study 102. 29pp.

1991. Survival comparison between trough vs. pond cultured muskellunge. Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Division of Wildlife. Federal Aid Final Report, F-29-R-30, Study 24. 18pp.

Erickson, J. 1968. Muskellunge stocking evaluation in Deer Creek Reservoir, Stark County, Ohio. Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife. Technical Report 314. 5pp.

Gall, J. 1973. Ohio muskellunge (Esox rnasquinongy ohioensis) stocking in Piedmont Lake. Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife. Inservice note 223. 5pp.

Marshall, J. A. and P. W. Hillman. 1986. Evaluation of tiger muskellunge stocking at Salt Fork Lake and West Branch Reservoir. Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife. Federal Aid Final Report, F-29-R-24, Study 103. 18pp.

Paxton, K., and G. Isbell. 1983. Attitudes and characteristics of Ohio sport fishermen licensed in 1982. Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife, Columbus. 18pp.

Schmidt, D. F. 1992. Dry Diet Test of Intensively Cultured Muskellunge. Ohio

Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife, Inservice Note 658. 3pp. Trautman, M.B. 1981. The fishes of Ohio. The Ohio State University Press, Columbus. 782pp.

Aquacultural therapeutants - Any remedial agents or methods used by man to treat disease or disorders in a fish rearing facility.

Biomanipulation - Alteration of genetic characteristics of plants or animals by man.

Indigenous - Living or occurring naturally in a specific area or environment; not introduced by man, i.e., native.

 Recruitment - Addition of new fish to the population by reproduction, stocking, immigration, or growth from among smaller size categories.

Rehabilitation - To restore or improve an animal population to a former capacity (level).

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