New advice to benefit muskies and pike

I was fishing on a northern Wisconsin lake, and had just casted my Mepps spinner too far onto the bank. As I thrashed my lure back out through the sedges in water less than a foot deep, the glassy surface erupted. There was no “hook set” on my first musky, just holding on for dear life as it tail-walked across the shallows, forty-four and one half inches out of the water. I will never forget the power of that musky on a warm July night, and I will also never forget my first introduction to one of the most formidable predators around. In the following years I researched muskies and met folks from all walks of life who cared about them. At boat ramps, gas stations, bars, and grocery stores I was regaled in stories of “the big one” by diehard musky anglers and lucky bobber fishermen alike. These are the memories of a lifetime, and it is our responsibility to ensure that our children’s children have the same opportunity. The future of fishing relies on such memories, as do the livelihoods of those gas station and grocery store employees whose businesses boom all summer long.

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A replica of my first tiger musky (northern pike x muskellunge hybrid) reads up on tips to benefit future musky and northern pike.

The future of muskellunge and northern pike faces many challenges. Our recent paper in Fisheries highlights some of the most pressing research and management issues for these two species. One of the most critical aspects of ensuring a future for these fishes Continue reading

Musky spawning habitat: New insights and techniques for management

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Muskies prepare to spawn at night in a northern Wisconsin lake.

Muskellunge are the largest predatory fish in Wisconsin, inspiring thousands of anglers to pursue them across their range. Yet, they are also one of the most elusive gamefish. Muskies are so few and far between that anglers only catch one every 27 hours of fishing!  With such low densities, small changes can mean big differences in the populations that fishermen so zealously pursue. This is the story of a team of how a team of researchers from University of Michigan, Wisconsin DNR, and the Musky Clubs Alliance joined together to study these amazing fish and use new technology to improve muskellunge management. Continue reading

Restoring the shore and fish habitat in Michigan inland lakes

Over the last few months, I’ve worked with the Michigan State University Extension office to publish two outreach articles on my research and the importance of natural shorelines. The first article discusses the importance of microhabitats for Largemouth and points out the benefits of a successful lakeshore restoration project that has created these habitats. The second article provides a summary of our electrofishing research and what we hope to find. I’d encourage you to stop by the MSU Extension website and check them out!

Largest ever habitat assessment for nation’s estuaries complete!

In a past life, I worked with the National Marine Fisheries Service outside of Washington, D.C. Interested in protecting habitat to improve fishing and other ecosystem services, we set out to conduct the largest ever assessment of US estuaries. Estuaries are the mixing zones where rivers flow into oceans. They are dynamic ecosystems, and support teeming fish and wildlife populations. One of their most important functions is to serve as a nursery for young fish. Hiding in seagrass or mangroves is a lot safer than swimming with tuna for a little fish, and there are plenty of food sources for these fish during the early part of their lives. After they grow up in the ocean, fish like Striped Bass, Atlantic Salmon, King Salmon, Steelhead, and others swim through estuaries on their way to spawn. This makes estuaries a critical transition zone for many commercial and recreational fish species.

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Our composite index of habitat stress shows the distribution of highly stressed estuaries across the United States. The inset shows a regional breakdown of habitat stressors by region, with the Southern California Bight being the most stressed and Oregon/Washington having the best potential habitat quality.

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Researchers channel Zeus to collect fish data

“The juice is on!” I shouted over the roar of the generator. As the words left my mouth orchestrated chaos erupted in front of me. Nine-foot nets plunged into the water, scooping largemouth bass as they arched toward the surface in front of our boat.zeuslig2 Nets swung into the waiting hands of another researcher, transferring stunned fish into the livewell before technicians returned their focus to the water in front of our boat.

Electrofishing may be one of the most adrenaline-packed moments in the professional life of a fisheries biologist. The technique is used to capture fish by temporarily stunning them with electricity, and can be astonishingly adaptable and effective. Continue reading