By Vermont Fish & Wildlife photos:
Fish & wildlife specialist Dave Gibson with a muskie caught during past fisheries sampling work.
Vermont Fish & Wildlife will be stocking over 5,000 muskellunge fingerlings in the Missisquoi River and Missisqoui Bay in Swanton on Tuesday, Aug. 25, as part of the Department’s ongoing Lake Champlain muskellunge restoration initiative.
“Muskie are native to Lake Champlain and once played an important role as the top predatory species in the lake,” said Shawn Good, fisheries biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife, who’s spearheading the project. “It’s really exciting to be part of the effort to bring this fish back to the lake, not only for its important role in the lake’s aquatic ecosystem, but also for the fishing opportunities it will provide in the future for Vermont anglers.”
Muskellunge can grow to be one of the largest freshwater gamefish in the country, often exceeding 50 inches in length and 50 pounds in weight. But it’s their aggressiveness that really makes muskie such a desirable sportfish, Good says.
“Muskies hold a special place in the hearts of anglers who’ve caught one,” said Good. “Often, catching just their first muskie ever is enough to turn someone into a lifelong muskie addict!”
Muskie are fabled for their vicious strikes and powerful runs during battle, and the species has a tendency to leap acrobatically out of the water during a fight.
“Imagine having a 30 or 40 pound smallmouth bass on the end of your line,” said Good. “That’s what it’s like to hook a muskie.”
Muskellunge are one of four species of esocids (pike family) native to Vermont, along with northern pike, chain pickerel and redfin pickerel. Lake Champlain and its tributaries are the only locations in New England that historically supported natural muskellunge populations.
Although the native Lake Champlain muskie population was once widespread, it began to decline in the 1970s, and is thought to have been extirpated completely from the lake following a paper mill spill in the Missisquoi River in the late 1970s.
“This week’s stocking effort is another step toward returning this great species to Lake Champlain, and the Missisquoi River,” Good said.
Vermont Fish & Wildlife has been conducting annual muskie stocking activities since 2008, and have released over 38,000 muskie into the lake since then.
The six-inch long muskie fingerlings, which were be stocked on Tuesday, Aug. 25, at multiple locations throughout the Missisquoi River and Missisquoi Bay, are being provided through a cooperative effort by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. The fish are raised at NYDEC’s Prendergast Hatchery on Chautauqua Lake in western New York.
To learn more about Vermont’s fisheries management programs and fishing in Vermont, visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com.