With the 2005 season for muskellunge, walleye, pike and pickerel set to open on May 7, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is casting a line of its own. The Commission is looking for anglers willing to share their opinions on the muskellunge fishing experiences they’ve had at various waterways across Pennsylvania.
The muskellunge is one of Pennsylvania’s largest and fastest-growing fish, with the state record standing at over 54 pounds. The Commission estimates that 94% of musky angling trips in the state can be attributed to the Commission’s fingerling muskellunge and tiger muskellunge stocking programs. (The tiger muskellunge is a sterile hybrid between the muskellunge and northern pike.)
The musky angler opinion poll is a first step toward potential modifications in the agency’s musky management plan, particularly in regards to stocking. The angler survey will help the Commission identify waters that anglers feel yield good musky fishing presently or have potential to yield good musky fishing. The opinion information will be considered along with the agency’s database of fisheries sampling records to guide future management.
“Very simply we’re asking survey participants to rank waters they are familiar with respect to musky fishing and identify waters they feel have potential to be improved. For now we want to develop a core list of musky waters. As the agency assembles a list from musky anglers across the state, we will share with them what we have learned and then examine how we might enhance fishing on a water by water or water class basis,” said PFBC biologist Bob Lorantas.
Lorantas, the Warm/Coolwater Unit Leader for the Commission’s Bureau of Fisheries, said that ultimately this information may lead to stocking some waters more intensely and eliminating other less popular waters from the program. Changes in the life stage of juvenile musky stocked, changes in size limits, and changes in creel limits will also be considered.
The usual age of a musky that is caught is three to six years, but some have reached nearly 20 years old.
In Pennsylvania, muskellunge were originally restricted to the northwest region, the Lake Erie and Ohio River watersheds, especially in the large glacier-formed lakes, like Conneaut Lake in Crawford County and Presque Isle Bay in Lake Erie. The species name “masquinongy” comes from an Ojibwa (Chippewa) name for the fish–“mas,” meaning “ugly,” and “kinononge,” meaning “fish.”
To participate in the survey, download the form from the Commission’s web site or request a survey by writing to Musky Survey, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, 450 Robinson Lane, Bellefonte, PA 16823.