Spatial ecology, habitat use, and angling vulnerability in Muskies in Shabbona Lake: implications for management of a recreational fishery
To capture a fish, an angler and fish must overlap in space in time and the fish must be in an angling vulnerable state and receptive to the presented lure. The muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) is a culturally and recreationally significant fish in North America. Colloquially, it is called ‘the fish of 10,000 casts’ owing to its elusiveness, making it an ideal fish to investigate angling related questions. In my first study, I sought to determine the behavioral predictors to capture. I found that larger fish, which are less exploratory and less aggressive, are the individuals which are captured. In my second study, I investigated how food availability may influence the angling vulnerability of muskellunge. Fish that were fasted over time were more than twice as likely to be captured, although behavioral changes were not reflected within the laboratory. Lastly, I examined the spatial ecology and habitat use of muskellunge within a small Midwest impoundment. I found that muskellunge inhabit different portions of the lake based on size and sex, and that the movement and temperature selection of fish is related to fish size and lake temperature. Collectively, these results inform important management considerations to ensure populations are sustainable.