The Niagara Musky Association (NMA) was formed in 1994 with the mission to preserve and enhance the Niagara River and Buffalo Harbor musky fisheries through education, conservation, research and camaraderie. The principle tenet of the NMA is the catch and release of trophy muskellunge. The NMA pursues its mission through the following initiatives:
Top-Ten Awards: When the NMA was first formed, catch and kill tournaments remained a significant presence on the Niagara River Musky scene. With the then growing attention on the trophy fishery available in the Buffalo Harbor, the NMA founders believed it was urgent to provide local anglers with a Catch and Release alternative. In this regard, the NMA initiated it's annual Top-Ten awards, which provided local anglers with recognition for the release of trophy muskies. This was in comparison to a local Top-Twenty contest which had been active on the Niagara River for many decades. The Top-Twenty required that the caught musky be weighed (and therefore killed) to be eligible for entry in it's contest. The Top-Twenty is now long defunct.
Education: The NMA also recognized that Catch and Release is only effective if anglers do it properly. There is no sense in releasing muskies which have otherwise been mishandled and injured. Accordingly the NMA emphasizes, preaches, and teaches the proper way to catch, and release, muskies to maximize their chances to survive the angling event.
Habitat Enhancement and Protection: As part of its mission, the NMA also works with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to enhance musky spawning and nursery habitat. In fact, the NMA was instrumental in re-energizing the efforts to protect Strawberry Island (a major spawning and nursery site for muskies) when it was in danger of eroding away in the mid-1990s. But for the NMA, the efforts made to protect the island may not have ever been completed.
Muskellunge Studies: The NMA also works with the NYSDEC to monitor the Niagara River and Buffalo Harbor musky fisheries. Efforts include working with the NYSDEC on tagging studies, Angler Diary Studies (ongoing since 1995), and fin-clipping efforts (for genetic testing).
Angler Camaraderie: Finally the NMA works to maintain camaraderie among local musky anglers. While old-time musky anglers tended towards secrecy and cliquish behavior, the NMA believes that the best way to protect and enhance the musky fishery for the benefit of the most anglers, is by being open and honest on the how and when to fish for muskellunge. In this regard the NMA encourages its members to report all their catches on forms provided. This information is entered in a data base which is then given back to the members in report form. These reports contain information on the most productive lures, methods, locations, depths, seasons, etc. The NMA also has monthly meetings, an annual banquet, and an annual picnic where those interested in pursuing the elusive muskellunge can spend time with other anglers who share their passion. Many new and life-long friendships have been crafted through the NMA.