Fry stocking produces 1 survivor for every 588,000+ muskies stocked. A survival rate of .00017% to 18 months. Females can carry up to 200,000 eggs, but the average egg take is approx 45,000 per female. So if we can somehow manage to net or shock up and interrupt the spawn of a few females our chances of success via fry stocking according to the many studies and failed stocking attempts that have taken place we should end up with approximately zero survivors. The early green bay experiments and the garbage attempt at reintroducing muskies to lake simcoe are perfect examples. I'd rather take my chances with ma nature at the helm than interrupt possible successful spawns for a failed technique.
Good stuff John. I know that for decades, in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, many thousands of Chautauqua and Kawartha fry were stocked in the upper Niagara (and elsewhere). Some anglers believed that many of the fish we were catching in the 70s and 80s were the progeny of those fish, and not native Niagara fish. But subsequent DNA and other tests demonstrated that none of those fish survived - that is that there was (and is) no evidence that any of that stocking contributed to the population. Theory was that they were not river evolved fish, and couldn't cope with currents. Of course, it may be just that survival rates were too low, or even non-existent. At least they made good fish food.
Point is that there is a history of fry stocking in the upper river and evidence that none survived. I don't know if results would be different if native river fry were stocked. I do believe that Chautauqua fry do survive, but not sure of the percentage. I'm sure that such data should be available.
I'll try to dig out the documentation I have for those old stockings.
Tony here are the Niagara stocking numbers. Chautauqua fish actually thrive in current. The Ottawa was rebuilt with chautauqua strain fish and they were found to be the most aggressive and fastest growers up there. There is still evidence of chautauqua fish on lake st. Francis as well from chautauqua fish. They werent stocked as fry tho and that's why it's such a success story. I just feel if we are going to go as far as interrupting the natural spawns that are still somewhat successful in lake erie to take eggs then we should use those eggs in a manor that will have an actual impact.
Here's an informative excerpt from Kevin Kapuscinski's study on musky genetics:
"Research is also needed to determine if the progeny of Chautauqua Lake (New York) and Stony Lake (Ontario) Muskellunge that were stocked into the Niagara and St. Lawrence rivers, which contained naturally reproducing populations of native fish, successfully reproduced and contributed to contemporary populations. The Niagara River was stocked
with 408,000 fry during 1941–1955 that were progeny of Chautauqua Lake (New York) Muskellunge and 18,425 fingerlings during 1960–1974 that were progeny of Stony Lake (Ontario) Muskellunge (M. Wilkinson, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, personal communication). A total of 1,236,076 Muskellunge from three size-classes (<50 mm, n = 553,800; 50–270 mm, n = 682,081; >270 mm, n = 195)
were stocked into Quebec waters of the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries during 1950–1997 (Y. de Lafontaine, Environment Canada, personal communication). Most of these stocked Muskellunge appear to have been progeny of Chautauqua Lake (New York) Muskellunge, but information on the origin of stocked fish is incomplete. Information on the presence and extent of introgression between stocked and native Muskellunge
is needed so managers can mitigate negative consequences (e.g., see Miller et al. 2009) and avoid propagating nonnative Muskellunge within the Great Lakes. Finally, more extensive sampling of Muskellunge from throughout the Great Lakes and other drainages (i.e., the Ohio River, Mississippi River, Hudson Bay, and Atlantic drainages) could elucidate which areas served as glacial refugia and recolonization pathways. Understanding
the historical distribution and contemporary genetic spatial structure of Muskellunge will help resource managers conserve the genetic resources of this important species."
Maybe many of our most popular fisheries are already integrated with Chautauqua genes?
I don't really know what it all means and how it effects the health of the fisheries. Has genetic integrity been lost already? Is that a bad thing?
At any rate, I would support limited stocking only if there's an assurance that it won't harm our naturally sustaining fishery. Otherwise the risks may exceed the benefits.
Additionally, I would rather see whatever limited financial resources we have go predominately into habitat improvement than stocking. I think the longevity of habitat protection/creation would likely survive the unpredictability of financial resources more than stocking (which benefit may terminate upon the of loss of funding).
I also wonder whether or not the Ottawa success story hinged more on the success that all muskie fisheries experienced post-1980 (including the Buffalo Harbor) than on any stocking programs. Just wondering. It may be too complicated to know.
Sorry for my rambling.
Here is the write up from the most recent genetic study on the lower st. Lawrence and portions of the Ottawa. I know that during this study I spent a few days fishing with Marc Thorpe on both the Larry and Lake of 2 mountains on the Ottawa. We took anal fin ray samples to be used for aging and dna samples for this study. The results showed strong evidence of chautauqua genetics on the samples taken from lake of 2 mountains where the Ottawa meets the Larry. It also found evidence of "mixed genetics" in samples taken from st. Francis. Many credit the chautauqua stockings as the savior of the Ottawa. I know both Marc and Laz have talked about how it was very evident when u were tangling with a chautauqua fish years ago after the stockings. They said the chatty fish were ferocious up there and they absolutely loved them. Link to the article is down below.