Great presentation by Jonah Tuesday night.
And how many musky anglers would believe that a muskie tagged in St. Clair would travel down the Detroit river into the western basin of Lake Erie, making stops at Long Point and Presque Isle, to Sturgeon Point in the Eastern Basin, and then making the trip back to the western basin. All in about a six month period. Over 400 miles round trip.
Nobody could have thought muskies did that, but it might explain those spotted muskies which have been occasionally caught in the harbor?
Yeah, great presentation by Jonah. With the technology available these days, every day can be a new day. He's giving a slightly different version at the State of lake Erie tonite.
USFWS were also surprised, but not as much, with Lake Sturgeon going all the way to the Long Point area & back. I told him before the meeting that I can't wait to see what we (the NMA) finds out. I just know we're in for a surprise. Now it's a matter of discovering it.
If anyone is interested, you can register onto the site as a researcher. Chris is registered as a Principal Investigator & I'm registered as a Researcher. I don't know exactly what it buys me but whatever it is, I'll find out. I believe anyone one else can register as that, too
Jonah also mentioned to me that there is some "really good" (his words) recognition software that has been developed. You take a pic of a musky, send it thru the software & it can identify if it's been caught before. Something to think about as an I.T. approach to tagging. Slick!
We've always known from experience that the lake muskies moved plenty (catch them opening week or two, then most are gone til fall), just didn't know how far some may venture. What we're still looking for, though, is a muskie moving from the river to the lake, or vice versa. Notwithstanding all the muskies tagged over the years, only one documented cross-over that I'm aware of.
Interestingly, like the muskies, the implanted Sturgeon demonstrated plenty of movement in the lake, yet none of them were documented moving into the river. Jonah had a series of "gates" (receivers) set up in both river channels, yet none of the sturgeon with transmitter implants pinged any of the "gates". Yet, we know there are sturgeon in the river.
Whether or not the muskies migrate to and from the river and lake has a tremendous impact on how the fishery is managed and on what habitat improvement projects, most notably creation/enhancement of spawning and nursery habitat, we can effectively pursue. We can't get the monies for the projects without documentation, or at least a better understanding of the relationship between the harbor and river fisheries. If migration to and fro is common, we don't need to heavily invest in harbor projects, because the river will provide the necessary recruitment. If not common, we may need more spawning/nursery to improve the fishery.
Of course, if lake fish migrate extensively, it is possible that many harbor fish are spawned elsewhere (could be Long Point, or Port Colburn, or one of the many weedy embayments along the Canadian shoreline). If that is true, we don't need to invest heavily in the harbor. However, there is no documentation or other evidence of that happening. Ours will be the first study in the lake which may help answer that question. Best approach in my opinion is to invest in Buffalo Harbor unless and until we know otherwise.
Long Point has had a muskie population for as long as the Buffalo harbor. It's interesting that the catch of recent years is improving, just as has been happening in the harbor. The health of these fisheries, if not directly related, have always seemed to be somewhat correlated (perhaps by the same environmental factors?).
For the longest time I believed that our local muskies freely moved from river to lake for all the reasons you've stated. But both the NMA and Buff State fishery scientist Dave Adrian tagged hundreds of Buffalo Harbor fish (about 10 years apart). Not one fish tagged in the harbor was ever reportedly re-caught in the river - not at Thompson's, not at Frenchman's, not in the Triangle, not at the Huntley, even though all those areas have always been heavily fished. I'm just stumped and still looking for answers. Still a mystery to me. You spend a lot more time on the water than I do anymore, so I greatly appreciate your input.
I still find it hard to believe that they don't migrate to and fro. Just would like to see some hard evidence that supports that belief.
Maybe there are four distinctive populations. One that migrates between the Niagara River and Lake Erie and another that migrates between Buffalo Harbor and Lake Erie but maybe they mostly don't migrate between Buffalo Harbor and the Niagara River. And two other populations that are resident river or harbor fish. That doesn't mean that resident fish will not go to the lake when they need to from time to time to survive. I remember hearing last year that there was a period of time that the river was not producing smallmouth. There has also been years that emerald shiners were scarce in the river. Those could be examples. It could possibly apply to any species.
it could be interesting to have a few of our transmitters put into the big beautiful silvery colored fish that show up near the end of the season around Strawberry and UN 13. If those fish are tagged and then leave the river before the beginning of next season we would never know it by tagging alone. Transmitters would provide out of season data.
The original grant has two main objectives: (1) to determine if there is crossover from the Harbor/Lake to the Upper & back. (2) to determine migration patterns for habitat restoration possibly in the Harbor. During the sturgeon study, actually documenting musky movement way out into the lake was new to them. All the anglers might know this but without hard proof, it really means little to the DEC, OMNR, USFWS, etc., so it was a surprise to them, even though anglers might not have been surprised. It's unfortunate, but that's the reality.
We only have 6 receivers and 20 transmitters so tagging muskies in the Harbor will give us a clue as to where more habitat needs to be built (Harbor or River). And that's the real goal of the project; to look ahead three years from now & use the data to get more spawning and nursery habitat built. That's what the next grant will be. That's going to look into the future & ensure the fishery is still around 30 years from now. Most of us will be long gone by then but that's what our club is doing to make sure the muskies are still around. Habitat takes a beating around here & only hard data will preserve it. If we find migration out into the lake towards, say Cleveland, that's a freebie.
That's a good idea, Carl. The receivers get pulled in the Fall but when they get reinstalled the following spring, they could pick up a River tagged musky that migrated in the off-season. The one nice thing is that the receivers get new batteries every year & can go on for the next 10 years. The transmitter batteries are good for about 6 years, then either the project is done or we get another grant for more transmitters. We should know the patterns of the harbor muskies in about two or three years. After that, a project like this could easily get expanded.