I have a question for an article I'm thinking about. What is the ideal or preferred spawning habitat for northern pike? I know they often spawn where muskies spawn and start earlier but I've also heard that's because of the loss of their (the northern's) spawning habitat. If their habitat was available, would they use that instead of mingling with muskies?
Dr. Kevin K mentioned that, once fish lose their ideal spawn habitat, they will seek out the next best that suits them, not ideal, but one that hopefully works.
So, what's the ideal northern pike spawning habitat?
Here are a couple of links from the NY chapter of the American Fisheries Society. One is about the pike spawning habitat restoration project in the St. Lawrence that is being managed by our friends at the Thousand Islands Biological Station from the SUNY College of ESF and the second one is about the management of the pike spawning marshes at the south end of Conesus lake.
From what I understand, they like it shallower and I think a little less or no current.
Here is a link to all the talks they have posted. Some of them are very interesting.
I'm not sure if it's the ideal habitat, but I believe that northern pike prefer shallower water with less, or no, current than muskies. At least in the Niagara River. The preference for shallow water also makes their spawn more vulnerable to natural and artificial (power plant intakes) water fluctuations than muskellunge. That's been a problem for pike on the Niagara and even more-so on the St. Lawrence.
Just my thought, but the loss of shallow water habitat may be one of the reasons that in recent years (the past 10 to 15 at least) pike have spawned in areas traditionally favored by muskies - resulting in more natural hybrids in the Niagara.
Tony...you hit the nail on the head on that one. I was talking with a fish biologist a couple of months ago & he casually mentioned that there is some thinking going on to look at rebuilding northern pike habitat to keep them out of muskellunge habitat. That's a hard pill to take but the more I think about it, the fewer arguments I have against it.
Wouldn't that be something? The NMA getting into northern pike spawning habitat restoration? The thinking is almost "upside down" but it makes sense.
Haven't they already been working on restoration of wetlands around Beaver Island and Miller Creek behind Beaver Island? Tonawanda Creek and areas behind Navy Island (but it is mostly Canadian waters) and around Grass Island and Buckhorn Island may also be worth looking at. I think Tonawanda Creek is already being looked at.
Steve...I don't know if they're doing anything with those places but it wouldn't surprise me now, after thinking about it. I know, years ago, we used to go northern fishing at the mouth of Woods Creek, just downstream of Sandy Beach Yacht Club & the Grass Islands. Back then, there were a lot of people fishing for northerns there. last time I went though, I was the only one. Even took the 'yak there a few times & got nothing.
When we were doing YOY seining, we ran into a few Buff State students doing their emerald shiner study & they said they had seined six YOY muskies at Burnt Ship Creek.
John and the group,
I am not professing to know a lot about NP and their habitats etc.. but I know I have read in the past that because a NP spawns first they will as a result grow first. If this is accepted true than a YOY NP at 2 months could be bigger than a musky fry or a musky that is a month or less into it's growth cycle. The conclusion drawn by these facts could be that the Musky could be consumed directly by the NP or the Musky could have a more difficult time feeding due to the presence of more NP YOY that are feeding on the same food chain in similar areas. I have often theorized that the musky dominate the Upper Niagara water shed (over NP) but never really knew why. It could actually be because of the poor conditions for NP spawning.
I am in full support of all the efforts made to improve the Musky fishery but sometimes man is too smart for his own good. Is there any chance that what could appear to be good intentions could actually harm the fishery?
A somewhat humorous example of this is a star fish problem. Years ago net fisherman in a coastal port were annoyed by the abundance of star fish. The star fish were filling their nets (nuisance) and consuming their catches. So their solution was to "kill" the starfish by cutting them in 1/2 and then discarding them into the ocean. Little did they know starfish regenerate and they DOUBLED the population. So an argument presented with good reason is still subject to mother natures interpretation.
Are any of the concerns I address possible threats to Musky? I would love to know what a biologist would say about this?
That might be a valid concern Mark. I would like to ask veterans of the Niagara how the populations of muskies and pike in the river compared in the old days. I have read the same thing. But every fishery is a very dynamic environment and what happens in one environment may be different than another seemingly identical environment.
The St Lawrence has pike and muskies but there are a lot of pike and the musky density is lower than the Niagara.
Chautauqua has a good density of muskies but it is a completely different environment and they are stocked. It has some pike but from what I have heard, not many.
St. Clare is loaded with natural muskies but I don't know about pike there. Does anyone else know?
Of course these are all vastly different fisheries. Even thought the Larry and the Niagara are both rivers, they are still quite a bit different.
I'd like to ask Dr. Farrell about this. I'm guessing that he will not be able to give me a simple answer but maybe he can shed some light.
There are so many variables when it comes to managing a fishery. It is far from an exact science. Maybe someday they will have computer models like they do with the weather. But even thought they are much better with predicting the weather than they used to be, they still aren't always right. I think a fisheries model would be much more complicated.
Well, that makes at least two of us who profess not to know a lot about NP, but what got me interested in this NP spawning habitat rebuild was that it was the DEC's Regional Fisheries Manager (Clancy) who mentioned that to me. It sounded like a novel approach.
I don't have the data from years past but if anglers are seeing more tigers, that might mean that the northerns are going to places where they wouldn't normally go to spawn, i.e., where the muskies would. I do know, from what I've read and observed, that spawning is a process that happens over a period of time. Some start early in the period & others at the end of the period. If there isn't enough habitat for NP to spawn, they'll go somewhere else.
The idea of building NP spawning habitat to keep them away from muskies is intriguing. I don't know how practical it is or if it even works. You're right about people getting too involved & over-thinking but I tend to think that people are the ones to blame who have spoiled the habitat to begin with. As I always say: "Nature continues to go on...in spite of us", hence my interest in undoing what we've already done.
We usually have one of the DEC Fish Biologists as a speaker at one of our monthly meetings. This would be a good topic to talk about.
Attached is a paper I co-authored with Kevin, John F., and others. In it we do a review of musky and np spawning habitat and habitat restoration. I can only attach this version of the document due to copyright issues. It is the same as the one that appears in Fisheries, but without the fancy formatting.
Thanks much, Derek. Saturday's high is supposed to be 2 deg F so that'll be a good day to sit back, relax & read that paper. Thanks again. I'm sure I'll find more in there than I'm looking for & that's all good stuff.
Thank you for posting this Derek. A lot of interesting insight and of course a lot of questions raised. The section titled "Selective Mortality and Exploitation" was very interesting. The "hammer handle" explanation makes a lot of sense. Also, there is no doubt that catch and release and raising size limits have helped improve our musky fisheries.
Is it suggesting that there could come a time where harvest of some smaller fish could be good for the overall population and trophy potential?
Another thing it seems to be suggesting is that VHS may have set up the possibility of the St Lawrence producing record size muskies in the future by removing weaker genetics.