I love tigers. They seem to bite when purebreds have lockjaw. They fight well. They are gorgeous. But they will negatively impact future spawning classes.
They may also be a sign that the Northern Pike population is doing well. Not a good thing for muskies. Plus, a sign that purebred muskies are spawning with pike. Like Scott said, not necessarily good for future classes.
I heard something a while ago (I think it may have been someone from the DEC) that suggested that the increase of tigers in the river might be due to degradation of normal pike spawning habitat in the creeks. And because of that the pike may be seeking alternative spawning locations where muskies are spawning, resulting in more tigers.
You're right. The larger tigers are from an older pike class. Not necessarily indicative of the present population. Clear water is good for northerns. It seems to me that the water has been less clear this year than in quite some time. That is a good thing for muskies, I think.
In the past 35 years, I've only caught one northern in the upper Niagara. Quite a few in the harbor. But I've never fished the spring, and rarely the back waters and marinas.
I've had a theory that the muskies started moving in to creek mouths to spawn, or at least there was a successful brood hatched from one. We had years where the YOY studies showed nothing in classic areas but the river also started to rebound a bit around the same time. I caught a bunch of small fish from an area that gave me this theory about the creeks. Might also be one of the reasons why the tiger pop has increased as I believe a lot of the pike head up the creeks to spawn
The tiger muskie population in the UNR has always interested me. From what I have gathered they have become more commonly caught by anglers recently, but to the best of my knowledge there is no hard data to support the hypothesis that the tiger muskie population is increasing. Some bodies of water naturally have a high occurrence of hybridization. I wish we had the historical data to figure out if this is the case for the UNR or if land use changes have led to increased hybridization. I suspect that development of traditional northern pike spawning areas (e.g. Woods Ck., Big Six Mile Ck.) has decreased the available habitat for spawning and led to increased spawning overlap of muskie and northern pike. During my spawning habitat study we observed a couple of northern pike paired with muskie between Strawberry Is. and Grand Is. As for Brett's comment, age-0 muskies have been collected in multiple GI creeks in several surveys. If they were spawned there, is unknown. However, most of the muskie spawning likely occurs in the main river. In regards to the northern pike population...we do not have any sort of index for the UNR northern pike population. It is my belief that the northern pike population is no threat to the muskellunge population in the UNR. They have co-evolved in this system. Although northern pike and muskies MAY (most of the studies suggesting this have been correlative and not necessarily experimental) have negative interactions in some bodies of water I believe that this is not true in the Great Lakes. I think that the northern pike is likely a species in the UNR that has been most affected by land use development because of their dependence on wetlands and tributaries for spawning and nursery habitat. Muskies have been less affected in several (not all) Great Lakes systems by habitat changes because they tend to spawn and rear in slightly deeper water (1-2 meters) that may not be directly affected by adjacent land use changes, as long as the in-water habitat is suitable (in the Buffalo Harbor much of the in-water habitat is not suitable). The interesting thing about muskies is that their spawning and rearing habitat can be variable among different bodies of water. Therefore, habitat changes in one body of water may not affect the muskie population, but those same changes in another body of water may cause a substantial population decline. This is one of the many challenges of study and managing muskies.
Great reply, Derek! Thanks.
Derek, In natural hybridization, can it be either male pike with female musky or female pike with male musky? And is there any notable difference in the results of one verses the other?
Stephen, I believe it can be either (don't hold me to that!), but I think most hatcheries use a female muskellunge with a male northern pike. To the best of my knowledge it has not been investigated in a wild setting. I observed smaller (likely male northern pike), paired with larger (likely female) muskellunge. It is also conceivable for an eager male muskellunge to pair up with a female northern pike. I should look into this further.