Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Wisconsin Fishery
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Wisconsin Fishery Project

Predicting abundance of adult muskellunge in northern Wisconsin

March 2017 - June 2020


Participating Agencies

  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
  • Hugh C Becker Foundation of Muskies Inc

Most Wisconsin muskellunge Esox masquinongy populations occur within the Ceded Territory of northern Wisconsin, where mixed fisheries consisting of a recreational hook-and-line fishery and a tribal spearing fishery occur. Safe harvest levels for each population are based on estimates of adult muskellunge abundance. Estimates of adult muskellunge abundance used to establish safe harvest levels are obtained from mark-recapture surveys that are conducted on a few lakes over a two year interval. These estimates are considered valid estimates of abundance for up to two years after the initial marking of fish. If a recent population estimate is not available for an individual lake, a linear regression model is used to predict adult abundance from lake surface area using existing population estimates from all lakes. A similar approach is used to predict abundance of walleyes, but the amount of variation in adult abundance that is explained by lake surface area is much higher for walleyes than for muskellunge. Therefore, the objective of our study is to determine if alternative models can be used to explain greater variation in the abundance of adult muskellunge within northern Wisconsin lakes than the current linear model that relies solely on lake surface area as a predictor variable.