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

Warren, L., and P.W. Bettoli. Evidence of Natural Reproduction by Muskellunge in Middle Tennessee Rivers. Southeastern Naturalist 13(3):506-514


Native Esox masquinongy (Muskellunge) in the Cumberland River drainage, Tennessee, were nearly extirpated in the 1970s due to decades of over-fishing and habitat degradation resulting from coal mining, logging, and other land-use practices. In an effort to preserve the species in that drainage, a stocking program began in 1976 in the upper Caney Fork River system in middle Tennessee. A trophy Muskellunge fishery developed; however, it was unknown whether muskellunge were reproducing in the upper Caney Fork River system or whether the fishery was wholly dependent on the stocking program. We used seines, backpack electrofishing, and boat electrofishing gear in 2012 to sample age-0 Muskellunge throughout the upper Caney Fork River system. Natural reproduction was documented in the mainstem Caney Fork River above Great Falls Dam and three of four tributaries (Collins River, Calfkiller River, Cane Creek), but not in the Rocky River. Age-0 Muskellunge grew rapidly and reached total lengths of up to 399 mm by October 2012. A cessation of stocking for several years coupled with routine monitoring would reveal whether the natural recruitment we observed is sufficient to sustain the populations in those rivers.