Little St. Germain Muskie Project
In the spring of 2007, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources began survey work on the muskie population of Little St. Germain Lake.
The purpose of this is to determine the overall population of the lake and the size structure of the muskies that inhabit the lake.
The initial portion of this project will take place over a 2 year period. A combination of methods will be used to determine muskie numbers, including netting, and angler reporting.
While the initial project will reveal some interesting and intriguing results, more will be gathered with tags placed in the muskies. This was not budgeted for within the survey work, but a contribution from Ken Jackson Outdoors and data collection courtesy of Ray‘s Landing in St. Germain made this addition to the study possible. The main DNR biologist in charge of the Little St. Germain survey work, is Steve Gilbert, based out of the Woodruff, WI office.
Some Stats from the initial netting of Spring, 2007:
71 muskies netted - 70 had tags placed in them
42 males - 28 females - 1 unknown
Largest netted: #1063 - Female - 47.3 inches long - 30.0 pounds
#1058 - Female - 46.5 inches long - 28.7 pounds
#1064 - Female - 46.4 inches long - 24.8 pounds
Of the 71 muskies netted, 88% (63) were 34 inches or longer.
26% (19) were 40 inches or longer.
4% (3) were 45 inches or longer.
The study will provide some valuable data:
- Gather information regarding the likelihood of re-capture for previously caught fish.
- Identify genetic strains of muskies that inhabit Little St. Germain.
- Gather information on the potential impact of delayed mortality using different release methods.
- Gather information on the reaction of fish to capture, such as location, growth, and health.
- Identify growth rates in the muskellunge population on Little St. Germain.
- Identify population statistics and size distribution of the existing population.
- Determine population densities for a truly wild population of muskies in a lake environment.
- Identify seasonal movements and home ranges for mature muskies.
- Determine if there is fidelity to spawning locations from year to year.
Anglers who catch a tagged muskie would be asked to report the information of their fish to a reporting station. The following data would be requested: Report the tag number, length and girth of fish, date, time, and location of capture. If the
muskie is kept, please return any tags (with cleithra bone if possible).
Ray’s Landing in St. Germain is a willing participant in taking calls from anglers who have captured tagged fish. The data will be collected over several years and periodic reports will be generated with ongoing results of the study. Several resorts on Little St. Germain will have the ability to collect data as well, helping with the overall gathering of angler information.
The tag used is a Floy tag, which is a vinyl type tag that is the preferred marking method by the supervising biologist, Steve Gilbert. Ray’s Landing of St. Germain will handle the responsibility of data collection from anglers. The phone number on the tag is 715-542-4642, the direct line to Ray’s Landing.
The DNR and lake residents will handle printing up and distribution of informational sheets that will make anglers, resort operators, and lake users aware of the tagged fish that they may capture. The data will then be reviewed and summarized by members of the Little St. Germain Lake District and the Wisconsin DNR. An initial report will be made public on the results of the study in approximately 2 years, however there will be information gathered as long as viable tags remain in these fish. It is possible that data can be collected over the next 10 years.
Here is an example of a Floy tag. They are inserted in the back of the fish near the dorsal fin.
Technician Aaron Nelson lifts a big female muskie out of the fyke net and maneuvers towards the holding tank.
Tags are placed in the fish on top of the back near the dorsal fin. The yellow tags identify the fish via a serial number. There is also the phone number for Ray’s Landing on the tag for reporting purposes.
Technician Aaron Nelson weighs each fish as part of the survey work and data collection.
Fyke nets were used to capture these muskies during the spring spawning ritual. This is the most efficient method to capture muskies for survey purposes.
Genetic samples were gathered from fins clipped from some fish. Each genetic sample was identified with a specific fish and tag number, so there is a paper trail for the genetic profile for the first 50 fish in the study.
These vials have the fin samples from each muskie. They were sent to Dr. Brian Sloss at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point for genetic profiling. UWSP is one of the most prestigious Natural Resource Colleges in the world and has a reputation for providing cutting edge research on freshwater fishery issues.
Scale sample were taken from each muskie to help determine the age of the fish. Annuli or “growth rings” are apparent on each scale, giving biologists a fair chance at establishing which year class the fish is from.
After the fish has been measured, weighed, sexed, and tagged, it is released back into Little St. Germain Lake. The location of fyke net capture is noted, and the samples from each fish are shipped off to the appropriate department for further data collection. The capture location is important to track, as an important part of the study is the discovery of spawning fidelity and movement of these fish throughout the seasons.
Muskies await data collection in the holding tank after being removed from the fyke net.
These fish were captured during the spring spawning of April, 2007. The tags placed can last as long as 10 years, providing a tremendous amount of data to the study.
A tag is placed in a muskie captured in Upper East Bay. A special gun with a needle injects the tag with a T-Anchor design that keeps the tag in place. When the small wound heals, the muskie will carry the tag in it’s back indefinitely.
Biologist Steve Gilbert fills out a form on each fish, identifying it’s capture site, size, and tag number. A profile is generated for each fish, giving it a starting point in the survey. Each time it is recaptured either by more survey work or by a lucky angler, the fish will be compared to the initial capture and comparisons will be made to growth and movement.
Along with muskies, many other fish were captured during the netting survey in the spring of 2007. Tremendous amounts of bluegill, crappie, and other smaller fish showed up in the nets, showing the overall good health of the fishery.
The Little St. Germain Muskie Study will only be a success if anglers participate in the data collection. Please take the time to notice if the fish has a tag, and please remember and report the tag number. While we don’t want extra handling of the fish, taking a second to do this will greatly benefit the biologists and the angling public to learn more about these magnificent fish and their continued success in our lake.