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Lake Champlain Muskie Catches Point to Restoration Progress

Lake Champlain Muskie Catches Point to Restoration Progress

 

Lake Champlain Muskie Catches Point to Restoration Progress- Ryan Carpentier with the 14-pound, 38-inch muskie

Ryan Carpentier with the 14-pound, 38-inch muskie he caught and released in Missisquoi Bay on February 12.
(Photo provided by Ryan Carpentier)

 

Recent northern Lake Champlain muskellunge ice fishing catches have given Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s fisheries biologists further evidence that the muskie stocking and restoration efforts in Missisquoi Bay and the Missisquoi River have been successful.

Vermont anglers Ryan Carpentier and Gage Honsinger both landed muskie through the ice in last February at two different locations on the northern end of the lake. Carpentier’s fish, caught and released in Missisquoi Bay, measured 38″ long and weighed 14.1# (see: Milton, Vermont Angler Catches Muskie Through Ice). Honsinger’s muskie, which measured 35″, was caught and released in the Inland Sea.

 

Lake Champlain Muskie Catches Point to Restoration Progress

 

Large adult muskie have been caught occasionally in northern Lake Champlain over the years, but biologists say the two February catches probably are the result of the department’s recent muskie stocking efforts which began in 2008 and are part of the department’s long-term muskie restoration plan.

“Based on known age-at-length data, we estimate these two fish to be between six and eight years old,” said Shawn Good, fisheries biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife who has led the muskie restoration program. “Given the age estimate and locations of these two catches in proximity to our muskie stocking sites, there is a strong likelihood that these fish are a product of our initial stocking efforts, which is incredibly encouraging and satisfying to see.”

Muskellunge, which can grow to over 50 inches in length and weigh over 50 pounds, are one of four species of esocids (pike family) native to Vermont, along with northern pike, chain pickerel and redfin pickerel.

Although the Lake Champlain muskie population was once widespread, it declined in the 1960’s and 1970’s and is thought to have been completely eliminated from the lake by the early 1980’s after a spill of untreated waste from a Missisquoi River mill.

 

Muskie Restoration in Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain Muskie Catches Point to Restoration Progress - stocking

Muskie fingerlings being stocked in Swanton, Vermont

 

Since 2008, the department has stocked over 50,000 fingerling muskellunge into the Missisquoi Bay and Missisquoi River area, working to restore the species to northern Lake Champlain (Muskellunge Released Into Missisquoi River in Swanton, VT).

“Our goal is to return the species to Lake Champlain and reestablish its place in the fish community,” said Good. “Muskie are an apex predator that once played an important role in the lake’s aquatic ecosystem. It’s really exciting to see these catches and gather more evidence that the stocked fish are succeeding.”

Good, reminds anglers that any muskie caught in Vermont must be immediately released based on state law, and is eager for the future recreational opportunities that the fish will provide.

“People who have caught them, like Ryan and Gage, will attest to the incredible fight they provide and what an experience it is to catch them. They are known for vicious strikes, powerful runs and acrobatic leaps. It’s an exciting prospect for Lake Champlain sport fishing and we’re thrilled to see progress.”

To learn more about fishing in Vermont, the department’s fisheries programs, or to purchase a fishing license, visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com.

 

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New York 2017-2018 Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guides available

New York 2017-2018 Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guides available

New York 2017-2018 Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guides availableThe New York 2017-2018 Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide is now available. Regulations in the guide are in effect from April 1, 2017, through March 31, 2018. Anglers should review a copy of the guide before casting a line after April 1.

 

Lake Champlain Special Focus

This year’s guide showcases Lake Champlain, with feature articles on Lake Champlain Fishing and Fisheries Management.

 

How to Get Your Copy

To get your copy, you can:

A summary of the fishing regulation changes that take effect on April 1, 2017, can be viewed on the DEC website at regulation changes.

Take someone fishing on Free Fishing weekend

Be a fishing ambassador and take someone fishing during free fishing weekend: June 24-25, 2017. Visit the Free Fishing Days webpage for a list of all the upcoming Free Fishing dates.

 

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New York DEC Adopts New Freshwater Fishing Regulations

New York DEC Adopts New Freshwater Fishing Regulations

New or Modified Regulations Established for Various Fish Species and Methods of Take

New freshwater fishing regulations go into effect April 1, 2017, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced yesterday.

“New York State is known for fantastic freshwater sport fishing opportunities,” said Commissioner Seggos. “These regulatory changes will help maintain these opportunities and enthusiasm for the sport.”

The changes to sport fishing regulations are the result of a two-year process that included biological assessment, discussions with anglers, and a formal 45-day public comment period. DEC used public comments to complete the changes. These regulations will be published in the 2017-18 Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide that will be available at all license sales vendors and on-line in March.

Highlights of the new regulations include:

  • Adjustments to existing walleye regulations in various waters throughout the state, including measures to protect spawning walleye and conservative minimum harvest size and creel limits in waters where managers are trying to establish self-sustaining populations of this popular sport fish. Regulations have also been liberalized for two waters where successful management has resulted in increased walleye abundance, Chautauqua Lake (Chautauqua County) and Franklin Falls Flow (Essex County);
  • Modifications to DEC Region 7 Finger Lakes rules to increase survival of rainbow trout, brown trout, and Atlantic salmon and to create a greater balance between these species and lake trout;
  • Allowing ice fishing in some waters and restricting the number or use of devices used for fishing through the ice (including, but not limited to hand line, tip-up, tip down, etc.) in other waters to protect self-sustaining populations or limit fishing pressure;
  • Simplification of the black bass regulations in Lake Erie by compressing the three existing seasons into two while expanding opportunities to use live bait and harvest one large bass per day during a special season;
  • Greater protection for northern pike in the St. Lawrence River due to the declining abundance of spawning adults and poor recruitment of young-of-year fish in the Thousand Islands region;

  • Relaxing of special regulations for trout and Atlantic salmon for various waters in DEC Region 5 (Adirondack Region) due to poor survival; and
  • Multiple updates to clarify existing regulations.

For a summary of the regulations changes, visit DEC’s website.

 

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Milton, Vermont Angler Catches Muskie Through Ice

Milton, Vermont Angler Catches Muskie Through Ice

Milton, Vermont Angler Catches Muskie Through Ice

Ryan Carpentier with 32″, 14.1# muskellunge he caught while ice fishing on Lake Champlain on February 12, 2017. Carpentier measured, weighed and successfully released the fish.

When the flag on one of his tip-ups sprang to life on Lake Champlain on a clear February morning, Ryan Carpentier didn’t know what was lurking on the other end.

Just before sunrise about three miles off shore, near Tyler Place in Swanton, Carpentier set up 15 tip-ups, rigging them with 50-pound test, pike minnows and a circle hook with red and blue beads.

Around 8:30 a.m., he got his first and only bite of the day.

“I knew it was one of the biggest fish I had ever caught just by the way it ran,” Carpentier said. “I thought it was huge northern [pike]. It did four or five nasty runs like I’ve never experienced before. It was definitely a fight,” 

After a ten minutes struggle, Carpentier hauled a  38-inch, 14.1-pound muskellunge through the ice with the help of two friends.

After hauling the fish out of the water, the group quickly measured, weighed, photographed the fish and got it back in the water as quickly as possible.

The catch was the first muskellunge Carpentier had ever caught, but it was also one the few successful wintertime muskie catch and releases documented on Lake Champlain in Vermont.

After he released the fish and posted the photos on social media, Vermont Fish & Wildlife fisheries biologist Shawn Good contacted Carpentier.

“What I can tell you is I’ve never heard of a muskie getting caught through the ice in Vermont,” Good said. “It is important to say that because they do get caught through the ice in other states where they’re more abundant.”

Good has headed the department’s muskellunge team since 2008, a group that has spearheaded the muskie restoration movement on Lake Champlain. Lake Champlain’s muskie population was assumed lost between 1970 and 1980, Good said.

In the 1970’s-1980’s the muskie population was depleted and surveys and efforts to find any evidence of muskies in the lake by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife staff came up dry. Wildlife officials speculate the sharp decline was a reaction to poor water quality in the Missisquoi River and Missisquoi Bay after a chemical paper mill spill on the river, a tributary of Lake Champlain.

Good said overfishing did not play a role in the hurting the population, but he stressed the need for anglers to follow Vermont’s strict catch and release muskie policy.

To help revive the population, Good and his team have stocked 5-6″ muskie fingerlings. On average, Good said he stocks between 6,000 and 7,000 summer fingerlings per year. Since the start of the program, Good said he has stocked 50,620 fish in the Missisquoi River and Missisquoi Bay – the last known place where the native population was known to exist.

“We’re trying to return a species that was native to Lake Champlain back to the lake and reestablish its place in the fish community,” Good said. “We stock them in August and they’re hatched in April or May, so they’re four months old. The theory is, the larger they are when you stock them, the higher the probability of them surviving.”

Other states stock muskie at different stages including fry, which are typically 1 inch long, and fall fingerlings, which are about 10 inches. The number of fish stocked is relative to the size of the fish being stocked, Good said.

For instance, stocking muskie fry means that between 80,000 and 100,000 are stocked per year, with the expected survival rate hovering around 10 percent.

While Good noted Carpentier’s catch was uncommon because muskies are elusive, low-density predators he pointed to the instance as a larger sign that the restoration program is having a noticeable impact on the muskie population.

“At some point in the near future, there could be a recreational, targetable population of muskie that can sustain a sport fishery,” Good said. “It’s really encouraging.”

Vt. Fish & Wildlife fisheries biologist Shawn Good confirmed the catch and release of a second muskellunge, between 34-35 inches, through the ice on Lake Champlain less than 10 miles. That fish was caught by Gage Honsinger.

 

Other Lake Champlain Ice Fishing Articles: