Behavior of Tiger Muskellunge in Newman Lake, Washington Determined by Ultrasonic Biotelemetry
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Behavior of Tiger Muskellunge in Newman Lake, Washington Determined by Ultrasonic Biotelemetry

Category: Fish/Shellfish Research and Management - Fish/Shellfish Research

Date Published: January 2012

Number of Pages: 39

Publication Number: FPT 12-01

Author(s): Randall Osborne, Marc Divens, William Baker, and Yong-Woo Lee

Ultrasonic transmitters were surgically implanted into 30 adult tiger muskellunge Esox masquinongy x E. lucius to evaluate long-term (bi-weekly tracking intervals conducted over 29 months) and short-term (hourly locations recorded over 48 hour periods) movement behavior in Newman Lake, Washington. Long-term behavior was analyzed in terms of use-area and distance traveled by season period (winter-spring vs. summer-fall), and was compared to similar tiger muskellunge telemetry data previously collected from Mayfield Reservoir in western Washington. Short-term behavior was analyzed, seasonally, in terms of travel rates and areas of the lake utilized by individual fish. Movement and areas used by tiger muskellunge tracked biweekly were greater during winter-spring than in summer-fall. However, mean distance traveled between observations in Newman Lake was approximately twice the distance observed in Mayfield Reservoir. During the 48-h tracking periods, a wide range of individual tiger muskellunge behavior was observed, ranging from fish that occupied short sections of shoreline or particular bays, to fish that traveled many kilometers in short periods of time. Managers of escocid fisheries typically consider northern pike, muskellunge, and tiger muskellunge lie-and-wait littoral predators that have defined home ranges and exhibit limited movement. However, the results of this study suggest otherwise. The varying travel rates and use-areas observed at Newman Lake provide evidence that tiger muskellunge behavior may be lake-specific, or that tiger muskellunge employ different behavioral strategies not only between, but within populations. Further study, on tiger muskellunge waters with varying morphologies and fish assemblages would bolster efforts to determine whether this species should be managed on a lake-by-lake basis. The results of this study also suggest that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s standard warmwater sampling protocols may not be highly effective for sampling tiger muskellunge populations, and that tiger muskellunge-specific sampling protocols need to be developed.