Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is modifying its muskie stocking program at Lake Webster, due to a decline in muskie numbers at the northern Indiana lake.
In May, DNR biologists released 1,500 muskies into Lake Webster that were 12-14 inches long. Normally, the fish would have been part of a group stocked last October when they were 8-10 inches long.
Instead, the 1,500 fish were held at the Fawn River State Hatchery in Orland over winter and fed minnows. The minnows were purchased from a commercial source and paid for by the Hoosier Muskie Hunters.
By stocking larger muskies in spring, biologists hope to overcome factors that reduced muskie survival in recent years.
To compare survival of the larger spring-stocked muskies, each fingerling was tagged with a transponder before release. A similar group of 1,500 smaller muskies scheduled to be stocked this fall also will be tagged.
Muskies were first stocked into Lake Webster in 1981. By the mid-1990s, the lake developed into a fishing hotspot that attracted muskie anglers from throughout the Midwest.
As muskie fishing interest increased, so did muskie numbers. By 2005, biologists estimated 5,000 adult muskies were present in the lake. That year anglers spent 65,000 hours fishing for the species.
In a move to improve stocking efficiency, the length of time muskie fingerlings were fed minnows before release was shortened to 30 days. As a result, the fingerlings were smaller and less robust.
Additionally, weed control altered muskie habitat and reduced the amount of cover where fingerlings could hide. Because of these changes, survival of stocked fingerlings took a nosedive. Eventually the number of adult muskies dropped too.
“We estimate there are now fewer than 500 muskies in the lake,” said Jed Pearson, DNR biologist. “That’s a huge decline from the 5,000 we had 10 years ago. We’re hoping the switch to a spring-stocking program will get the number back up somewhere in the middle.”
For more information, visit dnr.IN.gov.
source: Indiana Department of Natural Resources