Saint John River History



SJRiver Chapter MCI Poster from 2014 International Muskie Symposium

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August 14-15 2014, the Muskie world came together at Carleton University for a series of very informative presentations and discussions. The theme of the symposium was "Muskellunge Science and Management; Progress Through Partnership". The agenda and abstracts from the presentations is available HERE

Results & key messages: 
(From notes from Steve Kerr, Hedrik and myself):
Dr John Casselman gave an outstanding presentation of his analysis of data from Muskies Canada and Muskies Inc. He found that: 
- Current Muskellunge management approach is working.
- Catch and release is now well established and is having an impact. 
- - Fish are getting bigger - median size is of fish increasing. 
- Consensus across researchers, managers and stakeholders that preserving/enhancing nursery habitat is of critical importance to sustainability. 
- Biggest threat is lack of awareness -need more public outreach. 
- Muskellunge fishery is a model for other fisheries. 
- current science-based management regime is working (bigger fish, higher catch rates, self sustaining populations, etc.)
- information gaps include early life history habitat requirements - research priority.
- future threats include invasive species (including northern pike) and habitat loss.
- the cooperative approach to muskellunge management has clearly been successful - much more has been accomplished than ever could have been done without partnerships. 
- genetics is an important component of muskellunge management.
- habitat enhancement should be a key component of management efforts in the future.
- Canada managing wild/self sustaining stocks thru regs only, 
- US ( Wisc,Minn) managing thru regs and comprehensive stocking ( 70k per yr in Wisc). Both seem to be working. 
- big take home message is the integration of musky managers, stakeholders, and researchers. Everyone is on board and understands the major threats and challenges for muskies.
- as John pointed out, biggest threat are uneducated anglers that will not follow the rules re: musky catch and handling. 
- lots of excellent research out there, focus on preserving spawning and nursery habitat to maintain natural recruitment.
Wic gets 400K anglers fishing muskie at least once a year.
- Canada low budget compared to US states where money comes from not only license sales but also on sportfishing sales taxes allocated by numbers of license sales. 
- In last 20 years, DNA work for Ont indicates many distinct sub pops ( each unique, show fidelity) 9 - GB, 2 Ottawa, 1 in Rideau , Mad different, 1 in Kawarthas over many lakes, etc.
- Threats- knowledge gaps in steps to restoration of pops ( spanish,simcoe) - DNA of current fish in those locations not reflecting that of stocked fish, nursery food webs, correct slop, etc.
- appropriate laws available for habitat protection ( especially shoreline).
- pike invasion in for muskie research.
- VHS ( 26 types) and movements of baitfish across watersheds.
- current low YOY recruitment at GB and Larry may reflect future decline in those fisheries.

How it all came together: 
The last time this type of symposium was held in Canada was 19 years ago when Steve Kerr and MNR held the "Managing Muskies in the 90's" symposium, of which the papers continue to be in demand. 

Steve Kerr has long been a friend to Muskie management and research. When he retired from his former position as Senior Fisheries Biologist, MNR, he approached Muskies Canada to see if we would be interested in planning a new symposium. Muskies Canada at national and chapter level responded enthusiastically so the stage was set. We organized a planning committee involving Dr. Steven Cooke and Dr. Jon Midwood from Carleton University, Hedrik Wachelka, James Akers and myself from the Ottawa Chapter, and Chris Purdy representing MCI national. 

Partnership - a key to success: 
The overall theme focused on how partnership at all levels is contributing to the success of Muskie science and management. The event itself was a partnership and it nicely illustrated that together we can accomplish that we couldn't do individually. 

- Carleton provided an exceptional venue, great expertise and planning help from Dr,. Cooke and Dr. Midwood. They were instrumental in assembling an excellent agenda and bringing in outstanding speakers from around the (Muskie) world. In addition, the Cooke lab provided almost a dozen student volunteers to help with everything from set-up to registration. Carleton's location was also very convenient to the airport and we had the opportunity to stay in residence dorms at very modest cost. What a nice coincidence that the Brewer Park Pond site was just across the road so we were able to take a site tour and look at the Rideau River and it's relationship with the current pond, and visualize how the site will be transformed when the project is completed. 

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests (note the name change) helped by providing many speakers and resource people including: Dan Taillon (overview), Arunas Liskauskas (Georgian Bay area), Mark Robbins (enforcement), and Gabrielle Liddle (Simcoe project). The Ministry also paid for the publishing of the symposium abstract. 

Muskies Canada Inc. (national) supported the event by funding the database/registration system, hosted on a new Muskies Canada symposium website. Thanks to Dan Araquel and James Akers, this registration system used the same overall framework that we use for membership but adapted for use by a specific event. This model is now available for use for official outing registration or other events where attendance needs to be managed in an easy-to-use system. In addition, Muskies Canada (national) provided up-front funds to support speakers, the unique speaker thank you item and overall admin costs. Registration fees were paid back to national and final results show that the event was very close to having a balanced budget (within $134.08). Thanks go to the BOD and Dave Adamson, National Treasurer for helping make this work. President Chris Purdy was a great supporter, participant in the planning committee and did an excellent presentation at the event. 

Tom McCutcheon and Paul Gasparino of the KL chapter came to the event to make a presentation on Pike invasion in the Kawarthas. Tom was also a big help (in more ways than one) in setting up the Muskies Canada Booth. 

Last but not least was the support for the event from the Ottawa chapter. Hedrik Wachelka, James Akers and I worked with the planning committee over the past year to develop the approach, contact the speakers, plan the event operations and support the logistics. Ottawa also provided volunteers to help with set-up and tear-down (a big thank you to Ross Nicholls). No Muskie symposium would be complete without some time for our guests on the water. We were able to muster several boats to take out participants and speakers on both the day before and day after the event for some Muskie fishing. Larry Lambourne, Bill Fuller, Paul Didaskalou, Chris Purdy and I took out boatloads of guests to our world famous Muskie waters. Thanks also to Bob Syrenne, Tom Howson and Bob Wight for their offers of support and help. Everyone had a great time and we made some new friends in the process. 

Joe Spagnoli stole the show with his unique speaker thank-you item. Rather than doing a framed certificate or plaque, we decided to go to one of our very talented lure-makers and have a limited edition Muskie lure with the symposium name and date incorporated into the design. Joe did a terrific job and provided with 25 unique lures in a numbered series to be given to speakers. It was a big hit, and totally appropriate for a Muskie event. 

I think we all came away with a feeling that this symposium was a great initiative. Muskies Canada was very prominent. We shared important information, had a window into the vital research that is is underway and we were able to compare and contrast current management practices in Ontario, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and New York, as well as Pike management in the Baltic region of Sweden.
We also learned that Muskies Inc will be holding a symposium in Minnesota in March 2016 as part of their 60th anniversary celebrations. 

Dr. Steven Cooke commented: 
"I want to congratulate all of you for making the event such a success. From the Carleton side, I did nothing and Jon Midwood (and various student volunteers) did EVERYTHING! Huge thanks to Jon for representing my lab and Carleton so professionally. It was remarkable to sit back and take in such high quality talks delivered by THE experts and interact with the end users of scientific knowledge. I know that all of the students in my lab learned much from the experience – especially the networking event. I attend lots of conferences around the globe and this one shines for its simplicity, diversity and level of interaction.

This event is yet another realization of the strength and depth of the partnerships that exist! Thanks and congrats to all… " 

Chris Purdy said: 
"I have received nothing but positive feedback and all of those in attendance who I have spoken with enjoyed the speakers, the organization and generally had a great time." 

Steve Kerr was pleased with the result:
"I did a lot of reflecting on the symposium on my drive home and believe that we should all be very proud of the symposium outcome - I too had many positive remarks on the quality of the presentations and the networking opportunities.

It was a real pleasure to work with everyone on the organizing committee to pull this off - just another example of progress through partnerships."

The future: 
Muskies Inc's planned symposium in 2016 provides us an opportunity to continue to share info on science and research and to and exchange about management practices. We heard loud and clear that catch and release is working and that we have a model fisheries management approach that should be adopted for other species. Muskies Canada is showing strong leadership in its efforts to develop and enhance a sustainable fishery of "wild" fish. It's working. Let's keep up the good work and continue to develop and share this successful approach.