August 21, 2008
Missisquoi River Muskie Restoration is Underway
WATERBURY, VT – The muskellunge, a famed and highly-prized sport fish, may once again establish residency in the Missisquoi River, thanks to cooperative efforts yesterday by the states of New York and Vermont. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department gave its recently-established muskie restoration effort a boost Tuesday when it stocked 250 four-month old muskellunge in the Missisquoi River Delta. The fish were donated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
The muskellunge is a unique Vermont natural heritage species. Lake Champlain and the Missisquoi River are the only locations in New England that historically had a native muskellunge population. Local people, especially residents of Swanton and people of Abenaki descent can remember stories of their ancestors fishing for and catching big muskies in the area.
Muskellunge were native to Lake Champlain’s Missisquoi River and Missisquoi Bay but the population that last existed upstream of the Swanton Dam was apparently lost in the late 1970s following a chemical spill that occurred on the upper river.
“The muskellunge has a unique role as Lake Champlain’s apex aquatic predator among the lake’s fishes,” said Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Wayne Laroche. “It also was important historically on the lower Missisquoi River as an almost mythical large fish that was present but very difficult to catch.”
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department recently completed a genetic assessment of a very small number of muskellunge caught since 2005 in the Lake Champlain Basin.
“In the last couple years, anglers have reported catching an occasional muskie in the lower Missisquoi River and Missisquoi Bay,” said Shawn Good, Chair of the department’s Muskellunge Team, and the fisheries biologist leading the restoration efforts. “Through a very successful outreach effort, we were able to work with local anglers and taxidermists in the Swanton area and obtain tissue samples from a number of these incidental muskie catches. Genetic analysis of these tissue samples reveal the muskellunge anglers have been catching in the area are not from the original native strain.”
“The muskie that anglers have been catching in the Missisquoi came from the Great Chazy River in New York, as their genetic makeup is identical to the Lake Chautauqua-strain muskie the NYDEC have stocked there for many years,” said Good.
Good says they now know some of those fish make their way down the Chazy and out into Lake Champlain to the Missisquoi Bay and River.
There are also a small number of muskellunge in Otter Creek. These fish originated from Pennsylvania following a Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department stocking effort more than 20 years ago.
The department’s genetic work also showed that the state record muskellunge, a 38.22 lb. fish caught in the Missisquoi River in September of 2005 by Chris Beebe, came from fish stocked by the State of New York in the Chazy River.Source: Department of Fish and Wildlife
" Keep your eyes peeled as Dave and I are on the musky quest. Over at Pike and Predators we will have a site dedicated to our search on the "Missisquoi Musky on the Fly"..with great patterns that we will be using and our progress on the target musky."