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DNR stocks larger muskies in Lake Webster
Start Date: 5/24/2016
Event Description:
Responding to a decline in muskie fishing at Lake Webster, the DNR is modifying its muskie stocking program at the popular lake in northern Indiana.

On May 19, 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.

“We’ve seen a big drop in muskie fishing at Webster during the past 10 years,” said Jed Pearson, DNR biologist. “Holding half of the muskies we stock each year for a longer period in the hatchery should help reverse the trend.”

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.

“The tags will allow us to test which group survives better,” Pearson said. “If the spring-stocked muskies win out, we’ll probably switch the stockings at Webster entirely to the spring.”

Pearson said studies in Iowa proved spring-stocked muskies survive better than muskies stocked in the fall because more food and cover are available during summer than winter. Larger fingerlings can also avoid more predators.

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.

Pearson also thinks the large population of adult muskies preyed on the newly stocked fingerlings.

Because of these changes, survival of stocked fingerlings took a nosedive. Eventually the number of adult muskies dropped too.

In 2005, anglers caught 2,200 muskies. Last year, they caught 560. Fishing efforts directed at muskies dropped by 50 percent over the same period.

“We estimate there are now fewer than 500 muskies in the lake,” Pearson said. “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.”

Muskie anglers hope so too.

To view all DNR news releases, please see dnr.IN.gov.
Contact Information:
Name: Jed Pearson
Phone: (260) 244-6805
Email: jpearson@dnr.IN.gov
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State calendar entry type:
Press Release
State calendar entry category:
Announcements
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