Seasonal Movements of Muskellunge in North Bend Lake, West Virginia

North Fork Hughes River, West Virginia, is a native muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) stream and is impounded by North Bend Lake, a 12.4-km long, 123-ha impoundment that serves as an important brood source for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. Muskellunge movement was monitored from 26 March 2010 through 2 January 2014 to monitor seasonal movements and to verify muskellunge migration through the outlet structure of the dam. Twenty-four fish were collected using pulsed DC boat-mounted electrofishing equipment and surgically implanted with acoustic trans- mitters. Six submersible data loggers were stationed throughout the lake. Data logger data were downloaded monthly throughout the study, resulting in 1,256,046 detections of implanted fish. Seasonal movement of marked fish was consistent during the four years of the study. Most fish moved throughout the entire length of the lake, and seven implanted fish left the lake through the outlet structure of the dam. Fish occupied the upper half of North Bend Lake in spring, and spent the summer and winter in the lower half of the lake. Fish occupied the lower lake in early and late fall, but exhibited a collective movement to the upper lake in October. Based on their upstream movements in early spring, muskellunge appeared to use the upper areas of the lake for spawning purposes. Knowledge of seasonal movements of muskellunge in North Bend Lake, particularly in spring, will enhance future broodstock collection efforts. Dam escapement by muskellunge may have a significant effect on fisheries in small impoundments, and should be considered in muskellunge management plans in similar systems.

Publication date
Starting page
Ending page