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1 January 2014 Evidence of Natural Reproduction by Muskellunge in Middle Tennessee Rivers
Lila H. Warren, Phillip W. Bettoli
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Native Esox masquinongy (Muskellunge) in the Cumberland River drainage, TN, were nearly extirpated in the 1970s due to decades of over-fishing and habitat degradation from coal mining, logging, and other land-use practices. In an effort to preserve the species in that drainage, a stocking program began in 1976 in the upper Caney Fork River system in middle Tennessee where Muskellunge were not native. A trophy Muskellunge fishery eventually developed, but it was unknown whether Muskellunge were reproducing in the upper Caney Fork River system or whether the fishery was wholly dependent on the stocking program. To establish evidence of natural reproduction, we used seines, backpack electrofishing, and boat electrofishing gear in 2012 to find age-0 Muskellunge in the upper Caney Fork River system. Natural reproduction of Muskellunge was documented in the mainstem Caney Fork River above Great Falls Dam and in 3 of its 4 major tributaries. Seventeen age-0 Muskellunge were collected and one other was observed, but not handled. Age-0 Muskellunge grew rapidly (1.80–2.34 mm/day), and the largest fish collected during the study reached a total length of 399 mm by 9 October 2012. A cessation of stocking for several years coupled with routine monitoring could reveal whether natural recruitment is sufficient to sustain the fishery.

Lila H. Warren and Phillip W. Bettoli "Evidence of Natural Reproduction by Muskellunge in Middle Tennessee Rivers," Southeastern Naturalist 13(3), 506-514, (1 January 2014).
Published: 1 January 2014

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