Muskie Stocking Program to Continue
Local residents and avid muskie anglers have agreed to a five-year commitment to continue a club-sponsored muskie stocking program at Upper Long Lake in Noble County.
The agreement, along with approval from the Department of Natural Resources, calls for 170 muskie fingerlings to be stocked each year to maintain muskie fishing opportunities at the 86-acre natural lake.
The muskies will be purchased by the Webster Lake Musky Club from a commercial hatchery in Wisconsin. Since 2002, the club has stocked nearly 3,700 muskie fingerlings in the lake at a typical rate of five per acre per year.
Last year some lake residents complained too many muskies were present, and the stocking rate was too high. Opponents also were concerned that muskies were of little interest and value to most anglers, were harming other fish, and were reproducing at high levels.
To address these concerns, DNR biologists conducted a study at Upper Long Lake last year and held discussions between the two groups.
Based on data compiled by the DNR, 33 percent of anglers who fish at Upper Long Lake fish for muskies. Muskie anglers made 542 fishing trips to the lake, generating $35,000 of estimated economic value through their purchase of bait, tackle, fuel and other items.
Anglers caught 145 muskies, 17 of which were 36 inches long or longer. The anglers typically fished an average of 10 hours to catch one muskie.
Although muskie fishing was more popular among visiting anglers, 65 percent of all anglers favored the stocking program.
According to the DNR, no major shifts have occurred among other species in the lake. The data suggested that bluegills and crappies increased in number after the muskie stocking program began. The number of bass decreased. The bass decline, however, occurred only among small fish. Numbers of 12- to 14-inch bass rose 48 percent and numbers of 14- to 18-inch bass nearly tripled after muskies were stocked.
Biologists found no evidence that muskies have reproduced in the lake, although several redfin pickerel are present. These fish resemble small muskies.