Muskies thrive thanks to stocking efforts

By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show

The muskellunge, muskie, or the “fish of 10,000 casts,” is a gamefish that can grow to immense sizes in Ohio’s inland lakes but, as the latter moniker points to, can be tough to locate and entice to bite a bait. For example, I have caught only three “keepers” in a lifetime of trolling and casting Ohio’s waters, including several outings when I targeted muskies specifically. Those ‘ski’s that I did bring to net, however, made the effort well worth it.

Muskies are native to Ohio, are top aquatic predators and Ohio’s muskie fisheries are maintained through fish hatchery efforts. Nine Ohio reservoirs are stocked with muskie by the Division of Wildlife and one (Pymatuning Lake, on the Pennsylvania state line) is stocked by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Staff from Ohio’s London and Kincaid state fish hatcheries stock approximately 20,000 muskies measuring 8 to 12 inches every autumn.

“Historically, muskies were abundant in the bays and tributaries of Lake Erie and in many streams in the Ohio River drainage,” said Rich Zweifel, the Division of Wildlife’s Inland Fisheries Program Administrator. “Today, natural reproduction is rare because of habitat constraints in Ohio reservoirs. Stocking muskies in the fall contributes to higher survival because they can be stocked at larger sizes and in cooler water.”

Adult muskies are long and slender with a large, duck-bill shaped mouth and needle-sharp teeth. They can reach up to 50 inches long and weigh as much as 40 pounds. The Ohio state record muskie weighed 55.13 pounds and measured 50¼ inches when it was caught at Piedmont Lake in 1972.

Ohio lakes where muskies are stocked include:

• Alum Creek Lake (Delaware County)

• Caesar Creek Lake (Clinton, Greene, and Warren counties)

• Clear Fork Reservoir (Morrow and Richland counties)

• East Fork Lake (Clermont County)

• Lake Milton (Mahoning County)

• Leesville Lake (Carroll County)

• Piedmont Lake (Belmont and Harrison counties)

• Pymatuning Lake (Ashtabula County and Pennsylvania)

• Salt Fork Reservoir (Guernsey County)

• West Branch Reservoir (Portage County)

Successful muskie anglers are encouraged to report their catches through the Division of Wildlife Muskie Angler Log, found at wildohio.gov, an effort that supports muskie management efforts in Ohio by providing valuable muskie catch information to the Division of Wildlife. Muskies even have their own state fan club, the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club, Inc., which was established in 1961 and hosts fishing events and promotes good stewardship of Ohio’s muskie population.

The Division of Wildlife has partnered with InnovateOhio and the Ohio Department of Administrative Services’ Office of Information Technology to provide public access to fish stocking records, including muskellunge releases, dating back to 1970. The data visualization product allows you to set parameters and query the database to retrieve results. You can also browse an interactive map of lake and pond locations stocked throughout Ohio at data.ohio.gov.

Gift ideas from the ODNR

Start your holiday shopping early this year and give the gift of the great outdoors with an array of choices from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). For example, consider giving an Ohio State Parks or Wildlife gift card or gift certificate to anyone on your list who appreciates the Buckeye State’s great outdoors. Gift cards or gift certificates can be used at Ohio State Parks for overnight stays, and they may be redeemed for camping, getaway rentals, cabin rentals, and at most Ohio state park lodges. Gift certificates and gift cards may also be used at state operated retail stores or for boat rentals at many state park marinas. Available in any denomination and with no expiration date, gift cards, and gift certificates may be purchased online at reserveohio.com or by calling 866-644-6727.

Gift certificates can be purchased online only, by creating an account or by logging into an existing account at reserveohio.com. Gift certificates are sent to your email automatically at the time of purchase in PDF format. Each one has a unique code that may be redeemed online or scanned from a printed or electronic copy.

Wildlife gift certificates can be purchased through the HuntFish OH mobile app or with Ohio’s Wildlife Licensing System. Recipients may use the certificates to purchase licenses, deer and turkey hunting permits, and Ohio Wetland Habitat Stamps. Gift certificates may be purchased for any amount and are valid one year from the date of purchase. Wildlife gift certificates may only be purchased and redeemed online. Visit wildohio.com for more information.

ODNR’s Division of Parks and Watercraft offers a variety of gift ideas this holiday season available exclusively through their web store. These include the 2021 Holiday Ornament, a limited-edition three-dimensional holiday ornament that is wood-carved and features Ohio’s state bird, the cardinal, for $10.

Ohio State Parks’ series of vintage posters feature iconic attractions and images from Cowan Lake, Hocking Hills, Malabar Farm, Marblehead Lighthouse, Mohican, and Salt Fork state parks are available $9 each or all six posters for $48. Each poster measures 16 inches by 24 inches and may be ordered online. 

An Ohio State Parks Passport commemorates visits to each of Ohio’s 74 state parks. The full-color booklet includes regional maps, photographs, and individual pages for each Ohio State Park. With each park visit, users can “stamp” their passport, write notes and memorialize each visit. Passports are available at state park camp stores and lodge gift stores for $10 each or may be ordered online.

Ohio resident hunting and fishing license buyers can choose from three-year, five-year, 10-year, and lifetime options. All funds generated from the sale of multiyear and lifetime licenses are deposited into the Wildlife Fund, where they will be used to protect and enhance Ohio’s wildlife populations. Licenses can be purchased online at Ohio’s Wildlife Licensing System, with the Hunt Fish OH mobile app, and at hundreds of participating agents throughout the state.

The Wild Ohio Magazine provides readers a glimpse into Ohio’s wildlife and conservation activities. The magazine is delivered six times each year, including a calendar edition. The cost is $5 per year for individuals who purchase at a license vendor, with the HuntFish OH mobile app, or online through the Ohio’s Wildlife Licensing System.

Buying and giving an Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp allows wildlife enthusiasts the opportunity to directly impact the future of Ohio’s native wildlife. Proceeds go to the Endangered Species and Wildlife Diversity Fund and support habitat restoration, land purchases and conservation easements, endangered and threatened native species, educational products for students and wildlife enthusiasts and wildlife and habitat research projects. The individual purchasing an Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp for $15 will receive a collectible stamp, window cling, and commemorative card, and the stamps may be purchased with the HuntFish Oh mobile app or through Ohio’s Wildlife Licensing System. Showing your Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp at eight state park lodges can earn a 25% discount on lodge rooms for weekday stays, and the stamp holder is required to be present to receive this coupon.

You can also browse the ODNR Division of Geological Survey website for a wide selection of guidebooks, maps, posters and other publications to help explorers of all ages see and learn more about Ohio’s natural history.  To make an order, call 614-265-6576 or email geo.survey@dnr.state.oh.us.

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