Minnetonka Muskie Stocking Study
Consistent Lake Minnetonka muskellunge (muskie) management began in 1974. Stocking plans since 1998 have been requests for 2,925 Leech Lake Brood-strain fingerlings (about 12" long) in odd-numbered years. Actual stocking has varied because of inconsistent fingerling availability. Make-up with larger, older fish and stocking in unplanned years has, however, provided regular additions of muskies.
Substitutions of year-old ("yearling") muskies for fingerlings, when necessary, have been based on a ratio of 1 yearling per 3 fingerlings, since yearlings are a year older and up to 10 inches larger than fingerlings. This recommended "replacement ratio" has not been validated by studies or field evidence.
To test the validity of the 3:1 fingerling-to-yearling ratio, MN DNR, Twin Cities Chapter of Muskies, Inc., and Hugh C. Becker Foundation started a project to track survival and performance of fingerling and yearling muskie stocked into three Twin Cities-area lakes-- Minnetonka, White Bear, and Bald Eagle. Lake Minnetonka had 1,214 fingerlings and 372 yearlings stocked in 2009, 1,200 fingerlings : 88 yearlings stocked in 2011, and 1,200 fingerlings : 215 yearlings stocked in 2012. The two northeastern metro lakes were stocked in 2008, 2010, and 2011. Some of these fish were purchased with Becker Foundation funds.
MN DNR Fisheries has and will continue to monitor these fish during surveys and via public reports of tagged and/or fin-clipped muskies. As fish become larger, tagged muskies will be tracked by volunteers providing increased fishing effort. Results from DNR sampling, tag/clip reports, and targeted fishing will help determine which number-size combinations of stocked muskies yielded the best returns.
Some preliminary results-- January 2015: For all three lakes, 104 tag reports since 2009, of which 38 (37%) were from 2014. The largest fish are now in the upper-30-inch size range. Forty (40) total reports have been from Lake Minnetonka since the study started. The Minnetonka tag-report ratio is 22 fingerling-stocked fish:18 yearling-stocked fish (1.22 : 1), compared with an overall stocking ratio of 4.2 fingerlings:1 yearling (a result of too few yearlings available in 2011). During the three Lake Minnetonka stocking events, 2.7% of fingerlings and 0.8% of yearlings stocked have been reported from late fall 2009-2014.
Muskies stocked for the study have been marked with both internal PIT tags (readable with a specialized scanner) and external numbered tags. The outer "Floy" tags are yellow, about an inch long, and are located near the dorsal fin. If you catch a tagged muskie, please leave the tag in the fish but record the tag number and data related to lake, date, and fish size via the internet tag-report form (preferred), or relay the information to the West Metro Area Fisheries Office. You can also use the form to report catches of fin-clipped muskies.
Muskie Stocking Study: Internal/External Tagging and Release