Sports and Outdoors

Friday, June 4, 2010

Muskie numbers high in Lake Webster

Indiana DNR Release:

NORTH WEBSTER – Northern Indiana’s Lake Webster contains more muskies than any other lake in the state and has one of the densest muskie populations in the nation, based on figures compiled by the DRN Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW).

Biologists estimate there are about 1,900 adult muskies in the 774-acre Kosciusko County lake. The estimate was calculated from catches of tagged muskies recaptured during sampling each spring since 2006.

“Our numbers indicate there are currently about 2.5 muskies per acre of water,” said Jed Pearson DFW biologist who has monitored the muskie population since the fish were first stocked there in 1981.

Most muskie lakes in Indiana and across the nation have fewer than one adult per acre, according to Pearson. Some lakes have fewer than one muskie for every 10 acres of water.

Pearson attributes the high number of muskies in Webster to the high number of fingerlings stocked each year. Since 1997, the DFW has released about 3,800 muskie fingerlings each year into the lake at a rate of five per acre. Stocking rates in other states are typically one or two per acre, sometimes on an alternating-year basis. In several cases, even fewer muskies are stocked in those states.

“We’ve probably maxed out the number of muskies that can be stocked in (Webster) lake,” said Pearson. “That’s good news to muskie fishermen but we don’t want to over-stock the lake.”

What might happen if too many muskies are stocked?

“We would see some significant declines in muskie growth and shifts toward smaller individual fish as muskies scramble to find enough food to eat,” said Pearson. “So far, muskie growth in Webster is comparable to muskie growth in other lakes.”

Biologists estimate that muskies in Webster from ages 4 through 8 average 31, 34, 36, 38, and 42 inches long, respectively, with some muskies more than 48 inches long present.

“We think we have a good balance in terms of muskie numbers and size,” said Pearson.

Over-stocking could also lead to negative impacts on other species, or perhaps even cannibalism as adult muskies eat newly stocked fingerlings.

“We haven’t detected any negative impacts of the muskie population on other fish in Webster,” said Pearson. “There seems to be ample number of gizzard shad and other forage fish for them to eat.”

Although muskies are abundant in Webster, the DFW has no plans to reduce the stocking rate.

“We get our muskie eggs from females at Webster for Indiana’s hatchery program,” said Pearson. “We want to make sure there are plenty of adult muskies to keep the stocking program going.”

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