• Saugeen River Muskie Study

    Maple Hill Dam and private generating station located 
between Hanover and Walkerton.Beginning in October 2000 the Owen Sound MNR and Muskies Canada undertook a study to learn more about the river-resident muskie in the Saugeen River watershed. Very little is known about the biology of this magnificent fish within the Saugeen River and its tributaries. For years anglers have shared stories of various accounts with muskie in the Saugeen, however, fisheries managers recorded little of this. In order to manage and protect this unique population, the MNR, with the help of Muskies Canada, are collecting information, which will help to preserve this great fish.

    Initially the purpose of the study was to determine the genetic history of this population. It is not known if these muskies in the Saugeen were originally migrants from Lake Huron or if they were a unique strain. Construction of Dennis Dam in Southampton in the late sixties prevented Lake Huron Muskie from travelling up the Saugeen. Subsequently, the MNR stocked Kawartha strain muskie from Deer Lake Hatchery in the Saugeen. Details of these stockings are sketchy and there are very few remaining records. The success of these stockings was never monitored.

    To determine the genetic background of these fish we began collecting scale samples and tagging muskie in October 2000. The fish were caught by angling as this proved to be more effective than electrofishing. Muskies Canada volunteers who are familiar with the muskie fishery on the Saugeen were very helpful. To date we have collected 55 samples, which have been sent to Mike Butler at Trent University for DNA analysis. After the first couple months of capturing these muskie, we rethought the scope of the study. Since we were getting our hands on these beasts, was there more we could learn from them? We applied to the Fisheries Protection and Enhancement Fund for money to purchase radio telemetry equipment. This would enable us to track the muskie to determine spawning areas, over-wintering areas and other information, which would help us to protect these fish and their valuable habitats. In the fall of 2001 we began surgically implanting radio transmitters in angled muskie. To date we have 16 muskie radio tagged. These tagged fish are distributed in the Saugeen River from 10km north of Walkerton to Southampton. We will be starting to track these muskie mid January and continue monitoring their movements through the spawning season and into next summer. Information from this work will be used to ensure the long-term protection of this species.

    Andy McKee
    OMNR Owen Sound
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