West Virginia fisheries officials don’t want to duplicate what nature can do for itself.
For the next several years, Division of Natural Resources biologists will search for evidence that muskellunge are spawning in streams and rivers stocked with hatchery-reared fish. The upside to that is that some of those waters might potentially become thriving, self-sustaining fisheries like the Elk River and Middle Island Creek. The downside is that stockings will be discontinued in those waters while they’re being surveyed.
“The long-term goal is to maintain or improve these fisheries,” said Jeff Hansbarger, the DNR’s fish biologist for the state’s southwestern counties. “The goal is not to decrease fishing success; it’s to make our muskie populations healthier and better.”
Muskie fishing has exploded in popularity over the course of the past decade or so. Catches of 45- to 50-inch muskies, once rare, have become almost commonplace. Mountain State muskie fishing, particularly in rivers and streams, has become so good that even biologists in other states have begun to notice.