WV Wildlife: Musky Study

You might call them a freshwater version of a barracuda.

Musky are long, slender and aggressive with razor sharp teeth.

These ambush predators, which are a big catch for anglers, also call some of our rivers home here in the Mountain State.

Recently, we tagged along with DNR biologists to check in on how these fish are doing.

Scott Morrison, a West Virginia Division of Natural Resources fisheries biologists, is the leader of a musky study that's been ongoing for several years now.

"In a project like this, you have so much information--you have to decide what's important", said Morrison.

Morrison has been making these decisions since 2013 with the study. The objective? To see how these fish are moving in our waters and where to. Technology has helped a lot!

"Ok, what we have here is one of our stationary receivers. We download this data once a month and we generally get anywhere from 3,000 to 15,000 records from this receiver. Muskies found in West Virginia are river fish and so, they generally spawn in faster-moving areas", said Morrison.

Through electrofishing, about 24 fish were tagged with tracking devices years ago--generally between the London Locks and Kanawha Falls.

While out on the water, DNR biologists listen closely for specific beeps--this means their active tracking technology 'hears' a fish nearby.

Morrison said, "four of the five fish are still here" on the day we were out with them.

This four-year study will end later this spring, and so far, they've already reached some conclusions.

I asked Morrison if they're still reproducing successfully in the upper-section of the Kanawha River. His response, "Yes, in an area like this--we are no longer stocking fish. It's all natural". He went on to say that these fish, so far, appear to be doing well in the upper-section of the Kanawha River, but the study isn't done yet. The data accumulated here may, or may not, warrant additional studies to see if regulation changes need to be made for anglers fishing for musky.

Musky will be spawning soon, and it may be sooner than later given the warm winter so far. Morrison explains his observations.

"Generally, it's the first week in April, but during warm periods--they can start spawning in March".

Will they be eager to bite something in that time-frame?

"While they're spawning, they're not going to be interested in any kind of lure--but before and then during a period afterwards are peak areas", said Morrison.

Get those fishing poles ready!

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