Conservation of genetic resources is a challenging issue for agencies managing popular sport fishes. To address the ongoing potential for genetic risks, we developed a comprehensive set of recommendations to conserve genetic diversity of muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) in Wisconsin, and evaluated the extent to which the recommendations can be implemented. Although some details are specific to Wisconsin's muskellunge propagation program, many of the practical issues affecting implementation are applicable to other species and production systems. We developed guidelines to restrict future brood stock collection operations to lakes with natural reproduction and to develop a set of brood lakes to use on a rotational basis within regional stock boundaries, but implementation will require considering lakes with variable stocking histories. Maintaining an effective population size sufficient to minimize the risk of losing alleles requires limiting brood stock collection to large lakes. Recommendations to better approximate the temporal distribution of spawning in hatchery operations and randomize selection of brood fish are feasible. Guidelines to modify rearing and distribution procedures face some logistic constraints. An evaluation of genetic diversity of hatchery-produced fish during 2008 demonstrated variable success representing genetic variation of the source population. Continued evaluation of hatchery operations will optimize operational efficiency while moving toward genetic conservation goals.
Additional Publication Details
Implementation of genetic conservation practices in a muskellunge propagation and stocking program