As of the second week of July, 2021, we have been able to locate 46 of the 50 tagged James River Muskellunge released. Some individuals that were tagged in the Buchanan stretch have been encountered as far upstream as Iron Gate and as far downstream as Natural Bridge Station. As for the fish released in Lynchburg, most have remained close to the tagging location with the exception of a few individuals found downstream near Buzzard Islands.
Tracking consists of using an antenna to detect individual frequencies that are specific to each tagged fish. Once we detect an individual, we will attempt to get as close to the fish as possible and record the GPS location. With these data, we can monitor movements and determine if an individual has moved around or has been in the same location over multiple days/weeks, warranting further investigation and trying to visually verify whether the fish is alive or dead.
As of the middle of September, 2021, the number of tagged fish caught in the warm water has been low. Therefore, we have not been able to evaluate the effects of warm water angling on mortality. The warm water period has been defined as the period from June 15th until the end of September based on historic temperature data. A total of 15 tagged fish have been caught and reported since February 2021, one of which was harvested. Of the 15 reports from fish being released, 5 came during the warm water period. One of the 5 angled fish died shortly after being caught.
We have also been able to locate and visually verify the survival of several fish (example to the left). Other than the fish that was harvested, we have reason to believe there were 4 fish that died prior to the warm water period and 4 natural mortalities during the warm water period; however, we have not been able to locate bodies of all of these fish. We will continue to locate the tags we have not recovered to verify mortality based on our protocols.