Barre, Vt – The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department’s Lake Champlain muskie restoration program got a boost in August when more than 5,000 six-inch long muskie were stocked in the Missisquoi River and Missisquoi Bay in Swanton.

Fish & Wildlife started stocking for its recent Lake Champlain muskie restoration program in 2008 when 250 four-month old muskie were put into the lower Missisquoi River. In 2009, an additional 10,000 young muskie were stocked in the river and Missisquoi Bay. Donated by the New York State DEC, the young muskie coming to Vermont are descended from fish originating from Lake Chautauqua in New York. No muskies were stocked in Vermont in 2010 due to low production in New York.

“This year’s stocking effort will give the program an excellent chance for success,” said Fisheries Biologist Shawn Good. “Having another 5,000 muskie fingerlings to put into the lower river and Missisquoi Bay will go a long way toward re-establishing a self-sustaining population of this unique natural heritage species.”

Lake Champlain and its tributaries was the only location in New England that historically had muskie. Muskie were native to the Missisquoi River and Missisquoi Bay but the population that last existed upstream of the Swanton Dam apparently was eliminated in the 1970s by a toxic spill that occurred on the upper river.

“The muskie has a unique role as one of Lake Champlain’s apex aquatic predators among the lake’s fishes,” said Good. “It also was important historically on the lower Missisquoi River as an almost mythical large fish that was present but very difficult to catch.”

Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologists have discovered through DNA research that the muskie caught in recent years in the Lake Champlain Basin are from hatchery origins and not from the original native strain.

The few muskie now found in Otter Creek originated from fish brought from Pennsylvania more than 20 years ago by the Fish and Wildlife Department. The state record muskie, a 38.22 lb. fish caught in the Missisquoi River in September of 2005 by Chris Beebe, came from fish stocked by the State of New York in the Chazy River. These fish originally came from New York’s Lake Chautauqua.

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