Observations of Mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus) bycatch in a recreational ice fishery in northern Ontario





Mudpuppy, Necturus maculosus, fisheries management, winter biology, circle hook


Bycatch in fisheries is a well-explored topic, although less so in recreational fisheries. We encountered frequent bycatch of Mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus), a neotenic aquatic salamander that is active in winter, in passively baited ice-fishing gear targetting teleost fishes. We noted hook location in Mudpuppies captured by two hook types: J-hooks and circle hooks. Our prediction was that circle hooks would reduce the frequency of deep hooking of Mudpuppies, which is often cited as an important predictor of post-release mortality in fishes. We found no difference in the frequency of deep hooking of Mudpuppies captured by circle or J-hooks, although, in a subset of Mudpuppies (n = 13) held for 24 h after capture, one death occurred (8%). Further research may be necessary to determine whether deeply hooked Mudpuppies can pass or shed hooks and survive beyond the 24-h period we monitored. However, our findings suggest that anglers and managers should consider refinements to handling practices for Mudpuppies captured as bycatch, because they are likely to survive if handled cautiously. These results, which are among the first describing non-fish bycatch in recreational fisheries, call for managers and anglers who encounter Mudpuppies during recreational fishing to seek more information and educational opportunities to improve the fate of this important component of temperate freshwater ecosystems and ecological indicator species
that is incidentally captured by ice fishing.