Biologists with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and Virginia Tech University are studying muskellunge in the New River, according to the Roanoke Times. The investigation is focusing on the diet and distribution of the fish.
In order to get muskies out of the river for study, scientists are using electrofishing techniques and nets. Once they pull them out of the river, the fish are weighed and measured before undergoing stomach-content analysis.
Fishermen on the river have complained about the populations of muskies, saying that they prey on smallmouth bass they are trying to catch. For that reason and others, scientists are hopeful that their study can answer questions about the effects the muskies are having on the New River’s food chain.
So far, the researchers are unsure that muskies are hurting smallmouth bass populations. “It does not look like the muskie are negatively impacting any of the other species in the river,” said Joe Williams, a biologist with Virginia DGIF, to the Roanoke Times. But there has been a rise in guided fishing trips focusing on muskies in recent years and some think that alone is proof that they may be gaining more dominance in the ecosystem after all.