Mark-recapture studies require knowledge of tag retention rates specific to tag types, fish species and size, and study duration. We determined the probability of tag loss for passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags implanted into dorsal musculature, T-bar anchor tags attached to dorsal pterygiophores, and loss of both tags in relation to years post-tagging for double-marked adult muskellunge Esox masquinongy over a 10 year period. We also used PIT tags as a benchmark to assess the interactive effects of fish length at tagging, sex, and years post-tagging on T-bar anchor tag loss rates. Only five instances of PIT tag loss were identified; the calculated probability of a fish losing its PIT tag was consistently < 1.0% for up to 10 years post-tagging. The probability of T-bar anchor tag loss by muskellunge was related to the number of years post-tagging and total length of fish at tagging. T-bar anchor tag loss rate one year after tagging was 6.5%. Individuals < 750 mm total length at tagging had anchor tag loss rates < 10% for up to 6 years after tagging. However, the proportion of fish losing T-bar anchor tags steadily increased with increasing years post-tagging (~30% after 6 years) for larger muskellunge. Fish gender did not influence probability of T-bar anchor tag loss. Our results indicate that T-bar anchor tags are best suited for short-term applications (≤ 1 year duration) involving adult muskellunge. We recommend use of PIT tags for longer-term tagging studies, particularly for muskellunge > 750 mm total length.
North American Journal of Fisheries Management