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Habitat use and thermal ecology of muskellunge in a Tennessee reservoir

Radio-tagged muskie released into Melton Hill Lake, Tennessee


September 2009 - August 2011


Radio telemetry was used to determine the seasonal distribution and thermal preferences of 30 muskellunge in Melton Hill Lake, a mainstem reservoir in east Tennessee. Unlike many reservoirs, Melton Hill Lake offers a thermally heterogeneous environment year-round resulting from cold hypolimnetic discharges from an upstream dam and warmwater discharged from a coal-fired electric generation plant. Due to the wide range of water temperatures with suitable dissolved oxygen throughout much of the year, Melton Hill Lake differs from other systems in which muskellunge have been studied using biotelemetry. Fish in summer and early fall were widely distributed between the steam plant and Melton Hill Dam. In the spring, late fall, and winter they tended to occupy a small reach downstream of the stream plant. When the greatest range in water temperatures was available (summer 2010; 7 -33 C), tagged fish selected water between 20 to 25°C. During winter, they aggregated in the warmest water available at the thermal plume discharged from the steam plant.

Research Products and Activities


  • Cole, A.J. 2011. Seasonal distribution and thermal ecology of muskellunge in Melton Hill Lake, Tennessee. MS thesis, Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville. 78 pages.Download  | 


  • Cole, A.J., and P.W. Bettoli. 2011. Seasonal distribution and thermal ecology of muskellunge in Melton Hill Lake. Annual meeting of the Tennessee chapter of the American Fisheries Society, Montgomery Bell State Park, TN.

Current Staff

Federal Staff: 95

Masters Students: 240

Phd Students: 143

Post Docs: 52

University Staff: 245

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 702

Scientific Publications: 1948

Presentations: 4253



  • Phillip BettoliPrincipal Investigator
  • Aaron ColeStudent

Funding Agencies

  • Frank Fiss


Cooperative Research Units Program Headquarters Cooperators

  1. U.S. Geological Survey