A member of the Pike family, Muskellunge – usually referred to as Muskies – are an aggressive, carnivorous freshwater gamefish found in lakes and river systems from northern Michigan, northern Wisconsin, and northern Minnesota through the Great Lakes region, Chautauqua Lake in western New York, north into Canada.
Also referred to as Musky, Lunge, Maskinonge or Ugly Pike, they live predominately in shallow, slow moving lakes and rivers where there is generally a lot of structure such as weed (they love weed) and fallen logs etc.
- The Great Lakes Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy masquinongy) native to the Great Lakes Basin.
- The Chautauqua (or Ohio) Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy ohioinis) found in Chautauqua Lake and south into Ohio.
- The Northern Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy masquinongy) native to Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Where are Muskies Found?
As above, Muskie are found right across the northern part of the united States and Canada.
What do Muskie Look Like?
Muskellunge have long, torpedo shaped bodies that are most often light silver, brown or green with dark vertical stripes or spots on the flanks with a white belly. They have flat snouts that are almost alligator like in appearance which are filled with razor sharp teeth as well.
They average in length from 71 – 120 cm (28 – 48″) weighing 6 – 16 kilograms (15 – 36lb) with sizes much larger caught by trophy hunters all year round.
Muskie vs Northern Pike
Muskie and Northern Pike are commonly mistaken for each other (they are from the same family of course) however there are some minor differences as follows:
- Whilst both have forked tails, the musky tail is more pointed at the tips
- Northern Pike are dark with light coloured markings whereas Muskie are light skinned with dark markings
- Muskie also have more pores on their lower jaw than Northern Pike
Added to this confusion is the Tiger Muskie – which is actually a hybrid species of the Muskie and Northern Pike. They have slightly rounder tails than true Muskie with dark tiger like stripes down the side.
How Do Muskie Breed?
Spawning times vary depending on location as females will usually only spawn in water temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This can range from mid April to the beginning of May in Northern regions.
Multiple eggs are laid along the bottom of lakes or in weed beds at depths up to 6 feet.
What Do Muskies Eat?
Like many freshwater species such as Largemouth Bass, Muskellunge are carnivorous and feed on the options available to them within their immediate habitats. This can include:
- Baitfish (Yellow Perch, Minnows, Chub, Shad, Bluegill, Crappie, Ciscoes)
- Other Pike or Muskies
World Record Size
27.8 kg (61.25lb) – caught by Martin Arthur Williamson on Georgian Bay, Canada, in November 2000.
Often referred to as the “fish of 10,000 casts” due to how difficult they can be to catch, Muskie can be caught all year round and don’t tend to move too far away from their preferred habitat of clean, slow moving, weed filled waters preferably near where a creek or river enters a lake.
They are ambush feeders who rush out at fast speeds to feed on unsuspecting baitfish or water mammals that cross their paths.
As with most species however they are very active in the warmer months where they feed incessantly in order to spawn. Seasoned Muskie fishers list the Spring and Fall months as peak times for catching them – especially in times of lower light.
Gear for Catching Muskie
Muskie fishers use both spinning and baitcaster reels effectively and successfully. In general, to catch Muskie you will need
Spinning reel – 4000 – 5000 – lined with mono or braid
Baitcaster reel – 100 – 400 – lined with mono or braid
Rod – around 7ft and matching of reel size
Muskie with take both bait and lures.
Can You Eat Muskie?
Although not as common as many other freshwater species – Muskellunge is actually quite a nice tasting table option with a sweet – albeit a little bland – taste. This quality however can be reduced dramatically if the fish are caught in muddy or stagnant water or not consumed immediately after catching. Higher mercury levels have also been found in larger adults so stick to smaller sizes if you plan to consume them.
They are best eaten by skinning (they must be skinned) and filleting and then:
- Pan frying
- Deep frying
- Boiling – (often referred to as ‘poor man’s lobster’
Check out some more information in regards to eating Muskie here.