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Muskie Fishing

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Muskellunge (Muskie - Musky)

Muskellunge are uncommon to a degree, they are large fish that are found in freshwater in North America. They are the largest member of the pike family. They are known by other names such as Muskie.

The muskellunge resembles closely the northern pike in their appearance as well as their behavior. Similar to the other pikes, they are ambush predators and they have a elongated body, anal, dorsal and pelvic fins and a flat head.

The fish ranges in length but usually is around 2-5 feet, weighing up to 70 pounds. . The muskellunge is light silver brown or green with dark vertical stripes on its flank. Sometimes there are no markings on the fish. In contrast to the northern pike which has a dark body with light markings, the muskellunge has the opposite. You can also tell the fish apart by the number of sensory pores. The northern pike never has more than six and the muskellunge has seven.

The fish is found in the Great Lakes region and also in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. They also can be found in Canada. Additionally, the fish has been caught as far south as the Tennessee River valley. Many Georgia reservoirs have stocked populations of muskellunge. In Ontario they are found in the Northwest as well as regions of southern and northestern Ontario.

muskellunge range in Ontario

In the summer, the fish has two home ranges; a deep range and a shallower one. The shallow range is usually significantly smaller than the deep range because shallow water heats up in the summer time. But the fish will continually swim around the water looking for prey and food in the water temperatures that are conducive to him.

The muskellunge or muskies will eat almost anything that it can fit into its mouth. Their diet mainly consists of fish but it also includes mice, muskrats, ducklings, frogs, crayfish, snakes and other small mammals and small birds. The fish has a really large mouth and the teeth are needle like. They like to eat their prey head first. They can eat their prey in one single gulp. The muskie will actually eat a prey that is up to 30% of their total length. In the springtime, the muskie prefers smaller prey because their metabolism is running slower. In the fall, though, they go for the bigger prey as they are preparing for winter.

Similar to the northern pike, a muskellunge will increase in weight as it grows longer.

Their behavior is quite interesting. They like to form small schools in specific and distinct territories and have sometimes been referred to as gregarious. Spawning takes place in mid to late spring which is later than the northern pike. They spawn in shallow vegetated areas. They prefer sand or rock bottoms for spawning allowing the eggs to not sink and suffocate in mud.

In an attempt to establish dominance over a territory, the males arrive first for spawning. The period of spawning lasts from five to ten days and is mainly done at nighttime. Soon after spawning the adult fish leave the eggs. The embryos that are not eaten by fish, crayfish or insects hatch within two weeks of spawning. They live on yolk until the mouth is fully developed and then they feed on zooplankton. Soon afterwards, they begin to be able to prey on fish. Young muskellunges usually are 12 inches by November 7 of their first year of life.

Muskellunges do have predators. They are anglers and large birds. The young muskies must be concerned about being eaten by other muskies, northern pike and bass. The fish has a low reproductive rate and grows rather slowly so they are sometimes overfished. Some localities have placed programs in place to make sure the fish is not overfished.

Anglers or fishermen like to catch muskies mainly for sport or as trophies. They are very fast swimmers but not very maneuverable. The fast speed runs are usually short but they are intense. The muskie also will shake his head in an attempt to get rid of the hook in its mouth. They are known to leap in the air when on a hook and do acrobatic displays.

The muskie is a tough and challenging fish to catch. It’s been referred to as the “fish of ten thousand casts.” Anglers attempt to catch the fish by using small lures in spring or during cold times and larger lures in the fall or heat of summertime. Anglers have been told and know and are very much encouraged to catch and release the muskellunge due to their low population.

The muskellunge could become an endangered species if anglers do not respect the catch and release method with these fish. It is important to keep the population healthy. The fish is a beautiful fish and fun to catch but then it is important to release it.  


Ontario Fishing Magazine