The Muskellunge-Video

by Fly Fisherman

The Muskellunge
(Esox obiensis)

ORIGINAL HABITAT.—The muskellunge, often called the tiger of the fresh waters, is a Northern fish, inhabiting the waters of Canada, the upper Mississippi watershed, the St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain, and the Great Lakes territory.
PRESENT RANGE.—Its range has not changed very much over a long period of years in spite of its being introduced without success in a number of other territories. Today it may be found in only sixteen of the forty-eight states and in Canada.

FAMILY AND SIZE.—It is a member of the pike family of fishes and is often mistaken for the Northern pike or Eastern pickerel inasmuch as their general lines are very similar as to shape and fin construction. However, the muskellunge is much larger and attains a length well over fifty-five inches and a weight of eighty pounds. The world’s record catch with rod and line was taken in Michigan in 194o and weighed sixty-two and one-half pounds.

GENERAL MARKINGS, ETC.—The background color of these three species of fish is very similar but the overmarkings are entirely different. The muskellunge has a series of vertical broken bars which are darker than the background color and cover the body from head to tail, although from the dorsal fin to the end of the tail these bars appear more like spots. The fins, entirely without spines, are also spotted. The Northern pike has yellowish beanlike spots which are lighter than the background color. The chain pickerel has dark chainlike overmarkings on its body from head to tail.
Another positive means of identification is the scales on the cheek or gill covers of each of these fish. The muskellunge has scales only on the upper half of the cheek and gill covers; on the pike the cheek is entirely covered with scales but only the upper half of the gill covers ; the pickerel has both the cheek and gill covers fully scaled.

WATERS INHABITED.—The muskellunge usually inhabits the large lakes and rivers where it lurks in some sheltered spot to dart out and catch its prey. It is equipped with long, sharp teeth and has little difficulty in subduing any fish it may choose to tackle. Usually this fellow has some favorite lair which he maintains until caught or removed by some other cause.
FOOD AND HABITS.—He is a lone ranger and his food consists of any species of fish he chooses. Because of its large size and feeding characteristics it is very destructive to other species of fish and there are few if any small bodies of water that can withstand the killings of this fish. He will feed either day or night, thus placing a very heavy drain upon the other species.

SPAWNING.—The spawning period begins late in April and lasts about three weeks. The eggs are deposited at some convenient spot where brush, limbs, or logs are submerged on the bottom of the pond or stream in the shallow water. A large muskellunge may yield from Ioo,000 to 300,000 eggs which hatch in about seven to fourteen days. The male and female muskellunge are usually found swimming together during the spawning season and they seldom separate until after the period is over.

ARTIFICIAL PROPAGATION.—Although artificial propagation has been carried on to some extent it is not a common practice and this is no doubt the main reason why this fish does not have a wider range today. If it is allowed to maintain its present range other fishing waters will be just as well off without it.

SPORTING VALUE.—The muskellunge is classed as a game fish of the first quality although it is not fished for as much as many of the other game fish. This no doubt is because of the fact that it takes a real fisherman to catch this crafty fellow and one of experience to land it. He is a vicious striker and when hooked will leap from the water like an explosion. His sudden bursts of speed will test the skill of any fisherman.

Lures.—While this fish will readily strike an artificial lure during day or night the best results are obtained at night—especially for the big fellows. The plug fisherman often trolls with a large plug bait. Another very successful method is to skitter over the weed beds with a dead minnow or artificial lure. The live-bait fishermen use large minnows or chubs and even a good-sized sucker with about equal success.
While many of these crafty fish are caught during the summer the majority of fishermen prefer the early fall months to supply them with the thrills that few other freshwater fish can offer.

VALUE TO OTHER Mgt.—As a value to other fish he maybe considered as an outlaw, but as a value to man from a sporting angle he is almost supreme for those who angle for him.

LOCAL NAMES The name muskellunge is quite universal. However, it is often spelled several different ways, such as muskallunge, muscalonge, muscallunge, muskinonge, muskige, and ‘lunge

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