This top freshwater predator on the "bucket lists" of many fishermen, the muskellunge (Esox masquinongy), also known as muskelunge, muscallonge, milliganong,
or maskinonge (and often
abbreviated "muskie" or "musky"), is a species of large, relatively uncommon freshwater fish native to North America. The muskellunge is the largest member of the pike family, Esocidae. The common name comes from the Ojibwa word maashkinoozhe, meaning "ugly pike", by way
of French masque
allongé (modified from the Ojibwa word by folk etymology), "elongated face." The French common name is masquinongé or maskinongé.
The muskellunge is known by a wide variety of trivial names including Ohiomuskellunge, Great Lakes muskellunge, barred muskellunge, Ohio River pike, Allegheny River pike, jack pike, unspotted muskellunge and the Wisconsin muskellunge.
Most of their diets consist
of fish, but can
also include crayfish, frogs, ducklings, snakes, muskrats, mice, other
small mammals, and
small birds. The mouth is large with many long, needle-like teeth. Muskies will attempt to take their prey head-first, sometimes in a single gulp. They will take prey items up to 30% of their total
length. In the spring, they tend to prefer smaller bait since their metabolism is slower, while large bait are preferred in fall as preparation for winter.
Graph showing weight-length relationship for muskellunge
As muskellunge grow longer they increase in weight, but the relationship between length and weight is not linear. The relationship between them can be expressed by a power-law equation:
The exponent b is close to 3.0 for all species, and c is a constant for each species. For muskellunge, b = 3.325, higher than for many common species, and c = 0.000089 pounds/inch³.
This equation implies that a 30-in (76-cm) muskellunge will weigh about 8 lb (3.6 kg), while a 40-in muskellunge will weigh about 18 lb.
Anglers seek large muskies as trophies or for sport. The fish attain impressive swimming speeds, but are not particularly maneuverable. The highest-speed runs are usually fairly short,
but they can be quite intense. The muskie can also do headshaking in an attempt to rid itself of a hook. Muskies are known for their strength and for their tendency to leap from the water in stunning
acrobatic displays. A challenging fish to catch, the muskie has been called "the fish of ten thousand casts". Anglers tend to use smaller lures in spring or during cold-front conditions and larger
lures in fall or the heat of summer. The average lure is 7.9–12 in (20–30 cm) long, but longer lures of 14–26 in (36–66 cm) are not uncommon. Anglers in many areas are
strongly encouraged to practice catch and release when fishing for muskellunge due to their low population. In places where muskie are not native, such as in Maine, anglers are encouraged not to release the fish back into the
water because of their alleged negative impact on the populations of trout and other smaller fish species. One strategy for securing this fish is called
the figure eight, which is usually done as a muskie follows a cast until the end of a retrieve. (Citations from Wikipedia)