Pikes and Mudminnows: Esociformes
Muskellunge (esox Masquinongy): Species Account
Physical characteristics: Most muskellunge weigh 7 to 20 pounds (3 to 9 kg). The highest weight recorded is about 70 pounds (31.8 kilograms), and that fish was 6 feet (1.8 meters) long. The usual length is less than 40 inches (1 meter). The body is silver or light green with dark spots or mottled markings, but the color varies according to habitat, and markings may be absent. The cheeks and the gill covering have scales on only the upper half. Muskellunge have large pores on the lower jaw.
Geographic range: Muskellunge live in North America in the Great Lakes region.
Habitat: Muskellunge live in slow-moving or still waters with dense plant life.
Diet: Muskellunge are greedy predators (PREH-duh-ters), or animals that hunt and kill other animals for food. They feed mainly on fish but also eat crayfish, frogs, water birds, and small mammals. The young eat small invertebrates until they are able to capture larger animals.
Behavior and reproduction: Muskellunge hover among water plants, striking at prey with a fast, powerful movement. They sometimes float just beneath the water surface with their backs exposed to the air. Muskellunge spawn in spring. Males and females move close to shore or from streams to marshy areas. One female and a few smaller males swim into shallow, heavily planted areas. Females release a small number of eggs, onto which the males immediately deposit sperm. Egg release is repeated a varying number of times. Both males and females may spawn with different mates during a spawning season. Adults do not guard spawning sites or provide care to the young. Muskellunge and northern pike can breed with each other, and if they do, they produce tiger muskies, a hybrid that cannot produce its own young. Therefore, muskellunge avoid areas where northern pike spawn by releasing eggs in deeper water.
Muskellunge and people: Muskellunge are popular sport fish.
Conservation status: Muskellunge are not threatened or endangered. ∎
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Berra, Tim M. Freshwater Fish Distribution. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 2001.
Gilbert, Carter Rowell, and James D. Williams. National Audubon Society Field Guide to Fishes: North America. New York: Knopf, 2002.
Schultz, Ken. Ken Schultz's Field Guide to Freshwater Fish. New York: Wiley, 2004.
Paulson, Nicole, and Jay T. Hatch. "Central Mudminnow: Umbra Limi (Kirtland, 1840)." University of Minnesota. http://www.gen.umn.edu/research/fish/fishes/central_mudminnow.html (accessed on September 26, 2004).
"Understanding Northern Pike and Muskie." The Content Well. http://www.thecontentwell.com/Fish_Game/Northern_Pike/Pike_index.html (accessed on September 26, 2004).
"What Is a Muskie? The Basics." International Muskie Home Page. http://www.trentu.ca/muskie/biology/biol01.html (accessed on September 26, 2004).
Animal Life ResourceFish and Other Cold-Blooded VertebratesPikes and Mudminnows: Esociformes - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Behavior And Reproduction, Muskellunge (esox Masquinongy): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, DIET, PIKES AND MUDMINNOWS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS