The muskie or muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) is a popular freshwater game fish found in North America. The muskie’s name comes for the language of the native Ojibwe Indian tribe and means “ugly pike.”
The muskie’s native range extends from the northern states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin into Canada to the north and southward as far as the Tennessee River valley. In some areas, the muskie populations have been transplanted artificially.
The muskie resembles the northern pike and is often mistaken for a pike or an American pickerel. Like the pike, the muskie has large teeth, which it uses to hold its prey. The muskie though is much larger than the pike or pickerel and can reach weights of more than 65 lbs.
Because of its large size and excellent fighting ability, the muskie is a prized sport fish. The fish is relatively rare along its range and quite difficult to catch lending to the popularity of this fish as a trophy. Some top muskie hot spots include:
• Ontario, Canada – Eagle Lake, Clearwater Lake, Lake of the Woods, Crow Lake, East Rainy Lake.
• Wisconsin – Boulder Junction, White Lake, Mercer, Manitowish Waters, Lower Kaubashine Lake, Presque Isle Lake.
• Michigan – Little Bay De Noc, Lake Hudson, Lake St. Clair, Thornapple Lake.
• Minnesota – Vermilion River, Lake Winnibigoshish, Bemidji, Birch Lake, Lake of the Woods, Detroit Lakes. Rainy River, St. Croix River.
• Pennsylvania – Pymatuning Lake, Tionesta Lake, Tamarack Lake.
Because of their size and strength, you will need special gear to fish for muskies. An ordinary trout rod is not likely to do the trick. Muskies can go on long runs that will strip lighter tackle and the fish’s sharp teeth can chew through ordinary line. You should always use steel leaders when fishing for the muskie.
Since muskie often weight 20 lbs or more, you will need to have appropriate rod and line strength. Also you will need a net since you want to avoid grasping a muskie and coming in contact with its teeth. Smaller lures are used during the colder months while the larger ones are saved for summer. Rubber lures are popular as our diving lures and surface poppers.
Fly fishing is a popular way to catch muskie. Known as the “fish of 10,000 casts,” the muskie presents a great challenge for fly fishermen and for fishermen in general. Catching a big muskie on a fly rod is certainly a memorable experience. Muskies eat a wide array of food including smaller fish, floating birds, and swimming mammals. In order to avoid attracting smaller game fish, you should use a large fly lure when fishing for muskies. Many saltwater lure will work for muskie fishing. You should use at least an 8 weight graphite fly rod when going after these big freshwater predators. A saltwater fly fishing reel like those used to catch snook or tarpon is also recommended.
Muskies tend to be shy of leaders so you want to keep the wire short at the end. Use a strong monofilament leader leading up the wire leader.
Live bait fishing for muskies
As might be expected, there is a wide choice of live baits that can be used for this large aggressive fish. The muskie is sort of like a freshwater barracuda. You can drift or troll live bait as the situation demands. Popular types of bait are large minnows, suckers, chubs, smelt and other bait fish. You can also use big frogs on the surface. Dead bait can also be used especially during the colder months.
When to fish
Muskie fishing tends to be better in the mornings and evenings, and during winter through spring months. These fish tend to prefer sunny days for feeding. Many anglers fish for muskies according to the phases of the moon. Supposedly the best time to fish is a period of about four days after the New or Full Moon. Moon phase anglers also recommend fishing during the rising or setting of the sun and moon.
Another good time to fish is after a period of inclement weather especially after it has been raining as muskies may have been inactive during this time. They will be ready to feed when the weather clears up.
The muskie is one of the more challenging gamefish, and that is what makes it attractive to many anglers. Because of its size and ferocious appearance, it has gained a reputation as a top predator among freshwater fish.