HookedinFishing » Freshwater Fish » Muskellunge

Muskellunge Species Breakdown

By: Nick and FishingwithNat Updated: September 11, 2022

Scientific Name: Esox masquinongy
Also Known As: muskie, musky or lunge

Muskellunge are the largest member of the pike family. They are oxygen sensitive, so they can often be seen at the surface taking in oxygen rich water. They are tend to be in colder water due to cold water retaining more oxygen than warmer water.

There are four types of muskellunge: fish-barred muskies, spotted muskie, tiger muskellunge, and clear muskies.

Muskellunge are one of the most sought-after freshwater game fish in North America. This species is a large predatory freshwater fish that are fast and aggressive, earning themselves the nicknames “the fish of a thousand casts” due to the challenge of catching them.

Large Muskellunge being held out of water by a man in a kayak

How to Identify a Muskie

You can identify a muskie by their greenish-gold to golden brown coloring on their backs and upper sides. Their bellies are a cream to white color. The fins on a musky fish are pointed and usually a rush color.

Muskie have a long thin body with a flat head and mouth filled with sharp teeth. They have 6 to 9 pores on the lower jaw.

Muskellunge Size

Muskellunge are commonly caught in the 2-4 ft long range and weigh 15-36 lbs. They can grow up to almost 70 lbs and reach lengths up to 60 inches long.

Musky will reach 7 to 13 inches by the end of their first summer. They have rapid growth until they reach five years old. Male muskellunge mature in 4 to 5 years when they reach 28 to 31 inches long. Females mature in 5 to 7 years when they reach 30 to 36 inches in length

Muskellunge Size Chart – Length to Weight Conversion

35″12 lbs
36″13.27 lbs
37″14.41 lbs
38″15.78 lbs
39″17.36 lbs
40″18.85 lbs
41″20.42 lbs
42″22.25 lbs
43″23.96 lbs
44″25.75 lbs
45″27.88 lbs
46″29.77 lbs
47″32.29 lbs
48″34.53 lbs
49″36.96 lbs
50″39.55 lbs
51″42.33 lbs
52″45.15 lbs
53″48.08 lbs
54″51.12 lbs
55″54.34 lbs
56″57.54 lbs
57″61.23 lbs
58″64.68 lbs
59″68.37 lbs
60″70 lbs

View World & State Muskie Records

Where Muskie Are Found

Muskellunge are native to North America, including the St. Lawrence River, Hudson Bay, the Great Lakes, and the Mississippi River basins. 

Musky can be found in large lakes and rivers in the northern United States into Canada. They thrive in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Great Lakes Region, Canada, throughout the St Lawrence River drainage, through the Mississippi Valley, and can extend as far south as Chattanooga Tennessee River Valley into Georgia.

Muskies need colder water due to being very oxygen-sensitive. They prefer water temperatures between 33 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. They cant withstand temperatures much higher than 85 degrees Fahrenheit for very long.

They are solitary fish that tend to establish a small territory. During spawning season or when food supply is limited they will roam a little further.

Lifespan of a Musky

Muskies live to be about 15 years old on average but can reach up to 30 years old. Anglers are typically catching 5-15 year olds.

You can tell the general age of musky by referring to the table below.

Muskellunge Age Chart

1 Year Old9 – 13 inches
2 Years Old13 – 18 inches
3 Years Old18 – 24 inches
4 Years Old24 – 27 inches
5 Years Old27 – 33 inches
6 Years Old33 – 34 inches
7 Years Old34 – 36 inches
8 Years Old36 – 40 inches
9 Years Old40 – 43 inches
10 Years Old43 – 45 inches
11 Years Old45 – 47 inches
12 Years Old47 – 49 inches
13 Years Old49 – 51 inches
14 Years Old51 – 52 inches
15 Years Old52 – 54 inches
16 Years Old54 – 56 inches
17 Years Old56 – 58 inches
18 Years Old60 – 62 inches
19 Years Old62 – 64 inches
20 Years Old64 – 66 inches

Fishing For Muskellunge

Are Muskie hard to catch?

Muskie are difficult to catch. They are often refereed to as the “fish of a thousand casts.” They’re very smart are are tough to trick into biting. Their sharp teeth will often break your line if not using steel leader.

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What is the best depth for catching muskie?

Muskies generally stay in shallow water and rarely go more than 40 feet deep. The only time they go deeper is if the shallow waters get too warm or there is more food in the deeper areas.

What type of bait is best for musky?

My favorite bait to use when fishing for musky are bucktails. They put out a lot of flash and vibration from their blade that help draw in muskie from a greater distance.

Bucktails can be fished any speed and are perfect for beginners. You can’t really fish them wrong.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are muskie good eating?

Muskie can be good to eat, they taste very similar to bass. The taste will be highly dependent on the way you cook it. I like cooking mine in a beer batter mix.

What’s the difference between a muskie and a pike?

Pike and musky are not the same, although they are both members of the Esox genus. Musky have more pores under their jaws. Muskie have 6 or more, while pike have 5 or fewer pores.

What predators do muskie have?

Humans and large birds of prey such as eagles are the only threat to adult muskie. Young muskellunge howeve,r are in danger of becoming prey to northern pike, perch, bass, walleye, and even other muskellunge.