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Fin-tastic Facts About The Muskellunge For Kids

[Discover muskellunge facts about the state fish of Wisconsin.

'Muskellunge' is a word from the Indigenous language Ojibwe in North America. It is a derivation of the Ojibwe word is 'maashkinoozhe', which translates to 'great fish'. They are usually light silver or green-colored fish with dark stripes along their slender body. They have a flat head and anal, dorsal, and pelvis fins on the back of their body and muskellunge teeth are sharp.

'Muskie' or 'musky' is a short name used for the muskellunge fish and most muskellunge fish are found in the natural lakes of northern parts of America. It is commonly found species in its natural habitat. They have a resemblance, in terms of both appearance and behavior, to the American pickerel and the northern pike. They are primary ambush predators which means that they don't move until they attack their prey. Young muskies are consumed by bass, trout, and adult muskellunge fish, whilst adult muskies are apex predators.

If you find these facts about muskellunge fish interesting, then read more about swai fish and lungfish here on Kidadl!

Muskellunge Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a muskellunge?

The muskellunge is the largest member of the aquatic pike family Esocidae which is a genus of freshwater fish.

What class of animal does a muskellunge belong to?

Muskellunge fish are part of the pike family. They are freshwater fish that belong to the Actinopterygii class.

How many muskellunge are there in the world?

A great number of muskies are found in the eastern and northern parts of America but there is no exact data on the number of muskellunge fish present in the world.

Where does a muskellunge live?

Muskellunge fish live in large rivers and mesotrophic and oligotrophic lakes. They are found in the northern parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. They also occupy the Tennesse River Valley and the Broad River in South Carolina. The hybrid tiger muskie is found in the Pineview Reservoir in Utah. Adult muskies prefer shallow rivers and young muskies love deeper waters.

What is a muskellunge's habitat?

The typical muskellunge habitat involves shallow-water lakes with vegetation in North America. They also occupy the rivers' backwater and quiet pools around woody debris. They are found in areas with a warmer water temperature. Adult muskies are found in shallow water and young muskellunge fish are found in deeper parts. In summer, muskies form two home ranges: a deeper range and a shallow range. The deeper range is normally a little bigger.

Who do muskellunge fish live with?

In a specific territory, they form schools and are gregarious at times.

How long does a muskellunge live?

The average muskellunge lifespan is up to 20 years long. Interestingly, if their length is more than or equal to 30 in (72 cm) they might have a lower lifespan.  Females also tend to live longer than males

How do they reproduce?

Ault muskellunge fish reach sexual maturity at around three to five years of age. The hybrid tiger muskie does not have a spawning process as they do not reproduce, but regular muskies spawn randomly during spring when the water temperature is about 50 F (10 C). Spawning takes place near vegetation and debris for about five to 10 days and the eggs are scattered by males by thrashing their tails. There is no care given to the eggs after spawning, the eggs simply scatter on the aquatic plants and adapt to the vegetation around them. The eggs hatch about one to two weeks after the adult muskellunge has abandoned the fertilized eggs. Muskellunge babies eat other small fishes and young muskellunge grow rapidly to about 12 in (30 cm) in their first season of growth.

What is their conservation status?

The muskellunge is used as a sports and trophy fish and they put up a good fight when being fished. Overfishing is a threat to this species, and for this reason, some fishermen use the catch and release technique. Regulations and restrictions have been put into place on the minimum length and size that you can fish, to reduce the number of muskellunge killed each year. This rule established in the year 1891 and again in 1960. The daily limit is six fish and the minimum length you can catch is 30 in (72 cm). The destruction of their spawning habitats is also a serious problem, but overall these fish are classified as Least Concern.

Muskellunge Fun Facts

What do muskellunge look like?

A muskellunge fish has a long and slender torpedo-shaped body with anal and dorsal fins located near the caudal (tail) fin. These fish have a big mouth with long and sharp pointed teeth. They are usually light-colored with several markings like spots and vertical bars. Their body colors are silver, green, or brown and sometimes these markings are absent due to turbid waters. Their head, upper side, and back are light brown or greenish-gold and their bellies are cream-colored or pearl-white. Their fins have rusted colors. A pad of recurved and short teeth cover the roof of its mouth and sensory pores occupy the underside of its jaw.

Muskellunge are voracious carnivores.

How cute are they?

Markellunge fish are hunter fish and they are a top predator with sharp teeth, so not many people find them cute.

How do they communicate?

They communicate through smell and by releasing chemicals. They also communicate with each other by touch.

How big is a muskellunge?

The length of a muskellunge is 28-48 in (71-122 cm) and their height is 3.5-6.5 in (8.9-16.5 cm). Females grow faster than male muskellunge fish.

How fast can a muskellunge swim?

The average muskellunge speed can reach up to 30 mph (48.2 kph).

How much does a muskellunge weigh?

A muskellunge weighs 15-36 lb (6.8-16.3 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names given to females and males.

What would you call a baby muskellunge?

A young muskellunge is called a fry.

What do they eat?

The typical muskellunge diet consists of fish (including bullheads and carp fish), insects, frogs, ducklings, muskrats, and mice. Due to their needle-like teeth and big mouth, they attack their prey headfirst.

Are they dangerous?

Muskellunge fish will attack any moving creature. Some reports show that there were instances of muskellunge fish attacking dogs and humans, but these muskellunge attack claims are not confirmed.

Would they make a good pet?

These large muskellunge fish need an aquarium that is 10 gallons (37.8 liters) or larger. They are good tank mates with other fish though, so, yes they can make a good pet.

Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.

Did you know...

The tiger muskellunge is a cross-bred fish between the northern pike and the muskie. The tger muskellunge has distinctive tiger stripes.

The muskie is the state fish of Wisconsin, this was declared in 1955.

Larger muskies are preferred by anglers as trophy fish. In Maine, where muskies are not native fish, anglers are encouraged not to release any muskies that they catch.

In the year 1949, a muskie fish that weighed 67 lb 8 oz (30.6 kg) set the heaviest and largest muskellunge world record!

It is not easy to catch muskies because they have great eyesight.

Do people eat muskellunge?

Yes, muskie fish is edible. There are three ways to cook a muskie: grilling, pan-frying, and baking. For any of these cooking methods, the muskie first needs to well-cleaned. It is also important to be aware of the toxins and high mercury contamination in some muskies. These risks can pose some danger to humans.

Different kinds of muskellunge

There are three subspecies of muskellunge: The clear muskellunge (E. m. immaculatus) is found in the inland lakes of Minnesota, northwest parts of Ontario, Wisconsin, and southeast parts of Manitoba. The spotted or Great Lakes maskellunge (E. m. masquinongi) is found in surrounding areas of the Great Lakes Basin. They have spots that look like oblique rows. Finally, the barred or Chautauqua muskellunge (E. m. ohiaensis) is found in Lake Ontario, Lake Chautauqua, the Ohio river system, and the St. Lawrence River.

Muskellunge vs pike

The best way to distinguish between these types of fish is by the number of sensory pores that are present on the underside of their mandible. The northern pike has a maximum of six pores whereas a muskie has more than seven per side.

The northern pike also has light-colored spots on its dark-colored body whereas the muskie is light-colored with dark spots. In addition, the caudal (tail) fin of the northern pike is more round than it is for all kinds of muskies. The northern pike has a fully scaled cheek whereas the muskie has no scales and the spots on a northern pike run horizontally but for the barred muskie, marks are vertical. Finally, a northern pike is easily distinguished from a clear muskie as there are no patterns on this type of muskie.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish including the flounder, or arapaima.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Muskellunge coloring pages.  

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