Muskellunges (Esox masquinongy), or "muskies", have been compared to tigers. They are solitary, stalk prey, have needle-sharp teeth and rows of spots or "stripes" on their sides. They are a member of the pike family of fishes, which have "duck-billed" heads and long slender bodies. They are usually a greenish-yellowish or brownish color with spots on their fins. In Ohio's early history it was often referred to as just a "pike", making positive identification in records difficult. Early Ohio settlers captured muskies with spears, guns, hooks and lines and seines. They were used for food.
Native to Ohio, muskellunge are found in both major drainage basins. The common habitat for muskellunges include clear water with sandy or gravelly bottoms, brush, logs aquatic plants. There are two varieties of muskellunge in Ohio. Great Lakes muskies are found in northern counties bordering Lake Erie. Ohio muskies are commonly found in the southern and eastern portions of Ohio but have been found throughout major streams and lakes, for example Ohio Brush Creek, Muskingum River, Salt Creek and Wolf Creek. A hybrid, the tiger muskellunge, is a sterile cross between the Great Lakes muskellunge and the northern pike.
Muskies spawn from April to early May with females producing 50,000 to 200,000 eggs, which stick to vegetation and other objects. After hatching, young will feed on zooplankton. Adults are carnivorous preferring a diet of primarily of soft-rayed fish but will eat frogs; large water insects, crayfish and sometimes snakes, ducklings and small muskrats. Male muskies range from 22 to 39 inches long and weigh three to twenty-one pounds; females are larger. The life expectancy of muskellunges is twelve years.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has stocked them in many lakes as well such as Rocky Fork, Leesville and Piedmont. Muskies have difficulty reproducing in these introduced areas so ODNR gathers fertilized eggs and raise them in fish hatcheries until they can be released. Muskie populations have remained stable in Ohio for the last forty years.
Muskies are a popular sport fish because of their size and the tremendous fight that they give fishermen. The record muskellunge, caught in Piedmont Lake, April 1972, weighed 55.13 pounds and was 50.25 inches long. A record tiger muskellunge was caught April 2006 near Akron and weighed 31.64 pounds and measured 47 inches long.