Musky Range Expanded With The Hybrid Tiger Musky by James Smith
Historically, the native range of the musky has been limited to about 8 or
10 Midwestern and northeastern states and a couple of Canadian provinces.
Natural resource agencies and divisions of wildlife have been methodically
stocking some muskellunge in limited lakes and reservoirs over the past
few years. The muskellunge is a difficult fish to rear in hatcheries.
This is primarily due to the food base, which requires the feeding of
expensive live minnows. Then the survival rate of stocked out 7″ to 9″
fish is usually very low.
The tiger musky was first recognized in about 1937. It was as late as
June 1975 before a hybrid category was established by the National
Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. Yet there are references of a
muskellunge cross as far back as 1890.
The tiger musky, (Esox masquinongy x Esox lucius) a hybrid cross of a
muskellunge mother and a northern pike father, occurs naturally under
certain conditions. The northern pike normally spawn a couple of weeks
before the muskellunge. This is one of the reasons that there are more
northern pike than muskies. The northern fry prey upon the newly
hatching muskies. In some years when spring arrives late the northern
pike are spawning at the same time as the muskellunge. The northern pike
male fertilizes the female muskellunge eggs and the result is a hybrid
Around 1973 Pennsylvania as well as some other states had been conducting
research on the hybrids and were finding that they could raise these
hybrids on dry pellets instead of live minnows. Other states became
interested in these results and by the early to mid 1980’s began raising
and stocking hybrid tiger muskies. Some states used the hybrid as a
method of controlling sucker and carp populations in lakes and
The muskies preferred “food of choice” are soft-rayed fish that grow to
large size. Some states have used the hybrid to control perch populations
in their lakes. In fact, the State of Washington has stocked hybrid
tiger muskies in Mayfield Lake to control the western squaw fish
There are other advantages to the tiger musky too. Because they are
sterile their numbers can be controlled. Biologists found that these
tigers were somewhat easier to catch than their pure cousins and that they
were even more aggressive and stronger fighters than their parents.
Fishermen were seeking out the tiger because of its’ unusual and unique
markings. Finally the tiger had an impressive growth rate, reaching over
30″ in its’ fourth year after release.
North Dakota and West Virginia began stocking programs in 1958, followed
by Iowa in 1964. By the late 70’s fifteen states had developed stocking
programs. By the mid 80’s the rest of the states were becoming involved.
Looking at these 35 states with muskies, 25 of them have hybrid tiger
musky stocking programs. Seven of these states only stock the hybrid
tiger musky. A couple of other states, like Arizona for one, attempted
to stock muskies. Arizona Game & Fish Department stocked them in Morman
Lake near Flagstaff. Between the adult northern pike and the lake going
dry the muskies didn’t have a chance, but the interest was there.
Some of the lessons learned from the trial and error process over the
past 10 years include: the smaller the fish, the less successful the
introduction; birds like the cormorant and the herons, sea gulls and
pelicans are detrimental to newly stocked tiger muskies; and it is best
to stock tiger muskies from a boat during the evening hours, in water
with good cover nearby. In addition warn water reservoirs and reservoirs
with fluctuating water levels should be avoided. In fact, Missouri
biologists feel that when water temperatures are desirable for tiger
muskies, growth is good and angler acceptance is great; however, high
temperatures in the summer produce an emaciated appearing fish that is
undesirable to the angler. For this reason, Missouri biologists have
discontinued the use of tiger muskies and have embraced a program of
stocking only pure strain muskellunge which have a higher temperature
Although the tiger hybrid has an impressive growth rate in the early
years, it is still the pure muskellunge that “tops” the scales in the
long run. In reviewing the current state records from these 35 states,
one can only find two 40# hybrids, the first was from North Dakota and
now Colorado, and four others over 30# from the states of Wisconsin,
North Carolina, New York, and Minnesota. This does not include the
Knoblas’ 51# 3 oz. All Tackle World Record entry from Michigan.
One can see from the records that 30# hybrids are rare and 40# hybrids
are almost never heard of. But, we must remember that with the expansion
of the range comes new waters, new methods, new programs, and new
opportunities for a trophy.
In summary this tiger hybrid is a hatchery mans dream-come-true. Not
only is this fish less expensive to propagate, but due to the catch rate
the fisherman is getting much more for his fishing license dollar.Now you
have thirty-five states and three Canadian provinces to pursue your
favorite fetish. Even if you don’t live in or around the original range
of ol’ Esox you may only be a short distance from some fine trophy
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