The muskys torpedo-shaped body has dark vertical bars on a light-silvery green or light-brown background. These colors vary from one body of water to another. The belly is solid-creamy white. Unlike the pike, musky have pointed tails that are deeply forked. The anal and dorsal fins and tail are light gray with darker spots and are rounded.
Musky are solitary hunters that like to lurk in the weeds and wait for the next meal to swim by. They generally do not travel very far in pursuit of food unless food is sparse. When the unsuspecting prey comes along, the musky first grab it with their large canine teeth, rotate the prey, and then swallow it head first.
As the fish grow, so does the size of their food. As juveniles, musky feed on zooplankton and aquatic insects, then when of larger size adapt to small fish, such as minnows, perch and juvenile bass. By the time musky mature, they may eat anything that can be swallowed without choking. This voracious diet may include frogs, salamanders, crayfish, small mammals, birds or even other musky.
Musky are native to Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the provinces of Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, Canada. Musky have been introduced to Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Virginia and New Brunswick, Canada.
Musky will live just about anywhere within their range, in large or small lakes, rivers, and marshes with slow currents. Marshy areas with shallow, thick vegetation are a necessity for spawning, feeding, and cover. They like cold water of 33 to 78 F, but will tolerate temperatures up to 90 F for short periods of time. They usually travel to cooler waters such as springs or lake bottoms in the summer. Musky do not adjust well to changing conditions, such as loss of spawning habitat and changes in water levels.
- Musky became the Wisconsin state fish in 1955.
- Muskellunge comes from the Ojibwa Indian name: Mas means ugly and kinononge means fish.
- Musky, like other fish at the top of the food chain, tend to accumulate toxins in their body tissue. As they feed on smaller fish with small amounts of toxins such as PCBs, pesticides, or mercury in them, the toxins build up in their own bodies. Check state fish and game regulations for specific consumption advisories.