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Muskie is the contracted common name given, by anglers, to the muskellunge. It is a freshwater fish species (Esox masquinongy*) of the family Esocidae, and is closely related to the northern pike. The scientific name has an interesting etymology. While the name of the genus comes directly from the European name for the pike family, the species name is adopted from the native cultures who lived in the fish's native range. The name masquinongy is a combination of the words mashk, meaning deformed, and kinonjé, meaning pike.

It is a huge fish, often measuring more than a meter in length and weighing up to 15 kilograms. It is the second largest freshwater fish found in Canada (behind the sturgeon), and the third largest in the United States. Their native range is from western Ontario to western Quebec, and extends south through the states of Vermont, New York, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

It is a lie-and-wait predator, like the pike, spending its adult life in weed beds in the shallow, littoral zones of lakes. It is a voracious feeder, and will attack nearly anything they can fit into their mouths. They rely principally on fish as prey, but will also consume crayfish, frogs, muskrats, mice, shrews, ducks and other small birds.

They are beautifully colourful fish, with a light background interrupted by dark bands. Adults typically have green flanks with traces of red or orange and have wonderfully irridescent green or gold heads.

They are prized by sport anglers due to their size and their incredibly aggressive nature. They will strike at nearly anything that is thrown in the water, which has led to a number of wonderful folk tales of canoeists having paddles attacked by a muskie, and so on. They are of relatively high economic importance to both the northwestern U.S. and Canada, as recreational fishermen come from all over to target this species. Commercial fishing has ceased entirely, due to the small population sizes and thus high vulnerability of the species.


* The definition of muskellunge, provided by Webster's 1913, contains out-dated taxonomic information.

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