Esox masquinongy
Esox masquinongy
Native Transplant
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Esox masquinongy Mitchill, 1824

Common name: Muskellunge

Synonyms and Other Names: muskie, musky

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Becker (1983); Page and Burr (1991); Etnier and Starnes (1993); Jenkins and Burkhead (1994). Three subspecies are sometimes recognized: E. m. masquinongy, a spotted form which occurs in the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes and their tributaries; E. m. immaculatus, a form with either no pattern or barring which occurs in Wisconsin, Minnesota, northwestern Ontario, and southeastern Manitoba; and E. m. ohioensis, a form with bars or diffuse spots and blotches which occurs in the Ohio River and its tributaries (Becker 1983).

Size: 183 cm.

Native Range: St. Lawrence River-Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins, from Quebec to southeastern Manitoba; south in the Appalachians to Georgia and in the west to Iowa (Page and Burr 1991). Crossman (1978) gave a distribution map. Although never reported from Mississippi, considering the fact that Muskellunge are (or were) native to the main Tennessee River, the species almost certainly historically entered the extreme northeastern part of that state (Gilbert, personal communication).

US auto-generated map Legend USGS Logo
Alaska auto-generated map
Hawaii auto-generated map
Caribbean auto-generated map
Puerto Rico &
Virgin Islands
Guam auto-generated map
Guam Saipan
Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: This species was introduced into Alabama (Boschung 1992; Mettee et al. 1996); Arizona (Rinne 1995); the White and Ouachita drainages in Arkansas (Buchanan 1973; Cross et al. 1986); Lake Merced, California (Smith 1896; Shebley 1917; Lampman 1946; Hubbs et al. 1979); the South Platte drainage in Colorado (Rasmussen 1998); the Connecticut and Thames drainages, Connecticut (Milner 1874b; Schmidt 1986; Whitworth 1996); a pond on the Colorado State University campus, Colorado (Walker 1993; D. Horak, personal communication); Brandywine Creek, Delaware (Raasch and Altemus 1991); Lake Blueridge, Georgia (Dahlberg and Scott 1971a, 1971b); the Skunk River, Iowa-Cedar River, and several lakes in Iowa (Burr and Page 1986; Harlan et al. 1987); reservoirs in Illinois (Smith 1979); several areas of Kentucky (Axon 1981; Burr and Page 1986; Burr and Warren 1986); the St. John River drainage, Maine (Kircheis 1994); Deep Creek and the Potomac River upstream of Plummers Island, Maryland (Lee et al. 1976; Pritchard et al. 1978; Starnes et al. 2011); Massachusetts (Fowler 1907; Hartel 1992; Hartel et al. 1996); Minnesota (Phillips et al. 1982; Burr and Page 1986); Lake of the Ozarks, Pony Express Lake, Pomme de Terre Reservoir, below Indian Trail Hatchery, Hazel Creek Lake, Castor River, Chariton River, Meramec River, Osage River, and Lake Girardeau in Missouri (Pflieger 1971, 1975, 1997; Cross et al. 1986; Rasmussen 1998); Cherry County, the Missouri River, Platte River, and Elwood Reservoir in Nebraska (Morris et al. 1974; Bouc 1987; Rasmussen 1998); many areas of New Jersey (Fowler 1906, 1920, 1952; Stiles 1978; Soldwedel, personal communication); Lake Canadarago, New York (Smith 1985); the Roanoke, Broad, New, and Tennessee drainages in North Carolina (Pritchard et al. 1978; Menhinick 1991; Jenkins and Burkhead 1994); North Dakota (Ryckman 1981; Crossman and McAllister 1986; North Dakota Game and Fish Department 1994); many areas of Ohio (Trautman 1981); Lake Carl Etling, Oklahoma (J. Pigg, personal communication); Brandywine Creek and new impoundments in Pennsylvania (Kendall 1917; Fowler 1919; Cooper 1983; Raasch and Altemus 1991; Tilmant 1999); Broad River, South Carolina (South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Division of Freshwater Fisheries 1997; Rohde et al. 2009); South Dakota (North Dakota Game and Fish Department 1994; R. L. Hanten, personal communication); Wautauga Lake (Pritchard et al. 1978), Dale Hollow Lake (Burr and Warren 1986), and Norris Reservoir (Etnier and Starnes 1993), Tennessee; Inks Lake, Copper Breaks State Park, Pease River and Amistad Reservoir, Texas (Howells 1992; Rasmussen 1998); the Connecticut River, Vermont (Milner 1874b); the Potomac, Rappahannock, James, Roanoke, New, Holston and Clinch-Powell drainages, Virginia (Hocutt et al. 1986; Jenkins and Burkhead 1994; Stauffer et al. 1995); the Potomac, Guyandotte, and New rivers, West Virginia (Hocutt et al. 1986; Jenkins and Burkhead 1994; Stauffer et al. 1995); and numerous rivers and lakes in Wisconsin (Becker 1983; Burr and Page 1986).

Means of Introduction: Intentionally stocked for sportfishing. According to Pflieger (1997) this species was first stocked in Missouri reservoirs in 1966 for the purpose of providing another trophy-sized fish and a large predator capable of preying on the many gizzard shad and other forage fish too large to be eaten by largemouth bass. Muskellunge found in one Missouri creek had escaped from hatchery ponds (Pflieger 1997).

Status: Reported from above areas, some of which may have established populations. Extirpated in California (Hubbs et al. 1979) and in Georgia, where it has not been seen since 1957 (Dahlberg and Scott 1971b). About 25% of all Muskellunge populations in Wisconsin are the result of stocking (Becker 1983). Crossman and McAllister (1986) reported the species as introduced into the Souris and Red River drainage was a recent one.  They were stocked in the Minnedosa and Assiniboine rivers, both tributaries of the Red River.

Impact of Introduction: This species likely has impacts similar to that of northern pike, namely reducing the numbers of small fish by way of predation. Muskellunge and young largemouth bass M. salmoides frequent the same habitats, brush piles and beds of vegetation. In two Wisconsin lakes, this resulted in the decline of the largemouth bass population (Becker 1983).

Remarks: See Becker (1983) for detailed summary on the biology of this species. Wolter et al. (2013) examined demographics and rate of dam escapement at a reservoir in Illinois, finding 25% of the population escaped over the dam and suggested mitigation practices.

References: (click for full references)

Anonymous. 1994b. Fishes of the Dakotas. Brochure. American Fisheries Society Dakota Chapter, and North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Axon, J.R. 1981. Development of a muskellunge fishery at Cave Run Lake, Kentucky, 1974-1979. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 1:134-143.

Becker, G.C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. University of Madison Press Madison, WI.

Bouc, K. 1987. The fish book. Nebraskaland Magazine 65(1):1-130.

Buchanan, T.M. 1973. Key to the fishes of Arkansas. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Little Rock, AR.

Burr, B.M., and M.L. Warren, Jr. 1986. A distributional atlas of Kentucky fishes. Scientific and Technical Series No. 4. Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, Frankfort, KY.

Cooper, E.L. 1983. Fishes of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, PA.

Dahlberg, M.D., and D.C. Scott. 1971a. The freshwater fishes of Georgia. Bulletin of the Georgia Academy of Science 29:1-64.

Dahlberg, M.D., and D.C. Scott. 1971b. Introductions of freshwater fishes in Georgia. Bulletin of the Georgia Academy of Science 29:245-252.

Etnier, D.A., and W.C. Starnes. 1993. The fishes of Tennessee. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN.

Fowler, H.W. 1906. The fishes of New Jersey. Pages 35-477 in Annual Report of the New Jersey State Museum (1905), part II. MacCrellish and Quigley, State Province, Trenton, NJ.

Fowler, H.W. 1907. A supplementary acount of the fishes of New Jersey. Pages 251-408 in Annual Report of the New Jersey State Museum (1906), part III. Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

Fowler, H.W. 1919. A list of fishes of Pennsylvania. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 32:49-74.

Fowler, H.W. 1920. A list of the fishes of New Jersey. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 33:139-170.

Fowler, H.W. 1952. A list of the fishes of New Jersey, with off-shore species. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia CIV:89-151.

Hanten, R.L. - Department. of Game, Fish, and Parks, Pierre, SD. Response to NBS-G nonindigenous questionaire.

Harlan, J.R., E.B. Speaker, and J. Mayhew. 1987. Iowa fish and fishing. Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Des Moines, IA.

Hartel, K.E. 1992. Non-native fishes known from Massachusetts freshwaters. Occasional Reports of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Fish Department, Cambridge, MA. 2. September. pp. 1-9.

Horak, D. - Colorado Division of Wildlife, Fort Collins, CO. 1995.

Howells, R.G. 1992. Annotated list of introduced non-native fishes, mollusks, crustaceans and aquatic plants in Texas waters. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Management Data Series 78, Austin, TX.

Hubbs, C.L., W.I. Follett, and L.J. Dempster. 1979. List of the fishes of California. Occassional Papers of the California Academy of Sciences 133:1-51.

Jenkins, R.E., and N.M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

Kendall, W.C. 1917. The pikes: their geographical distribution habits, culture, and commercial importance. U.S. Commissioners Fisheries Report for 1917. Bureau of Fisheries Document 853. 45 pp.

Kircheis, F.W. 1994. Update on freshwater fish species reproducing in Maine. Maine Naturalist 2(1):25-28.

Lampman, B.H. 1946. The coming of the pond fishes. Binfords and Mort, Portland, OR.

Lee, D. S., A. Norden, C. R. Gilbert, R. Franz. 1976. A list of the freshwater fishes of Maryland and Delaware. Chesapeake Science 17(3):205-211.

Menhinick, E.F. 1991. The freshwater fishes of North Carolina. North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Raleigh, NC.

Milner, J.W. 1874. The progress of fish-culture in the United States. Pages 524-566 in Report of the commissioner for 1872 and 1873. U.S. Commission on Fish and Fisheries, Government Printing Office. Washington, DC.

Morris, J., L. Morris, and L. Witt. 1974. The fishes of Nebraska. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, NE.

Page, L.M., and B.M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. The Peterson Field Guide Series, volume 42. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Pflieger, W.L. 1975. The fishes of Missouri. Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City, MO.

Phillips, G.L., W.D. Schmid, J.C. Underhill. 1982. Fishes of the Minnesota region. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN.

Pritchard, D.L., O.D. May, Jr., and L. Rider. 1976. Stocking of predators in the predator-stocking-evaluation reservoirs. Proceedings of the 30th annual conference of the Southeastern Association of Game and Fish Commissioners 30(1976):108-113.

Raasch, M.S., and V.L. Altemus, Sr. 1991. Delaware's freshwater and brackish water fishes - a popular account. Delaware State College for the Study of Del-Mar-Va Habitats and the Society of Natural History of Delaware.

Rasmussen, J.L. 1998. Aquatic nuisance species of the Mississippi River basin. 60th Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, Aquatic Nuisance Species Symposium, Dec. 7, 1998, Cincinnati, OH.

Rinne, J.N. 1994. The effects of introduced fishes on native fishes: Arizona, southwestern United States. World fisheries congress, May 1992, Athens, Greece.

Rohde, F.C., R.G. Arndt, J.W. Foltz, and J.M. Quattro. 2009. Freshwater Fishes of South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SC.

Ryckman, F.  1981.  A revised checklist of the fishes of North Dakota, with a brief synopsis of each species distribution within the state.  North Dakota Game and Fish Department, Bismarck.

Smith, C.L. 1985. The inland fishes of New York state. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY.

Smith, H.M. 1896. A review of the history and results of the attempts to acclimatize fish and other water animals in the Pacific states. Pages 379-472 in Bulletin of the U.S. Fish Commission, Vol. XV, for 1895.

Smith, P.W. 1979. The fishes of Illinois. University of Illinois Press, Urbana, IL.

Soldwedel, R.H. - Chief, Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries, Department of Environmental Protection and Energy, Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife, Trenton, NJ. Response to NBS-G non-indigenous questionaire. 1992.

Southwick, R. - District Fisheries Supervisor, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Richmond, VA. Response to NBS-G non-indigenous questionaire. 1992.

Starnes, W.C., J. Odenkirk, and M.J. Ashton. 2011. Update and analysis of fish occurrences in the lower Potomac River drainage in the vicinity of Plummers Island, Maryland—Contribution XXXI to the natural history of Plummers Island, Maryland. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 124(4):280-309.

Stauffer, J.R., Jr., J.M. Boltz, and L.R. White. 1995. The fishes of West Virginia. Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA.

Stiles, E.W. 1978. Vertebrates of New Jersey. Edmund W. Stiles, Somerset, NJ.

Trautman, M.B. 1981. The fishes of Ohio. Ohio State University Press, Columbus, OH.

Walker, P. - Colorado Division of Wildlife, Brush, CO.

Whitworth, W. R. 1996. Freshwater Fishes of Connecticut. State Geological and Natural History Survey of Connecticut, Bulletin 114.

Wolter, M.H., C.S. DeBoom, and D.H. Wahl. 2013. Field and laboratory evaluation of dam escapement of muskellunge. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 33(4):829-838.

Other Resources:
Distribution in Illinois - ILNHS

FishBase Summary

Author: Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson

Revision Date: 7/7/2015

Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016

Citation Information:
Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson, 2018, Esox masquinongy Mitchill, 1824: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL,, Revision Date: 7/7/2015, Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016, Access Date: 3/20/2018

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [3/20/2018].

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