The tiger muskellunge is a carnivorous fish and is the usually sterile, hybrid offspring of the true muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) and the northern pike (Esox lucius). It lives in freshwater and its range extends to Canada, the Northeast and the Midwest parts of the United States. It grows quickly; in one study tiger muskie grew 1.5 times as fast as muskellunge. Trophy specimens weigh about 30 pounds. Its main diet is fish and small birds. The tiger muskie and the muskie are called the fish of ten thousand casts due to the challenge involved in catching them.
The Tiger muskie lives in the lakes and quiet rivers in Canada, the Great Lakes, the Upper Mississippi Valley, and the Ohio and St. Lawrence rivers. It is rarely found far from its natural waters except for the fish that have been stocked. Several states, including Minnesota, New Hampshire, Washington, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming stock tiger muskies. Each tiger muskie tends to inhabit the same areas of its lake from year to year. It tends toward shallower waters (6–9 feet deep) and travels half as much in the summer and fall than it does in the winter to spring, when it prefers deeper waters (15–30 feet deep).
The tiger muskie is the result of the true muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) and the northern pike (Esox lucius) interbreeding. The tiger muskie has some of the characteristics of both of these fish. The pattern of the tiger muskie is varying amounts of color with vertical dark stripes on a light background. The pattern on a tiger muskie very rarely is the same as a northern pike. The body is deeper than the body of either parent fish, but that is common in hybrid fish. The caudal fins are more rounded than the tails of true muskies. The tiger muskie has ten to sixteen pores on the lower part of its jaw.
The tiger muskie has food preferences similar to those of the true muskie. It seems to prefer larger fish. Its diet is varied and it includes yellow perch, suckers, golden shiners, walleye, small mouth bass, and various other types of fish. The tiger muskie has a voracious appetite.
State record tiger muskie catches are recorded as 20-50 lb depending on the state, with northern states yielding larger specimens.
Because tiger muskies are bred for stocking purposes, studies have been made of its growth rate and the factors that affect it. The growth rate of juveniles depends on the water temperature as well as the type of feed. In studies, the tiger muskie has had the highest growth, production, and food conversion efficiency at temperatures of 68–75 °F (20–24 °C). Below these temperatures, growth rate slows and above them cannibalism increases.
Several studies have examined the effect of stocking size on survival of stocked tiger muskellunge. This information helps those involved in wildlife management to make cost effective decisions about breeding and stocking programs. Larger size at stocking has been correlated with higher survival rates and the effect is large enough that it is usually cost-effective to stock larger juveniles (180 – 205 mm)
As tiger muskies grow longer, they increase in weight. The relationship between weight and length is not linear. The relationship between total length (L, in inches) and total weight (W, in pounds) for nearly all species of fish can be expressed by an equation of the form:
Invariably, b is close to 3.0 for all species, and c is a constant that varies among species. A relationship based on 27 populations of tiger muskie from nine states was used to develop a specific equation for tiger muskie and computed that c = 0.00008035 and b = 3.337. This relationship predicts that a 33 inch tiger muskie will weigh about 10 pounds, and a 47 inch tiger muskie will weigh about 30 pounds.
Cross-breeding of the true muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) and the northern pike (Esox lucius) happens naturally in the wild where both parent species occur. The tiger muskie is sterile, which is not unusual for a hybrid fish. Breeders prefer to breed male northern pike and female muskellunge, because the eggs have less adhesive and have less tendency to clump when hatching.
The tiger muskie was caught frequently in the past by anglers who did not know and did not care what they were catching, as long as they tasted good. Now, the tiger muskie is stocked regularly in some lakes, and people go to great lengths to obtain a tiger muskie, but it is not an easy fish to catch. Some people say that it takes ten thousand casts to catch one.
Chain pickerel, grass pickerel, redfin pickerel, northern pike, and the true muskellunge are all related to the tiger muskie. These fish are all under the genus Esox.
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