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Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy)

Muskellunge

Other Common Names

musky, muskie

Identification

Largest member of the pike family. Normally olive to dark gray on its back, with grayish to bluish to yellowish sides. Sides may have faint vertical bars, spots or blotches.

Best Fishing

Rivers: James, Clinch, Shenandoah and New. Lakes: Smith Mountain, Claytor, Rural Retreat, Burke, and Flannagan.

Fishing Techniques

River fishermen use small boats with electric motors or small outboards to float larger pools and fish shoreline snags and submerged brush. Heavy bait casting rods and reels with 30+ lb. test line is used. Using large hooks, 4/0 or larger, some anglers simply allow 8 or 12-inch suckers, shad or carp to swim free. Muskies are commonly caught in lakes by trolling deep water with large crankbaits, spoons andspinner-bucktail combinations. Early in the year, try trolling across shallow points.

Habitat

Not believed to be native to Virginia, but introduced into the New, Clinch, James, Shenandoah and Holston Rivers, and some impoundments. Muskies prefer cool, clear lakes with abundant vegetation or long pool areas of rivers near fallen trees and other submerged structure.

Spawning Habits

Muskies spawn in early spring. Eggs are fertilized and discharged over muck or marl bottoms with aquatic vegetation in shallow bays and coves of lakes, or in eddies above or below riffles in stream. In Virginia most musky populations are maintained through stocking.