When it comes to predatory fish of North America, no two species are more ferocious than the Northern Pike and the Muskellunge.
They are two of the largest freshwater fish species in the world and two of the most aggressive. With big broad jaws full of sharp teeth, they are fierce ambush predators that hit baits fast and fight fisherman hard.
Northern pike are somewhat common throughout fresh and brackish waters of the Northern U.S., Canada, and parts of Britain, Ireland, and Eastern Europe. The average length for a pike is about 16-22 inches but they have been known to grow as long as almost 60 inches. The world record northern pike weighed 55-pounds and was caught in Germany in 1986.
They are remarkable ambush predators who will remain perfectly still in the water and weeds for long periods of time before striking prey like an explosion. They eat mostly fish, even big fish. They will also pretty much take a bite at whatever they can find in the water, and they are particularly aggressive feeders known to take down frogs, snakes, small mammals, and especially baby ducks.
Muskies are very similar in appearance to northern pike and grow to similar sizes. They are typically a bit bigger though, measuring between 2 to 4 feet long and weighing about 15 to 36 pounds on average. The world record muskie was caught in Wisconsin in 1949. The fish measured more than 60-inches long and weighed 68 pounds.
Though typically larger fish, muskies have a much smaller range than northern pike, and inhabit only the Great Lakes region and surrounding parts of Canada down through the Appalachian range into Tennessee and Georgia. A state record muskie was also caught in West Virginiathis year.
Muskies are also very aggressive fish as well. They hunt through similar ambush methods as do pike. Aggressive muskies have even been known to bite people, and a man swimming in Lake St. Clair on the Michigan/Canada border recently found that out the hard way when a muskie bite sent him to the hospital for 13 stitches.
Both muskie and northern pike resemble each other, but by looking at the shape of the tail fins and the markings on their bodies you can tell the fish apart. The fork in a the tail of a muskies are a more pointed while the tail fins of a pike are more round. Both fish tend to vary in color and pattern, however the stripes, bars, or spots on a muskie will always be darker in color than the broader tone of their body. Pike on the other hand are the opposite, and their markings will always be lighter than the rest of their bodies with light green bean shaped splotches being the most common.
When it comes to fishing for pike and muskie, Minnesota is one of the best destinations in the planet and anglers all over the state are no stranger to catching both species of big aggressive fish.
This was a particularly special summer for pike and muskie fishing in the land of 10,000 lakes though, as state records were broken for both species.
Back in June, 15-year-old Brecken Kobylecky from Illinois hauled in a 46.25 inch northern pike, took its measurements and a few photos, then dropped it back into the water. It was a full inch longer than than the previous record of 45.25 inches.
“We hooked onto a huge pike that was barely hooked, and could hardly land it due to the sheer size and weight of the fish.
The whole experience went by in a flash, but it was an experience of a lifetime I’ll never forget.”
In July, a guy named Todd Kirby from Wisconsin was fishing on Vermillion Lake when he caught a 57.25-inch long Muskie that tied the 2019 state record, which was actually caught on the same lake. The lake is a world renowned muskie fishery that Kirby has fished often, so he knows of a few small pockets of water to target where there are big fish usually hiding.
“That Friday night we were up against the weather. There was a huge storm front moving through creating extremely unstable conditions. The humidity was high, and storm clouds were building.
It was one of those nights that the fish seemed to be super active, our boat had multiple chases, one resulting in a 48 inch fish in the net — at that time my personal best.”
He actually caught the fish in the dark though, as his good luck didn’t strike until about 10:30 pm. He was reeling in a line when he felt a huge thud hit the bait just 15 feet from the boat.
“I compared it to reeling in a large moving ‘log’ and after a few dark splashes, she was in the net. Everything just happened so fast!
My bait just so happened to be the one that she ate, but that whole night couldn’t have been possible without the help of John Gavic and Will Gavic. Muskie fishing is a team effort, and when you have a good team on your side, landing a fish of that caliber creates a memory of a lifetime.”
We have a new state catch-and-release record northern pike at 46 1/4 inches! AND a tie for the catch-and-release muskie record at 57 1/4 inches.
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It also protects you from potentially being fined, having your gear confiscated, and/or losing your fishing privileges. It’s important to remember that just because you have a fishing license in one state, that does not mean it is valid in another state.
As always, please fish responsibly and leave the whiskey at the dock.