Tiger Muskellunge (Muskie)

Esox lucius x Esox masquinongy

Last updated: February 16, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© M Huston/Shutterstock.com

Tiger Muskies can grow much larger than either of their parents


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Tiger Muskellunge (Muskie) Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Actinopterygii
Order
Esociformes
Family
Esocida
Genus
Esox
Scientific Name
Esox lucius x Esox masquinongy

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Tiger Muskellunge (Muskie) Conservation Status

Tiger Muskellunge (Muskie) Locations

Tiger Muskellunge (Muskie) Locations

Tiger Muskellunge (Muskie) Facts

Prey
bluegill, perch, walleye, smallmouth bass
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
Tiger Muskies can grow much larger than either of their parents
Biggest Threat
Overfishing
Habitat
freshwater
Predators
Birds or prey
Diet
Carnivore
Origin
Cross breed between a muskie and a northern pike
Slogan
Massive carnivorous hybrid fish
Group
school

Tiger Muskellunge (Muskie) Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Yellow
Skin Type
Scales
Top Speed
30 mph
Venomous
No

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View all of the Tiger Muskellunge (Muskie) images!



One of the most coveted freshwater gamefish in the United States, tiger muskellunge — commonly called the tiger muskie — is notoriously difficult to reel in due to its size, strength, and erratic eating patterns.

Tiger Muskie Summary

Tiger muskellunge are infertile because they are a cross between muskellunge and northern pike. This species requires cold, clean water to survive. They spread from Canada to the midwest and the western United States. The tiger muskie is a species of fish that feeds almost exclusively on meat. The species ambushes its prey from under cover of low vegetation.

5 Incredible Tiger Muskellunge Facts

  1. They are among the largest fish found in America’s inland lakes and fresh water.
  2. They have very sharp teeth that are strong enough to effortlessly slice into human flesh.
  3. They resemble a tiger’s stripes in appearance. (This is the inspiration for their name.)
  4. The edges of their fins are smoother than those of their parents.
  5. Tiger muskellunge can achieve speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.

Tiger Muskie Scientific Name

Esox masquinongy X Esox lucius

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The tiger muskellunge also referred to as the tiger muskie, is a hybrid fish species created by crossbreeding the muskellunge and the northern pike. It is a carnivorous and sterile fish, meaning it cannot reproduce.

The largest ones can be nearly 4 feet long and weigh up to 30 pounds. A tiger musky matures rapidly; in fact, one research found that tiger muskies develop 1.5 times as quickly as their parent species, muskellunge. Tiger muskies, like many other hybrid fish, benefit from “hybrid vigor,” which allows them to outgrow and outcompete their parent species while also being healthier.

Tiger Muskellunge Appearance

This gorgeously colored fish is distinguished from the true-strain muskellunge by its thin, vertical black markings on a light background and by the stripes that merge onto its back to form an interlocking pattern.



The tiger muskie’s black spots and rounded fins are reminiscent of true muskies and northern pikes, respectively. Its sides are marked with splotchy black stripes and spots. Neither a northern pike nor a true muskie has a scale pattern like that.

muskellunge
Tiger muskies are known for their signature black stripes that merge on the back.

©iStock.com/FedBul

Tiger Muskie Evolution and History

The carnivorous tiger muskellunge, sometimes known as tiger muskie, is a sterile crossbreed of a muskellunge and the northern pike. 

Like pike and musky, tiger muskies have elongated, cylindrical bodies. Their skulls are narrow and compressed, and their lower jaws are extended and curved upward into a duckbill form. The antithesis of a northern pike, its design consists of various quantities of color with vertical black stripes and dots on a light backdrop.

Once considered an entirely unique species, the tiger muskie was eventually traced back to the successful hybridization of a northern pike and a muskellunge. Tiger muskies have been supplied in numerous bodies of water where neither parent species exists naturally due to fishery management deliberately crossbreeding these species in hatcheries.

Tiger Muskie Behavior

The tiger muskie is an ambush predator that may cruise or wait under concealment before launching an attack. And when it comes to feeding time, they wait patiently. They will also stalk their target for a few feet before making the first move. The fact that muskies follow the same eating pattern daily is also interesting. They often repeat their daily routines in the same places.

They communicate by tactile and chemical means. Although these fish typically hunt alone, there have been reports of them working in loose groups.

Like many other fish, tiger muskies reduce their activity in colder weather. In order to save energy, tiger muskies slow down their activity level and switch to a diet of smaller, easier-to-catch fish throughout the winter.

Tiger Muskie Habitat

During the warmer months (late May to late September), tiger muskies can be found in shallow weedy bays toward the tops of the weed beds. They like to take cover around or beneath solid objects like logs or docks.

Tiger muskies can only survive in cold, clear water with shallow and deep sections since the latter provides the best conditions for foraging and hiding.

Tiger muskies are found in freshwater from Canada, the Northeast, and the Midwest of the USA. The optimal water temperature for these fish is between 68 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tiger Muskie Diet

Tiger muskies are carnivorous, which means their diet is based on the meat of other animals. These fish will pretty much eat anything that crosses their path, including fish up to half their size! They ambush their victims by hiding in vegetation until an unsuspecting fish swims by, at which point they pounce. In the summer and autumn, they bulk up for the winter by eating bigger fish. During the colder months, they save energy by feeding on smaller prey species that are easier to capture.

What Eats Tiger Muskies?

Juvenile tiger muskies are food for other muskies, northern pike, bass, trout, and sometimes birds of prey like bald eagles. On the other hand, adults face danger only from people and (rarely) huge birds of prey like eagles. Tiger muskellunge populations are susceptible to overfishing because of their non-existent reproduction rates.

What Does The Tiger Muskie Eat?

The tiger muskie consumes other types of fish, including golden shiners, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, walleye, and suckers. Sometimes, they will even consume insects and other small animals, like frogs.

Tiger Muskellunge Predators And Threats

A popular hybrid sport fish, tiger muskies are released into the wild to serve as top predators for the purpose of “top-down biological management” or for recreational fishing.

Besides fishing by humans, tiger muskies are also threatened by predators, such as eagles.

Despite these threats, tiger muskies are not endangered because they are sterile hybrids that survive through hatchery spawning or natural cross-breeding when the two species co-exist in high concentrations.

Tiger Muskie Reproduction

Tiger muskies are a unique hybrid species created by crossbreeding a true muskellunge with a northern pike. As they are a hybrid species, these fish are sterile, meaning they cannot reproduce with one another.

Despite this, tiger muskies are a popular choice among anglers due to their fast growth rate and large size. They mature faster than their parent species and are often born in hatcheries. However, some tiger muskies do occur naturally in the wild. 

Because the eggs are less sticky and less likely to cluster together when they hatch, breeders prefer to breed male northern pike with female muskellunge.

Tiger Muskellunge Babies

Since tiger muskies are sterile fish, they cannot breed with one another.

In the first several years, the babies of cross-bred muskies often develop more swiftly than northern pike and true muskies. Additionally, they can withstand high temperatures better than the parent fish and grow faster, reaching maturity earlier.

Tiger Muskellunge Lifespan

Although tiger muskies may live up to 30 years, the average lifespan is 18 years. The length of a muskie reveals a lot about its age. After their first year of life, they achieve a body length of 11 inches. Then, they measure 34 inches at age 7, 40 inches at age 9, and 50 inches at age 17. After 10–12 years, there are no longer any visible symptoms of aging.

The biggest female muskies are the ones that survive for 20 years or more, whereas the majority of mature male muskies die within two decades. Muskies tend to live somewhat longer in colder waters.

Tiger Muskie Population

Despite being infertile and unable to procreate on their own, tiger muskies have strong genetics that allows them to outgrow their parents at a much quicker rate than is typical, and they live for a long time.

The top predator status of these fish results in a small population and a poor capture rate for anglers. Fisheries and wildlife agencies regularly replenish them because of their high demand from fishermen. Their conservation status is Least Concern as of now, meaning that their population is stable.

Tiger Muskie In Cooking

Unfortunately, while being top-level predators, muskies do have a tendency to store heavy metals like mercury in their bodies. Consuming mercury may lead to a variety of health issues down the road.

It is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women or children under the age of 15 to consume tiger muskellunge. A maximum of one tiger muskie per month (and no more than six per year) from Green Bay and the lower Fox River is recommended for all males (and women who do not plan to have children).

Due to conservation efforts, muskies may not gain much traction as a culinary staple. However, tiger muskies may be legally harvested in several regions and make for a tasty feast once cooked.

When prepared correctly, tiger muskies have a pleasant flavor. Their flesh, like that of the northern pike, is firm and has a pleasant taste. Muskies can be prepared in a number of ways, and their taste can be enhanced with several spices and herbs.

Similar Animals

  • Pike: A parent fish of the tiger muskie, the northern pike looks similar to the tiger muskie but with different coloring.
  • Muskellunge: The second parent fish of the tiger muskie, the true muskie is a large carnivorous fish that is native to North America
  • Tiger: Tiger muskies get their names from their stripes that are reminiscent of tiger stripes.
  • Barracuda: The barracuda is also a ray-finned freshwater predatory fish. Both fish have long, torpedo-shaped bodies.
  • Trout: Tiger muskies have a mild flavor like trout. Both types of fish should be spiced well inlikeder to bring out and elevate the flavor of the fish.

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About the Author

I have been a freelance writer for the past 2 years. My two biggest loves in the world are music and animals. I have even gone on to start my own personal blog called Frontman Philosophy. I have a huge love of animals and I love building my knowledge of animals through research. I love sea creatures in particular, my favorite being the octopus because of their intelligence, and I mean, come on, what's not to love! I have a rescue boxer named Dante who is the friendliest pup a man could ask for.

Tiger Muskellunge (Muskie) FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are tiger muskies carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?

The carnivorous tiger muskie is a top predator that devours its prey with ravenous appetites. They will consume everything that can be swallowed, even prey that is as long as half of their body length.

Are muskies smart?

Muskies aren’t as common as many other species, yet they are very intelligent and live their lives based on instinct and taught behavior patterns. Sometimes, they may be quite docile, but they can be highly violent at other times.

To what depths do muskies dive?

Muskies typically reside in slow-moving, shallow waters and tend not to venture deeper than 40 feet unless there is an abundance of food in deeper regions.

What's the difference between a muskie and a tiger muskie?

To distinguish a tiger muskie from a muskie, look at the striped pattern. Tiger muskies, like their namesake, have a striped pattern down the length of their bodies.

Do tiger muskies bite humans?

While they are not out to harm humans specifically, tiger muskies are aggressive predator fish that may sometimes mistake a human to be a fish. In such cases, tiger muskies have been known to bite and attack humans. But worry not – as these fish, though large, are not strong enough to bite off a finger.

Why do they stock tiger muskie?

Tiger muskies are often stocked in places where reproduction is not wanted. Since these fish are sterile, this makes tiger muskies the perfect choice for this type of situation. Plus, it grows a lot faster than the true muskie, making it a fun game fish in little to no time.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Dewitt Zoology, Available here: https://sites.google.com/a/dewittschools.net/dewitt-zoology/home/fish/tiger-muskellunge
  2. Fishing Command, Available here: https://www.fishingcommand.com/can-you-eat-muskie-fish/
  3. All Fishing Buy, Available here: http://www.allfishingbuy.com/Fish-Species/Tiger-Muskie.htm

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