Esox lucius x Esox masquinongy
What they look like
The tiger is a hybrid of the muskellunge and northern pike. Male hybrids are almost invariably sterile although females are sometimes fertile. Some hybrids are artificially produced and planted for anglers to catch. Tiger muskies tend to be smaller than non-hybrid muskies but grow faster. Neither of the parent species is native to Washington.
Tiger muskellunge are a light silver, brown or green with dark, variable markings, often as oblique stripes, spots, or blotches. In some cases, markings may be absent altogether, especially in fish from turbid waters. This is in contrast to northern pike which have dark bodies with light markings. Its belly is white with small spots. The fins are green to red-brown with dark blotches. Juveniles have broad scalloped bars of olive green along its sides and a gold mid-dorsal stripe on its back with a white belly. Tiger muskellunge have a slimy, long, slender, and serpentine like body with a forked tail. They also have fully scaled cheeks and five sensory pores on each side of the ventral surface of the lower jaw. The mouth is duck-bill shaped and is lined with many sharp, backward-slanting canine teeth and the dorsal fin located far to the back of the body.
In appearance, the tiger musky is a real cross between its two parents. Tigers have the cheek and gill cover scale pattern of northern pike, but the barred dark body markings on a light background like the muskellunge. A sure way of distinguishing the two similar species is by counting the sensory pores on the underside of the mandible. A muskie will have seven or more per side while the northern pike never has more than six. The lobes of the caudal (tail) fin in muskellunge come to a sharper point while those of northern pike are more generally rounded.Back to Top
Where they live
In Washington State, tiger muskie exist almost exclusively in waters where they are stocked. Tiger muskie habitat is clear, clean lakes that have shallow areas for feeding and deeper areas in which to retreat for cooler waters. Just as in the case with pike and muskellunge, tiger muskie need weedy areas, stumps, and logs for cover and for feeding during the early morning and evening. They are less tolerant of warm water temperatures than the musky and they tend to be in deeper waters throughout the summer.
Tiger muskies were first introduced into Mayfield Lake (Lewis County) in 1988 to help control populations of rough fish, mainly northern pikeminnow and largescale sucker, and to provide recreation. Newman Lake (Spokane County) was stocked in 1992, and Merwin Reservoir (Cowlitz and Clark counties) in 1995. In all cases, tiger musky eggs were obtained from Minnesota, hatched and reared at Cowlitz and Mossyrock hatcheries, then stocked as 12- to 14-inch juveniles. Mayfield Lake has received plants ranging from over 7,000 fish in 1988 to 200 fish in 1994. As a result, tiger muskies are now well-established in this 2,200 acre Cowlitz River reservoir. Since this hybrid is incapable of natural production, their long-term presence depends on continued hatchery supplementation and voluntary release by anglers.
Columbia Basin Hatchery in Moses Lake is currently raising tiger muskies for release in eastern Washington. In 1997, the musky program was expanded to include Evergreen Reservoir (Grant County). 1998 saw introductions in Curlew Lake (Ferry County). Seattle’s Green Lake was added in 2000, and Silver Lake (Spokane County) in 2002.Back to Top
What they eat
A voracious predator and built for quick acceleration, tiger muskie typical ambush prey from cover. They lie in wait for prey, holding perfectly still for long periods and then exhibit remarkable acceleration as they strike. The fish has a distinctive habit of catching its prey sideways in the mouth, killing or immobilizing it with its needlelike teeth, and then turning the prey lengthwise to swallow it. It eats mainly fish, but on occasion mice, young muskrats and ducklings have also been known to fall prey to pike. Tiger muskie will aggressively strike at any fish in the vicinity, even at other pike.
Young pike have been found dead from choking on a pike of a similar size. Though tiger muskellunge eat sunfish and bass, they prefer more cylindrical fish. Tiger muskie also feed on frogs, insects, crayfish and leeches. The tiger muskellunge can't afford to expend that amount of energy in pursuit of morsels, so they concentrate their efforts on larger forage. Their preferred food size is approximately one third to one half the size of the muskie itself.Back to Top
Averaging 24 to 38 inches, adult tiger muskellunge are larger than northern pike, but smaller than muskellunge. Tiger muskie are extremely rapid growers, growing more quickly than either parent during the first two years of life. Tiger muskie can attain lengths of up to 5 feet and weights of over 66 pounds. The largest tigers in Mayfield Lake are now over 30 pounds.Back to Top
Tiger musky are the result of a cross between northern pike and muskellunge. Although it can occur naturally, in most cases the hybrid is created in hatcheries by the fertilization of female muskellunge eggs by a male northern pike. While male tiger musky are always sterile, small numbers of females may be fertile. However, in order to maintain populations, tiger musky must be bred in hatcheries and stocked repeatedly.Back to Top
31 lbs. 4 oz. caught in Mayfield Lake, Lewis County by angler John V. Bays on September 22, 2001