Are Muskie Invasive? Everything About Fishing and Stocking Muskies
Muskies’ predatory nature can make us anticipate other fierce behaviors they’re capable of. It’s not surprising of a predatory fish that hunts most of the time and feeds on lots of various creatures in the wild to be invasive. But sometimes it’s physically impossible for muskie to move from one place to another just to feed, so does that mean they’re not what we think they are? And how does it happen?
Are Muskie invasive? Yes, muskie are invasive. They tend to migrate up incoming rivers and downstream through dams into tailwater areas and can reach new water bodies through connected waters. There also have been reports about human action involved, some people illegally transfer muskies where they don’t belong.
Read on to know more about the invasive nature of these monster fierce creatures and how it can affect the environment around you.
Are Muskies an invasive species?
As defined by the International Union of Conservation of Nature, an invasive species is a species that has been introduced to an environment where it is non-native, and whose introduction causes environmental or economic damage or harm to human health.
Muskies’ predatory nature can make them invasive species in various water bodies. They can outcompete the native species for food, as muskies prey on lots of fish and their opportunistic nature can make them feed on fish that aren’t on their list.
In addition, muskies are able to spawn outside their natural habitat. So, they can be invasive to a lake and reproduce till their numbers outnumber native fish leading to unbalance in the system.
Muskies are territorial fish, they can outcompete native fish for their habitats as well. In many cases, this can lead to the extinction of native fish that can’t survive having muskies within their territory. That’s why governments pay close attention to this issue to control the damage it causes on different levels.
However, sometimes the only explanation why muskies are found in certain water bodies is that there’s a human action involved. As a surprising fact, muskies have been found in Alaska while the nearest native population of muskies is in Manitoba Canada, making it virtually impossible that they could get to Alaska through natural migration in connected waters.
What happens is that some people may buy and transfer muskies from their natural habitat to another habitat as long as it’s freshwater. This intentional or unintentional behavior can damage the ecosystem and lead to further complications and that’s why it’s illegal to do so.
When is it legal to keep Muskies?
So, when is it legal to keep muskies? It’s legal to keep muskies if their size is a minimum of 42 inches (about 1 meter). It’s illegal to keep them during their spawning season which is from mid-April to late May. you should consider checking the possession limit of muskies where you’re fishing.
Whether it’s legal to keep muskies also depends on where you’re fishing so make sure to check the state regulations concerning muskie fishing before you hit the boat.
Many states have lowered the possession limit from one muskie per day to one muskie per fishing season and in some places, it can be up to a maximum of two muskies per fishing season. This is meant to reduce harvest in vulnerable systems.
While some places ban catching muskies during their spawning phase of mid-April till late May, other places consider that unnecessary. If muskie populations in these places rely entirely on
stocking, protection during the spawning period is not required. It can be banned if they congregate at such high density that increases in angler catchability, which could pose a problem to the overall quality of the fishery.
Note: I’m not authorized to give legal advice, it’s better to check the specific muskie fishing regulations where you’re fishing in case there are things you should consider not mentioned here so as not to face charges.
Should you stock Muskies or Not?
Despite having muskies outside lakes they’re native in is risky and can cause damage, it can have its benefits. The DNR controls thousands of muskie stockings every year to transfer muskies to new places that can make a good environment for them to reproduce and create a healthy population.
The stocking of muskies is super beneficial when it comes to species control. DNR makes use of the predatory nature of muskies and the various fish species they feed on by stocking them in lakes that are high on undesirable species of suckers, minnows, gizzard, shad, and ciscoes to maintain balance within the lake system.
In small lakes, tiger muskies can be a better choice than any other predator fish used for management, as they’re sterile and won’t grow into populations. So it is easier to remove them from a lake through the harvest of adult fish and cessation of stocking.
Another reason why DNR stocks muskie is how popular it is among anglers. For example, fishing brings around $1.5 billion into the state of Wisconsin every year, and based on a survey the DNR conducted, muskies are on the bucket list of about half of licensed anglers there.
The disfavor of stocking happens when it’s unplanned. DNR plans and manages muskies stockings in lakes and monitors its activities not to cause the damage it usually causes, but when the stocking is done by individual anglers whether it’s intentional or not can be harmful to the environment on so many levels.
4 Awesome Spots to Find Muskies
Whether they are their natural habitat or muskies are heavily stocked there, these are the top water bodies that give you the chance of catching trophy muskies:
Georgian Bay in Canada offers a great opportunity for anglers who are seeking trophy muskies. Spring and summer are the best times to fish there with bucktail or jerkbait to get yourself a 40-to-50 pound (18-to-22 KG) muskies.
St. Lawrence River
Muskies are native to the St. Lawrence River which means you’ll find a healthy population there that can get you trophy muskies with various bait options. Late fall is the prime time to fish there. Try trolling open-water areas If you’re seeking a true trophy fish.
Green Bay was stocked with Great Lakes Strain muskies in the ’90s. The stocking worked best with the open water that allows muskies to roam and grow to trophy sizes. Trolling with various crankbaits or spinners is often very effective at almost any time of the year.
Vermillion muskies grow to 50-inch (1.27 meter) lengths. The lake has rocky islands, a rugged shoreline, reefs, and there are plenty of deeper zones with open water that fit muskies around the seasons. You can seek them whenever and focus on the prime area they’re found in according to the season.
Ready for your next muskie fishing trip? Make sure to check out my recommended Muskie Reels here as these are the ones that have stood out the test of time. If you are going flyfishing instead, you can also give my recommended flyfishing lines a look, they won’t disappoint.
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How Big Does a Muskie Have to Be To Keep It?
A muskie has to be a minimum of 42 inches (about 1 meter) for you to keep it. This is meant to catch only trophy muskies and leave the younger ones to spawn and grow. The size limit differs from a place to another so make sure to check the special Muskellunge fishing regulations where you fish.
Are Muskies Really Hard to Catch?
Catching muskies is a hard and challenging task. They are picky, unpredictable, moody, and can put up a strong fight against the most experienced anglers. Special specific gear is needed and you must have a variety of on the boat to change between them on a single fishing trip.
How Rare is it to catch a Tiger Muskie?
Tiger Muskies are rare to catch as they are rare to find, they’re the rarest and most elusive of North American esocid. Your chances to catch a Tiger Muskie that exceeds 30-inches (76.2 cm) are relatively low, especially that they don’t exist in a lot of water bodies.
How Many Casts does it take to Catch a Muskie?
Ten thousand casts are what it takes to catch a muskie according to a popular saying. They’re hard to catch and very unpredictable when it comes to biting the lures, many anglers spend hours and sometimes days trying to get it right.
Alaska Dept. of Fishing – Musky