Can Muskies Attack Humans? Myths, Facts, and Dangers

You may see it on the news or while you’re scrolling on your Twitter feed that some girl got a couple of stitches because she was bitten with a muskie in some nearby reservoir. You see a picture of her bleeding leg and think “Woah, that’s some aggressive fish!” and promise yourself you’re never fishing or swimming in this reservoir again because you’re not so fond of cuts and stitches. 

Despite this story may be true, some facts associated with it may be fake and overstated. Let me tell you all about it.

Can muskies attack humans? Yes, muskies can attack humans. However, it occurs very rarely and it’s not based on feeding purposes. Muskies may bite humans with their set of sharp teeth because they mistook them for something they could eat. You can avoid the bite if you followed some simple precautions.

Keep reading to know the reasons, myths, facts, and dangers associated with muskies’ rare but occurring attacks.

Can Muskies Attack Humans? 

muskie biting on bait to illustrate can muskies attack humans or are they all just myths

The short answer to whether muskies attack humans or not is “yes”. But before you freak out or believe myths associated with the “freshwater monster” you need to know everything about the causes and effects of these attacks and how you can avoid going home with a bleeding hand or foot.

Muskies attack everything they assume they can feed on. If you kept wiggling your hand or feet in the water, they’ll think it’s something that they can attack and eat. 

Human flesh isn’t on the menu of things muskies enjoy, so when they attack a human it’s not because they’re trying to bite their flesh off, it’s simply because they’re yielding to their predatory nature. They attack, puncture, and grab their prey before they consider what the prey is.

Here is another quick tidbit; knowing how to handle them goes a huge way in ensuring you don’t get bitten. You can learn how to handle a muskie right here.

Are Muskies Dangerous to Humans? 

Muskies can be dangerous to humans, to an extent. They won’t cause serious injuries or bite your fingers off as some myths say. Muskies are dangerous because they’re huge, quick, fierce fish with a sharp set of teeth that are hunting all the time. They have been known to occasionally, however very rarely, attack people and cause some cuts to their fingers, mistaking them for lures and something they can eat.

The Muskies’ nature is to hunt and prey all the time. Their strong bodies can be intimidating for some people, as they fight for their life when they’re hooked and this fight can get out of hand. 

There are some records of people getting bitten by Muskies, especially at night, but with further searching, it turns out it wasn’t to feed on them. Muskies don’t enjoy human flesh, so when they attack people, they do it for the sake of hunting, not eating, and probably because they mistook human limbs with lures they can catch.

The bite might look something like this;

Are Muskies Aggressive? 

Muskies are one of the most aggressive freshwater fish out there. Some people call it “the Barracuda of freshwater” due to how vicious and aggressive they can be. 

Muskies are natural predators, they’re born to hunt most of their time. They fight underwater to earn their meal, and out of the net when they’re caught. That’s why Musky fishing offers a thrill that compares to no other type of fishing that anglers sooner or later get addicted to.

As a reassuring fact, muskies are unlikely to attack anything larger than ⅓ of their body length. So you don’t have to worry if you’re swimming in a river, lake, or reservoir that has muskies in it, they won’t attack you as long as you’re not wearing something shiny they can mistake for lures. 

Additionally, muskies are predators who like to camouflage themselves in ambushes and deep weedy areas, so they’re not often found roaming in open waters.

Why are Muskies Aggressive? 

Muskies are big fish that can grow as long as 6 feet (1.8 meters) long, while possibly weighing more than 50 pounds (about 22.5 KG) with strong muscles that allow them to be fast and vicious. Muskies also get easily stressed when taken out of water for longer than they should which can result in more aggressive behavior. 

Another reason is that they brutally fight their way out of the bait or net, you have to be careful to handle and release Muskies right or injuries might take place, whether the injuries are of you or the fish itself.

Besides, muskies may take aggressiveness to the next level and attack humans with no fault of their own. One specific case we’ve found is that a Tiger Muskie once attacked a person who was wearing a bright, shiny ankle bracelet. Now, what can be possibly wrong with that? 

Muskies go after shiny lures and baits, especially at night when they’re the only thing visible in the dark waters. The fish simply mistook the bracelet for lures or injured minnows and went after it, leaving the poor man with bloody feet not knowing what he did wrong.

9 Tips to Avoid Getting Bitten by a Muskie

Now that you know the causes and effects of these rare bites of muskie, it’s time to have some tips in mind so you can use them in your next fishing trip to ensure you have a great muskie fishing experience without any injuries. 

First off, you need to be extra careful when you’re fishing for Muskies at night. Generally, If this is your first time fishing for this type, you need good practice beforehand. If you can’t get prior practice, we advise you to have someone with a level of expertise on the boat with you. 

Here are some precautions to consider as well:

  1. Don’t leave your hands or feet dangling near the water surface, especially when you have nail polish on. Colors entice muskie to strike mistaking it for lures.
  2. Avoid wearing shiny accessories. Muskies can be triggered to strike by any flashy jewelry paired with rapid movement.
  3. Don’t get too close to their mouth after being caught.
  4. Keep your boat stable. The aggressiveness of muskies on an unstable boat can maximize potential risks.
  5. Always be ready with a good quality musky net to ensure a safe and secure hold of the muskie. It helps you keep the muskie underwater during measurement to decrease their aggressive behavior resulting from stressing out. Click here to choose from wide varieties on Amazon. 
  6. Be ready with rubber gloves to hold a muskie after you catch it. It protects your hand from their sharp teeth.
  7. Use release tools like long-nosed pliers to help to remove the hook safely without exposing your fingers to their teeth
  8. Hold a muskie horizontally not vertically after you catch them. Holding them vertically can damage their gills and maximize their stress, hence, more aggressive actions.
  9. Hold a muskie with both hands horizontally to safely release your muskie back into the water.

For the best chances at reeling in a musky easily, I recommend you check out my recommended Muskie reels here. You can also check out the best braided lines here, they are the ones I have been using for years with great results so far.

How to First Aid a Muskie Bite

Muskie’s sharp teeth can cause tearing to your skin, some of them can be deep and others can be superficial. Either way, it’s nothing to freak out about and it can be easily treated.

It’s better to go straight to the emergency room and let your health provider observe the injury closely and decide whether you need stitches or not. But if you want to do it yourself until you get there, it’s simple. 

Before you let someone near your injury make sure they wash their hands with soap and water. Don’t touch the wound and make sure all dressing is sterile, then follow this simple guide:

  1. Spray the bitten area with clean water. 
  2. Add one-quarter teaspoon of salt to 200 ml (1 cup) of clean water. 
  3. Pour water over the wound to kill any germs.
  4. Use a clean cloth to apply direct pressure to the wound to stop any bleeding.

Warning: if you possibly observed some teeth stuck in the injury, leave them in place until your healthcare provider can remove them without harming your muscles or tissues.

Related Questions 

Can a Muskie Bite off Your Finger? 

No, a Tiger Muskie can’t bite off a finger. Tiger Muskie’s teeth are sharp but not strong enough to cut through a finger bone. They may cause superficial cuts with their sharp teeth and they can be avoided by wearing rubber gloves. 

What is the Difference Between Pike and Muskie? 

The difference between pike and muskie is that muskies are larger in size with dark spots or bars on their light skin while pike has light spots on their dark skin which is mostly green colored. Both pike and musky belong to the same family though.

How To Rig Muskie? 

To rig a Muskie you need 8-to-6 feet (2.5-to-1.8 meters) medium-heavy rod, a large bait-casting reel, A 100-pound-test (45 KG) braided line, Release tools, muskie net, and highly visible lures. Locate yourself in their prime spots, mostly around weed beds, depending on where you’re fishing.

Helpful Resources 

Habits Of Tiger Muskies

Again?!? Muskie bites woman on same lake as previous suspected attack

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