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The Facts About What Muskies Really Eat

What Muskies Eat

Brad Waldera
Published June 17, 2006

Muskies and Walleyes have co-existed in the same bodies of water for centuries, and all evidence shows that they will continue to do so. Many premiere Walleye lakes also happen to be excellent Muskie fisheries as well. This would not be possible if Muskies were decimating the Walleye populations, as is believed by many uninformed anglers. In fact, muskies have been proven to many times have less impact on gamefish populations in rivers and inland lakes than other species, like largemoth bass and northern pike for several reasons, including the fact that muskies usually make up a far smaller portion of the total gamefish population than othet predators like Northern Pike and Largemouth Bass.

A great example of this would be in the state of Minnesota, where there are numerous lakes fished heartily for both species. Lake of the Woods, Lake Winibigoshish, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs Lake, and Cass Lake are all top of the line Walleye fisheries that also happen to contain large numbers of Muskies.

Do Muskies eat Walleyes? They do occasionally at most, and in far less numbers than the amount of fish taken yearly by Walleye anglers. Based on Science, numerous Studies, and Statistics, Muskies eat all the Walleyes has proven to be a completely false and misleading statement.

There is room in the lake for both species to exist and thrive, and there is room on the lake for anglers of both species.

Please read on; whether youre a Walleye angler or a Muskie angler or both, you will gain a important knowledge about how these fish can, and do inhabit the same waters in harmony.

Further Information:

You can find more information about one of the main studies referenced in this brochure by typing Diets of Muskellunge into your favorite Internet Search engine.

You may also be able to get more information by calling your local Department of Natural Resources office.

Sources of information:

Diets of Muskellunge in Northern Wisconsin Lakes- Michael A. Bozek, Thomas M. Burri, and Richard V. Frie, Wisconsin Cooperative Fishery Research Unit, College of Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point. July 1991- October 1994. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 1999; 19:258-270

Butler, M.T. 2004 Muskellunge Biology: the basics. International Muskie Home Page. Trent University. Peterborough, Canada.
http://www.trentu.ca/muskie/biology/biol01.html

What do Muskies eat anyway? - Duane Williams, Large Lake Specialist for Lake Vermillion Department of Natural Resources, Section of Fisheries.

http://lakevermilion.com/muskies/htmls/diets.html

What Do Muskies Really Eat?

A short summary of the connection and interaction between the Muskellunge and Walleyes, Bass and other Game fish.

Introduction:

The Muskellunge is one of the most mysterious fish to ever swim in our lakes. There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings about them, and about what their regular diet consists of.

After reading the information contained in this brochure, youll have a better understanding of the Muskie, its diet, and the ways in which the presence of Muskie may actually benefit your lake, such as their controlling of undesirable fish populations.

People have been hesitant to have Muskies stocked into their lakes, as they feared they would consume a substantial amount of other game fish, such as Walleye, Northern Pike, and Bass.

In certain fishing circles youll even hear it said that Muskies Eat All The Walleye, even though studies have proven conclusively that this is just not the case.

It has been proven that NO changes in game fish populations have occurred due to the introduction of Muskies into the lake, and there has been NO negative impact shown toward other species of game fish.

In the study lakes mentioned in this brochure, there were NO instances in which Walleye were proven to make up the primary or even secondary food source choice for Muskies.

Muskie Behavior and Food Preferences:

Feeding studies have shown that other fish make up 95-98% of the Muskies diet, although at times they will also eat Insects, Crayfish, small mammals, and Waterfowl. They are a natural predator, and like all predators, are opportunists. Studies have shown that even when theyre abundant, other game fish actually made up a very small part of the Muskies diet.

Fishermen have reported Muskies attacking Bass and Walleye as they were being reeled in. This may have given the impression that Muskies are significant predators of other game fish, when in fact; the Muskie was simply reacting naturally to the struggling fish due to their predatory instincts.

Muskies generally take advantage of the most abundant prey species available that are of sufficient size for them to eat. Given the opportunity to choose, Muskies prefer soft rayed, high protein based fish such as Suckers, Tullibee, Ciscoes, Bullheads, Carp, and minnows. In fact, the food sources Muskies prefer most are usually fish species that most people would desire to not have in their lake.

The truth is that even though it has been proven that Muskies do have a preferred food source they are opportunistic predators, and occasionally consume other game fish. The amount of other game fish eaten by Muskies is extremely minimal compared to the amount of game fish such as Walleye that are annually harvested by anglers.

Facts, Studies, and Statistics:

A major study was undertaken from July of 1991 through October of 1994, and other documented studies were conducted as long ago as 1952. These studies, as well as others, came to the same conclusion. Game fish such as Walleye make up a very small part of a Muskies diet. In one particular study, the stomach contents from 1092 Muskies were evaluated. The results proved that a Muskies diet is quite diverse, and that in 74% of the sample fish, only one food item was present. Muskies are not voracious feeders consuming fish after fish, as some people would have you believe.

Walleye ranked extremely low in the Muskies diet. In the 1092 study fish, only 5 contained traces of Walleye. This study collected Muskies from 34 separate bodies of water, including lakes with large populations of Walleye. Despite their abundance in those lakes, Walleye proved to not be a very important food source for Muskies. In fact, during the study Muskies and Walleyes were observed in very close proximity to one another, as the Walleye is also a predator. Walleye made up 3.4% of the total stomach content volume found in the Muskies in that study. Bass species found accounted for 3.1%, even lower than that of Walleye. 63.5% of the total stomach content volume was made up of Yellow Perch and various minnow species.