Maryland Fish Facts



Esox masquinongy
Key Distinguishing Markings:
    • Muskellunge are the largest members of the Pike Family characterized by a long, torpedo-shape with dorsal and anal fins located close to the tail.
    • The large “duck-bill” shaped mouth is full of pointed teeth
    • Muskellunge coloration can vary widely ranging from an olive to tan background with few markings to prominent non-branching, dark bars that do not extend across the back. Young muskie display prominent bars and spots.
    • The fins are pointed and rust colored
    • The lower gill cover and cheek of muskellunge lack scales (northern pike cheeks are fully scaled; hybrid cheeks are fully or 2/3 scaled) 
    • Chin pores, located on the right and left bottom surface of the lower jaw, will usually number 6 or 7, up to 10, per side on muskellunge.
    View the Muskie Gallery



    • Muskies are not native to Maryland and currently occur only in the nontidal Potomac River. The original source of these muskie remains unknown.​​

    • The muskellunge, or muskie as it more commonly called, is one of the largest freshwater game fish in North America.​
    • Muskellunge in the Potomac River can live for more than 12 years and reach a length of 50 inches. The current State Record muskellunge was caught by Tessa Cosens from the Upper Potomac River on 05/06/2011 and weighed 32.5 lbs. and was 49 inches long with a 24-inch girth.


    • ​In rivers, muskellunge generally prefer the larger, deeper pools with mild current and wood cover.


    • The Potomac River muskellunge fishery is supported entirely by natural reproduction.
    • Muskellunge initiate spawning during April or May when water temperatures exceed 50°F for several consecutive days.  Tiger muskie are sterile hybrids and do not reproduce.
    • Spawning takes place near aquatic vegetation, debris, and leaf litter over a period of a few days; the eggs are broadcast over a fairly large area and settle to the bottom.
    • No parental care is given.
    • Surviving eggs will hatch in twelve to fifteen days.
    • At first, muskies grow very rapidly reaching approximately twelve inches by the end of their first growing season, twenty-four inches by the end of the second, and thirty inches by the end of their third.
    • In the Potomac River, muskies reach the minimum length limit of thirty-six inches during their fifth or sixth season.
    • Females grow faster and live longer than males; the maximum lifespan is about twenty-five to thirty years, though it is usually much shorter in southern populations; the maximum age of Potomac River muskellunge is estimated to be 13 – 15 years.

    Fishing Tips:

    • Tackle for muskie needs to be stouter than tackle used for bass and walleye.
    • A medium-heavy muskie-action casting rod with twenty pound test monofilament or braided line works well.
    • A hard monofilament or wire leader is necessary to prevent the line being cut by their teeth.
    • Large crankbaits imitating suckers and fallfish and bucktail spinners are the most popular lures for muskie.
    • Anglers not familiar with handling these fish may want to stick with single-hook lures such as spinnerbaits to start with.
    • Due to their limited numbers and value as a trophy sport fish, most muskie anglers release their catch to fight again.
    • Several tools are needed to make releasing muskies safer for both the fish and the fishermen. Foremost is a large needle-nose pliers or a hook-out (pistol grip pliers) for removing hooks while keeping fingers a safe distance away from their teeth. 
    • For current recreational size and creel limits, see Maryland's updated regulation page.​​
    • Muskie anglers are encouraged to participate in the Potomac River Muskie Angler Catch Survey. Participating anglers record basic information about their muskie fishing trips on a creel sheet and submit to the Department at the end of the fishing season.  The information helps biologists monitor the fishery and make management decisions. Participating anglers receive a Muskie Program Volunteer cap when they complete and return a creel sheet.

    Fun Fact:

    ​For more information about Maryland's muskellunge population visit the Maryland Muskellunge Program webpage.

    Family: Esocidae (Pikes)
    Order: Esociformes
    Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)

    ​​For more information on muskellunge and their management, please contact Josh Henesy​ at (301) 898-9724​.