For Trophy Pike And Muskies, Go With The Flow

Muskies appear to fare better in warmer waters than pike and thus it enhances their ability to grow to trophy size in a wider range of water temperatures.

Prime muskie and pike waters vary greatly according to the angler’s wants and needs. One pike or muskie seeker might be looking more for numbers and action, while the other is more serious about bagging a big fish. This is when the term “prime waters” varies the most.

Large numbers of each species can be found in many locales. Usually fertile, shallower and warmer waters with a large supply of baitfish such as perch contain big numbers of either pike or muskie. A distinct coffee stain or greenish algae color, and lots of weed growth often characterize these waters.

Very high populations of pike or muskie per acre of water are the norm here, but the average size of the fish is relatively small. In these waters, hundreds of aggressive pike in the 20-inch to 30-inch range might be situated in one weedbed. These waters also might hold a dozen muskies that are 30 inches to 40 inches long.

Go Deep For Lunkers
True trophy northern pike lakes are usually clearer and deeper, and often contain trout, cisco and whitefish. They might have a few weedbeds and other shallow cover, but the big pike only uses them seasonally. In lakes like this one, it’s not uncommon for northern pike to suspend deep over large stretches of open water in midsummer. Pike are usually more difficult to catch in these lakes, but the average size is usually much greater — 30 inches to 40 inches.

Deep, clear waters also hold monster muskies. Some of the most immense girth ever-recorded on big muskies have come from this type of habitat. Muskies with smaller heads and thick, girthy bodies are the norm here. And, just like their toothy cousin, the northern pike, muskies in these deep, clear waters average larger in size and often suspend over deep, open water areas. They only use shallow cover on a seasonal basis — usually in spring and for a short period of time in the fall.

Muskies appear to fare better in warmer waters than pike. This greatly enhances their ability to grow to trophy size in a wider range of water temperatures. For this reason, big muskies are regularly caught in shallow, fertile waters, such as Lac Vieux Desert on the Wisconsin / Michigan border, and Leech Lake in Minnesota. In fact, Lac Vieux Desert has produced the only 50-pound-plus tiger muskies ever recorded, 51 and 50 pounds respectively. Yet its pike, though plentiful, are smaller in comparative size.

A river’s current provides an endless selection of vantage points for pike and muskie to score easily on prey.

Major river systems, shallow and deep, regularly produce both pike and muskies in trophy sizes. Something unique exists in these special waterways that consistently harbors lunker fish of nearly all species. Neither biologists nor fishermen have a clear-cut answer as to why major river systems continually produce such quality pike and muskies. There are probably many reasons.

Big Water Equals Big Fish
The overall volume of water in major river systems supports the age-old claim “big water, big fish.” The Mississippi, St. Lawrence, Wisconsin, English, French, Detroit, Niagara, St. Clair, St. Mary’s, Winnipeg, Red and McKenzie are all big river systems, covering, in some cases, over 100 miles or more. The sheer size of these rivers alone makes them a prime habitat for big pike and muskies, but these flowing waters provide other important big-fish benefits.

A river’s current provides an endless selection of vantage points for big predators like the pike and muskie to score easily on a wide selection of prey without expending a lot of energy. They can position themselves in an eddy just outside strong current and ambush baitfish almost anytime. The current continually washes food fish into their lairs. Big pike and muskies have honed their ambushing skills to a fine art in and around current.

Genetically speaking, major rivers appear to contain a strong healthy breed of original strains. A common theory accepted by many professional anglers and fisheries is that all of today’s pike and muskies evolved from original strains of native river fish. Such beliefs are easy to validate when you consider what happens whenever flowages and reservoirs are created from these rivers. Giant pike and muskies are regularly caught from such waters.

In fact, both the largest muskie and largest pike ever caught in North America came from rivers or their reservoirs: a 69-pound, 11-ounce muskie from the Chippewa Flowage in Wisconsin, and a 46-pound, 2-ounce northern pike (U.S. record) from Great Sacandaga Lake, a reservoir on the Sacandaga River in upstate New York. In addition, three of the top four monster pike of Europe (which are far bigger than anything North America has produced) — two 92-pounders, and a 90-pounder — came from the Shannon River in Ireland. This sure casts a strong vote for rivers, doesn’t it?

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