Muskie vs pike – these two share habitats, which is why they’re often confused with each other. These two species also belong to the genus, Esox, which makes them hard to distinguish, especially if you’re still new to angling. Muskie (Esox masquinongy) and northern pike (Esox Lucious) are both freshwater fish native to North America.
At a glance, the two have the same exact size with some slight differences. If you look at them closely, however, you can see that they actually differ from each other.
As both are known for their voracious appetites, incredible power, and sharp teeth, these apex predators let you reconsider the idea of swimming in northern lakes. These two are not-so-gentle giants, so they fire many anglers’ imaginations.
In this article about muskie vs northern pike identification, we’ll discuss their similarities and differences. There’s so much to learn about these two so read on!
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What is Pike?
Scientifically known as Esox lucius, the Pike is a member of the Esocidae family. The species goes by different names across the globe.
This includes slough snake, jackfish, and jack. The name pike is derived from the shape of the fish and its resemblance to a pole-like weapon commonly referred to as a pike.
Pike has an olive-green hue on its skin and a yellowish-white shade on its belly. You’ll be able to identify it quickly with its spots and fins. It lacks scales on its gills.
Its sensory pores are extra-large and they appear under the head of the fish. In the absence of prey and a sufficient source of nourishment, pike can be cannibals, feeding on one another.
What is Muskie?
Like pike, muskie is an excellent game fish. It shares the same genus and family as pike, but it’s a distinct species. It also has an elongated body like a pike and is scientifically known as Esox masquinongy.
The reason why a lot of anglers compare muskie vs pike is because they have many similarities including their predatory behavior, pores under their heads, and body shape.
Fishing for muskie isn’t for eating but for sport instead as the fish has a higher level of toxicity. This is a significant difference between muskie and pike.
After the excitement of landing a massive muskie, anglers are highly advised to release a muskie back into the water, particularly the ocean. A muskie negatively impacts the population of smaller fish that are in lakes and ponds.
Northern Pike vs Muskie: The Main Differences
Let’s now look more closely into how the two differ from each other.
Size and Weight
You already know that the two species are massive, but which is bigger? Pike is relatively big as it’s able to grow up to 22 inches. The biggest pike recorded is 59 inches long.
But when comparing muskie vs northern pike, muskie is bigger. It’s larger and more extended. An adult can reach 48 inches in length. Large ones have an average weight of 16.3 kg but can reach up to 32 kgs.
The tails of the two species offer the most apparent distinction when comparing muskie to pike.
Pike have a forked or notched tail, while muskie have a more pointed, unnotched tail.
The markings on the skin of these species may appear as spots. But, upon closer inspection, the markings actually vary.
Muskie have more extended, thicker markings that are easy to spot as they don’t have a particular pattern. The color, however, can vary, which is why it’s quite difficult for experts to draw a conclusion.
Still, muskie have more visible and darker markings compared to pike. Pike have markings that take the form of beans. It also has one color on its skin which is green-blue with an off-white or cream hue section on its belly.
Both pike and muskie have multiple sensory pores on their lower jaws, and the number can vary among individuals. However, there is no consistent range of pores specific to each species.
The two species live in areas that have dense vegetation along waterways, rivers, and great lakes. The two are considered ambush predators if they are able to see clearly through the water. While it’s generally true that muskie can be found in larger bodies of water and pike can inhabit various types of waterways, both species can occupy a range of aquatic environments, including lakes, rivers, and ponds.
The species also prefer clean, clear water as their habitat. Pike, in particular, has a preference for its habitat or living environment. It can be found on small waterways like bays and ponds.
But, pike typically sticks to slow-moving, shallow waters until there’s a rise in the water temperature. When the water gets hotter, pike disappears and goes deep into the water.
Muskie, on the other hand, is more territorial with its habitat and likes massive lakes and streams with ample vegetation. A muskie can also go to shallow areas and small waterways like pike, depending on the season.
Behavior and Personality
Both pike and muskie are intelligent and aggressive. They’re extremely agile, so catching them is harder. They can quickly disappear when spooked. Pike usually prefers a heavier bait during fall and smaller fish during spring. It is in the fall when pike stocks up for winter.
As for muskie, it’s quite troublesome as it has a lithe, energetic body. It tends to follow its bait, observe and wait for the perfect time to bite. You would have to muster up some patience with this fish and just hope that a muskie falls into your trap.
After being caught, the muskie doesn’t stay still. It jerks and jumps, throwing the hook even after it takes a bite. It is, therefore, crucial to use the proper baits and have large bucktail spinners. Add a wire to the leader or hook if you want to secure the bait.
Between muskie vs pike, which of the two are you more excited to catch? Let us know by commenting below!