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muskellunge (Esox masquinongy)
Photo © Engbretson Underwater Photography

Features and Behaviors


The muskellunge has an elongated body and a large head with jaws in a duckbill shape. The gill covers and cheeks have scales only on the upper half. A row of six to nine pores is present along each side of the lower jaw. This fish's back is silver-gray to yellow-green with scattered dark spots or bars. The muskellunge may attain a length of more than five feet and a weight of about 70 pounds.


The muskellunge lives in lakes and pools of slow-moving streams. It is stocked in several lakes in Illinois. It prefers clear water with abundant vegetation. The muskellunge is a solitary fish, hiding near submerged objects and swimming out to capture prey. Spawning occurs in spring with eggs scattered over dead plants. The female may deposit up to 265,000 eggs. The muskellunge eats fishes.

Illinois Range


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Esociformes
Family: Esocidae

Illinois Status: common, nonnative