How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Muskies See, Stalk, and Strike

Muskies See, Stalk, Strike

Select Science -- In a laboratory setting, researchers examined when and to what extent muskellunge use their sight and lateral-line senses during feeding.* Different muskie groups were tested, including those with eyes and lateral lines that functioned normally, and others that had their sight, lateral line, or both senses suppressed.

When presented with a minnow, normal muskies began feeding in distinct phases. First, they oriented toward the prey and then slowly stalked it. Once the fish were in position, they concluded with a fast and furious lunge. Normal muskies had successful death-grips 73 percent of the time.

Muskies with suppressed eyesight didn't orient to or stalk prey and lunged only if an unsuspecting minnow trespassed too closely. Muskies with suppressed lateral lines stalked prey longer, closing a narrow gap before striking. Muskies that lacked both senses didn't feed. These findings indicate that muskies rely more on sight during the first phase of feeding (the stalk), and more on the lateral line system during the final phase (the lunge).

The see-stalk-strike behavior may explain why the figure-8 fishing technique is so effective. The lunge might be cued by the concentrated vibrations of the lure sensed by the muskie's built-in seismograph, more than by the sight. The fish stalked the lure to the boat but for some reason didn't commit -- perhaps not enough commotion was presented along the way. This research shows that lure appearance, presentation, and action can be critical for triggering muskie strikes in different water conditions.

Rob Neumann

*New, J. G., et al. 2001. Strike feeding behavior in the muskellunge, Esox masquinongy: contributions of the lateral line and visual sensory systems. J. Exp. Biol. 204:1207-1221.


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