Saturday, August 5, 2017

Are these fish northern pike, muskies or hybrids?

Mike Boyer with fish that has no spots

Troy Bechtel's fish has a different pattern on its tail compared to body
Two Bow Narrows anglers were perplexed with the fish they caught at camp this summer. In the top photo Mike Boyer holds a fish that, I believe, his wife Lonnie caught. Could it be the "clear" pattern shown by some muskies?
In the lower photo Troy Bechtel holds a fish that has two distinctly different patterns, small spots on its head and sides and large chains on its tail.
What gives?
Before I go any further, let's note the most certain way to determine if a fish is a northern pike or a musky. Count the pores on the underside of its jaw. Northern pike have five. Musky have more than five, from six to nine.
So the next time you are wondering if that unusual fish is a musky, turn it over and count the jaw pores.
Muskies have several skin patterns, as do northern pike, including "clear" versions for both. So really, the pore count is critical.
Troy's fish is bizarre. I've never seen a fish that had two patterns at once.
We sent Troy's photo first to Red Lake Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests biologist Jenn Neilson who forwarded it to pike-musky expert John Casselman.
"By the colour pattern on the caudal area and on the cheek, I would say that this fish is a hybrid pike-muskellunge cross. Why the pattern appears more distinct on the caudal peduncle is a mystery to me. But in hybrids, the colour pattern can be quite strange and grotesque, so maybe this is part of the abnormal coloration response," he wrote back.

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