Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Utah to release its first tiger muskies

These fish should be about 20 inches long a year from now.

SALT LAKE CITY – The first tiger muskies ever raised in Utah
will soon be swimming in six waters in the state.

Tiger muskie

Fertilizing the eggs from a Northern pike with milt from a true
muskie creates a huge fish called a tiger muskie.

The tigers will be only two to three inches long when they’re
released. But they won’t stay that size for long.

Drew Cushing, warm water sport fisheries coordinator for the
Division of Wildlife Resources, says the fish should be about 20
inches long a year from now. “And by spring 2013,” he says, “most
of them will be 30 inches long or longer. Tiger muskie grow
fast.”

Utah’s biggest fish

Tiger muskies are created by stripping eggs from a female
Northern pike and then fertilizing the eggs with milt (sperm) from
a male muskie.

The result is a sterile fish that doesn’t reproduce. Instead of
spending its time reproducing, tiger muskie prey on other fish. In
the process, the tigers get bigger and bigger.

Cushing says many of Utah’s tiger muskie waters have plenty of
tigers that are more than 40 inches long. “And every year,” he
says,” anglers catch fish that are longer than 50 inches.”

While the future is bright for tiger muskie fishing in Utah, it
wasn’t that long ago that biologists and tiger muskie anglers alike
were wondering if one of Utah’s most unique and thrilling fishing
experiences might be gone for good.

A three-year search

Tiger muskie were first placed in Utah in the early 1990s when
DWR biologists brought tiger muskies into the state from
Minnesota.

Utah’s tiger muskie program went well until 2006. Then, fish
disease issues began to crop up in the Midwestern and Eastern
states that Utah got its tigers from.

As soon as the disease issues emerged, the DWR stopped importing
tiger muskies into Utah. But the agency’s biologists didn’t give up
on the state’s tiger muskie program. A good population of Northern
pike existed in Recapture Reservoir in southeastern Utah. To create
their own tiger muskie, all the biologists needed were muskie to
cross with the pike.

But where would they find muskies that were disease free?

“It was a frustrating search that lasted three years,” Cushing
says. “Just when we thought we had a source that was disease free,
another round of disease testing would dash our hopes.”

Finally, through the help of state fisheries biologists in
Nebraska and Minnesota, disease-free sources were found in both
states.

And soon after those sources were located, another disease-free
source was found in South Dakota.

“Finally,” Cushing says,” we were in business.”

Ponds the DWR constructed at its Lee Kay Public Shooting Range
in Salt Lake City soon became home to 100 disease-free muskie that
biologists brought into the state.

Later, 40 Northern pike, captured by DWR biologists at Recapture
Reservoir, joined the muskies at the facility.

166,000 eggs

This spring, 166,000 tiger muskie eggs have hatched or are in
the process of hatching at Lee Kay. Cushing says the young fry that
have hatched are doing well.

“When the fry are stocked in mid-May,” Cushing says, “we’ll reap
the rewards of five years of hard work.”

Six waters

The following Utah waters already have tiger muskie in them.
They’re also the waters that will receive the two- to three-inch
tigers in mid May:

Northern Utah Pineview and Newton reservoirs

Northeastern Utah Cottonwood and Bullock reservoirs

Central Utah Joe’s Valley Reservoir

Southwestern Utah Johnson Reservoir

Cushing says tiger muskies grow fast, so most of the two- to
three-inch fish should escape other predators in the water. Within
a few months, the tiger muskies themselves will be the top predator
in the waters in which they’re released.

A tiger muskie source for other states?

Cushing says most of the Western states have started, or would
like to start, a tiger muskie fishing program. These states have
been watching Utah closely.

“If we have extra tigers,” Cushing says, “we might be able to
supply them to the states that are interested.”

More information

For more information, call the nearest Division of Wildlife
Resources office or the DWR’s Salt Lake City office at
801-538-4700.

 

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