The esox masquinongy: one of Michigan’s rarest trophies
My word processing program didn’t put a red line under the word in the title, “masquinongy,” so my computer thinks the word is spelled correctly. I know the spell-checker is not always right. My computer thinks the word, “muzzleloader” is an incorrect spelling but the Michigan DNR lists a muzzleloader deer season. I have downriggers on my boat, my computer tells me they are down riggers.
But this blog isn’t about the proper or improper spellings of various words hunters and fishermen use frequently. It’s about the various spellings both in “scientific” jargon, in historical reference, in normal conversation and modern writings by outdoor writers such as me about the fish fish-science guys named Esox masquinongy.
Walk into a bait shop most places in Michigan and ask what the Esox masquinongy has been biting lately and the proprietor may look at you funny and will probably keep an eye on you as you fondle the large bucktails and swimbaits.
According to Wikipedia, that well-trusted source for “facts – factoids – factual – and nearly fastidious” tidbits of Internet information, the name for this fish originated from the Ojibwa name: maashkinoozhe, meaning “ugly pike.” Or perhaps it was named by French explorers calling the ugly pike, “masqueallonge,” which either means elongated face or was the Frenchification of the Ojibwa “maashkinoozhe.” Later Frenchmen coming on the scene spelled the fish’s name variously, including masquinonge’ or maskinonge’.
The reason I even bring this up is because I received a news release from a company making large lures to tempt these elongated-faced fish, spelling the “now” name of the fish as both musky and muskie. My spell checker doesn’t underscore “musky” but I think this is because the word has an alternate meaning describing the smell of my hunting boots.
Whether you prefer the “y” ending or “ie” ending short version of the modern name muskellunge is of little consequence. Ugly as they might be, as long as their face may be, I’ve seen other spellings: muskelunge, muscallonge, maskinonge and others. So what is it?
The truth is, it doesn’t matter. As Shakespeare penned: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
The important thing is, we are blessed to have muskies or maashkinoozhes or however you say or spell it. And whether the one you catch comes with a “y” or an “ie” at the end of its name, congratulations. You’ve caught one of Michigan’s rarest and most sought trophies.