Arizona turns to muskies to bulk up bass fishery

PHOENIX — About 450 sardine-sized fish with a mouthful of sharp teeth have been intentionally released in a remote lake in north-central Arizona.

If they can survive predators, the meat-eating tiger muskies can grow to 3 feet long or more and can eat small bass, allowing anglers to have larger bass to catch in upcoming years.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Services donated the tiger muskies to Arizona, where the Game and Fish Department introduced the tiny but feisty fish on May 16 into Horsethief Basin Lake, a small reservoir 6,000 feet high in the mountains near Crown King.

Surveys of bass in the lake show that 80% are smaller than 8 inches.

Under the plan, anglers must release any muskie they catch, according to the Arizona Republic.

Tiger muskies are unable to reproduce because they are hybrids and Arizona officials say Horsethief Basin is an isolated body of water so there is no threat of the fish spreading to other waterways.

“Even if they did escape, it’s quite a long journey down a typically dry steam channel to Lake Pleasant,” said Curt Gill, an aquatic wildlife program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Lake Pleasant and other desert water bodies are too warm for tiger muskies to survive, Gill added. And one of the reasons they grow fast is because they don’t expend any energy spawning.

The record tiger muskie ever caught in Utah was in 2006 and the fish was 49 inches long and weighed 33 pounds and 9 ounces.

It’s unknown how large the fish might get in Horsethief Basin, which is only about 4 acres.

“I wouldn’t expect many of them to (grow that large) because they would eat themselves out of house and home,” Gill said.

Anglers launched a petition for the Game and Fish Department to bring muskie back to Arizona. Department officials say they’ll evaluate the population annually and determine if it’s wise to stock more of the fish.


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