Muskie or Pike?

Muskies are often mistaken for pike because of their long bodies and bill-like snouts. Look at the coloring: Muskie colors are dark on light, which is the exact opposite of the northern pike. One of the best ways to differentiate a muskie from a pike is by studying the head. Musky have six or more pores underneath and along both sides of their jaws. By comparison, pike will have six or less pores.

In waters where both species are found, muskie spawn in deeper waters than they would normally choose. Because young pike are already in the water when muskie spawn, having separate breeding grounds helps to prevent the older pike fingerlings from feeding on their younger fry cousins.

When Muskie Spawn

Th­e spawn itself is prime fishing time, but it may be better to head out before that time. The pre-spawn period can make for some great fishing. Check with your local Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to ensure pre-spawn fishing is legal in your area. If you're good to go, consider giving the pre-spawn a try.

As soon as the water temperature starts to rise in spring, muskies begin their migration to the same breeding grounds as the year before. During this pre-spawn period, female muskies are eating as much as they can muster. The female feeds aggressively during pre-spawn, as she bulks up her egg mass. The pre-spawn period tends to be February and March; you can catch plenty of hefty females during this time.

Muskies are considered sexually mature somewhere between three and four years of age. When they're old enough, they'll spawn when the temperature hits between 49 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit (9.4 and 15 degrees Celsius). Temperature is key to most fish spawns, so check the weather reports for your area to determine the best time to head out with your rod. Typically, muskie will spawn in April.

After the fish have had their share of the spawn, fishing opportunities will drop off. The female leaves the spawning site as soon as she's finished dropping her eggs, usually around one to two weeks after spawning starts. Male muskies tend to stay at the spawning site for a few weeks after spawning is complete. Muskie eggs hatch out in as little as 8 to 14 days. To help them grow, the fry first digest their yoke sac, then nearby plankton and then fish [source: Freshwater Fishing Canada].

Now you know when the muskie are spawning, but where do you find them? Read on to discover the top spawning locations.