Scientific Name: Esox masquinongy
Classification:  Game Fish
Abundance: Inhabit the New, Nolichucky, and French Broad Rivers, as well as a few reservoirs in western NC.

Sport Fish Profile (pdf)


A member of the pike family, the muskellunge has an olive-to dark-gray back with a silvery side. Its sides usually have vertical bars or blotches, and its fins have spots or streaks. The muskellunge has 12 to18 small pores underneath the jaw, six to eight on each side. The Northern pike, a close relative of the muskellunge not found in North Carolina, only has 10 pores underneath the jaw. The chain pickerel is sometimes mistaken for a small muskellunge, but the pickerel has a black bar beneath the eye and the muskellunge does not.

Muskellunge prefer coolwater rivers and lakes with abundant woody debris, vegetation and rocky habitat. As a top predator, they feed on a variety of fishes, particularly suckers, as well as salamanders, small mammals and other large food items. Muskellunge are not easy to catch, partly because their numbers can be very sparse. Studies have shown that in some rivers, there may be as few as one adult fish for every 12 to 14 acres of pool habitat.

NCARP Minimum Requirements: 20 pounds or 41 inches
State Record: 41 lbs., 8 oz., from Lake Adger, Jan. 23, 2001


North Carolina offers some great fishing opportunities. If you are a resident or visitor to the state, please review the links below to ensure that you understand the rules, regulations and other guidelines.

The following fishing regulations are effective August 1, 2020 to July 31, 2021.

Inland Fishing

Inland Fishing Regulations
Regulatory authority between the Wildlife Resources Commission and Division of Marine Fisheries. Inland game fish regulations include Manner of Taking, Seasons and Using Trotlines and Set-hooks.



Saltwater Fishing

Fishing Techniques:

Anglers often fish large pools and around woody debris. Because musky are large and toothy, heavy baitcasting tackle spooled with 30-pound test line or stronger is common. Lures include large crankbaits, spoons, bucktails and spinner-baits, as well as live suckers and other large baitfish.

Good Places to Fish:

Through its Table Rock State Fish Hatchery in Burke County, the Commission stocks muskellunge in the French Broad, Nolichucky and New rivers as well as Lake Adger, an impoundment on the Green River. Anglers can sometimes catch muskellunge in unstocked reservoirs, such as Fontana and Hiwassee.