Utah is Ready to Raise Its Own Tiger Muskies

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1,000 true muskies released in Lee Kay ponds

Fertilizing the eggs from a Northern pike with milt from a true muskie creates a huge fish called a tiger muskie. Marc Anderson shows the tiger muskie he caught at Pineview Reservoir in 2006. - Photo by Ben NadolskiOne of the largest sport fish in the country will soon be raised right here in Utah.

On June 16, a total of 1,000 true muskies from Nebraska were stocked into ponds at the Lee Kay Public Shooting Range in Salt Lake City.

They’re small now, but in three years, they’ll be mature enough to reproduce.

When the muskies reach that stage, biologists with the Division of Wildlife Resources will take milt from the males. Then they’ll use that milt to fertilize eggs from Northern pike.

After the eggs are fertilized, Utah will have the first batch of tiger muskies ever produced in the state.

“More and more anglers are fishing for tiger muskies,” says Drew Cushing, warm water sport fisheries coordinator for the DWR. “I can see why: they’re an impressive fish. When you catch one of these monsters, they put up a big fight.”

Four years of hard work

Cushing says the DWR introduced tiger muskies to Utah in 1988. The program went well for years. Then, in 2005, the DWR stopped bringing tiger muskies into the state after biologists became concerned about aquatic diseases in the Midwest.

“When that happened, we decided it was time to raise our own tiger muskies,” Cushing says.

That decision led to lots of work.

Creating ponds in which to raise the fish was the first step. The shooting range at Lee Kay takes up only a small part of the 1,200-acre facility. And the facility doesn’t have any other fishing waters near it. “When water leaves the pond, it flows into a nearby basin and evaporates,” Cushing says.

“We needed to build the ponds in an area where the fish couldn’t escape into another water,” he says. “This location is the perfect spot.”

After the ponds were built, the next step was putting Northern pike in them. Luckily, the biologists had a relatively close source for pike—Recapture Reservoir in southeastern Utah.

After placing pike in the ponds, the biologists faced their most difficult task—finding disease-free true muskies somewhere in the country.

“All of the muskies outside of Utah had disease issues,” Cushing says.

After four years of searching and plenty of setbacks, a disease-free population was found in Nebraska.

“We’re excited to have these muskies here in Utah,” Cushing says. “Now they’re here, the future of tiger muskie fishing in Utah looks great.”

In addition to providing anglers with more tiger muskies to catch, the fish may also become a tool the DWR can use to obtain wildlife species from other states.

“Several Western states would like to get tiger muskie fishing going in their state,” he says. “Hopefully our tiger muskie program will go well enough that we can trade some of our extra fish for wildlife species we need here in Utah.”