Also known as Muskellunge (though nobody calls them that—it’s hard to pronounce and all), Muskie belongs to the Pike family and happens to be the largest of them all. So big that their primary diet is other fish. For the most part, anglers catch them as trophies, but can you eat muskie too?
Sure, you can eat muskie, but you definitely won’t find them at the top of any seafood menus. Plus, depending on where you catch them, you may be banned from keeping any of the ones you catch. Plus, some Muskie are poisonous to eat, which we’ll explain in more detail below.
No matter where you go fishing for Muskie, they are probably at the top of the food chain there. They grow to five feet in length (some bigger and some smaller), and they consume a lot of fish in their habitat.
Can you Eat Muskie? Things to Consider
There are several factors worth considering, but the most important one is whether or not catching and keeping a Muskie is legal in whatever waters you’re fishing in. If you’re from the area, it’s likely you know the regulations. However, you should check around if you’re fishing in a new place, just to be sure.
Muskie are at the top of the food chain in their respective environments (at least they are most of the time). Although there are always exceptions to the rules in nature, big and carnivorous usually means it’s the king of the hill.
Muskie can grow up to five feet in length. That’s a fairly big freshwater fish. Tossing the species aside, big fish often don’t taste as flavorful as smaller fish. The meat gets tougher, and as the fish grows and consumes more, they tend to take in things that change the flavor as well.
Muskie will eat just about anything that crosses their path, so long as they don’t have to work too hard to get it. Muskie consume as if they were starving and hunt their prey much like a barracuda, waiting silently in the shadows for the most opportune moment.
They will even eat their own, younger and smaller versions, or other Pike. A Muskie is terrifically fast, striking with little warning, as fast as a blink.
Toxicity and mercury
There is a level of danger in eating Muskie, especially if you catch them out of contaminated waters. For one, Muskie tend to take in the chemicals around them, without releasing those chemicals from their muscles. They just sit in there and marinate over time.
Mercury levels in Muskie are also fairly high—high enough that most State Departments advise pregnant women and children to stay well away. If you’re older than 15, Muskie are considered safe to eat once every 6 months and no more. Plus, it’s recommended that you do a very thorough job cleaning it.
What does it taste like?
Eating Muskie is like combining the flavors of bass and pike and then diluting them down to a blander version. Some people, those that hate fishy flavor in their seafood, will probably find Muskie appealing since such things are diluted and washed out.
The blandness of the fish also leaves it open for a lot of variety when it comes to spices and cooking.
How to clean a Muskie
If you’ve ever tried your hand at cleaning Pike, you’re already armed with the knowledge for cleaning Muskie. The only difference is the size between the two. Muskie, like Pike, is hard to clean because they have Y-shaped bones that make cutting a clean filet very difficult.
- Start your cut behind the head and in front of the pectoral fin
- Cut deep enough to reach the backbone
- Angle your blade and cut along the backbone
- Go until you reach the Y-bones
- Move back to the front and cut through the Y-bones, pushing your filet knife all the way through to the end of the fish
- Cut away the anus portion of the fish
- Remove the skin as well (its no good)
It will take a bit of practice to do it right, and you will need a blade sharp enough to cut through the fish bones. Sharpen the blade well afterward since cutting through bones will seriously dull the blade.
Best way to prepare it
Most people who have experienced eating Muskie recommend either baking them or making Muskie cakes. Baking it can go any number of ways, depending on how you want to season your fish and how slow or fast you want to bake them in the oven.
Muskie cakes are quite a bit different but relatively simple to make. You might be surprised to find that Muskie is often used in fish gumbos. Since it doesn’t have a powerful flavor on its own, it adds some excellent texture to the gumbo.
If you just want to keep it simple, Muskie is fine fried in a pan, or you can use the spices of your choice, flash sear it in a pan, and throw it in a braiser. The fish is big enough and thick enough that you can easily sear both sides without cooking the interior. The Brasier will take care of the rest.
Frying it in peanut oil is often a favorite. Flour, salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne, and dill go well together and make a very good batter. Shallow frying is the best way to go. You don’t have to drop it in a deep vat of oil or anything.
Muskie are often tossed back or kept as trophy catches, wherever such actions are legal. Some people eat them but they certainly aren’t at the top of any “best fish to eat” lists. You often hear the same things about Muskie you do about Sea Cats and Bonita, or even Jack Crevalle.
But, if you’re hungry, and the water in your area is nice and clean, there’s nothing wrong with taking a Muskie home and cutting up some filets for dinner. As long as no one pregnant is eating it and no one is under the age of 15.
Just remember to make it an infrequent dish, perhaps once every six months or so. Mercury tends to build up in the body over time, and the results are never that pleasant.
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