What Do Muskies Typically Eat?

Muskies are almost mythological among northern anglers chasing these huge voracious fish that somehow, are extremely hard to hook, much less catch. Quite different from their northern pike cousins! Yet muskies love to eat – and there’s no denying they have a big appetite!

Muskies are aggressive predators that will eat a wide array of animals. As tiny fry (minnows) they eat larvae, insects, and bugs before growing big enough to eat fish (including other musky), mice, rats, ducks, frogs, muskrats, or anything they are big enough to eat.

If a musky is lucky enough to reach adulthood and grow several years old in age it can get to the point where it even eats large adult carp, bass, or even northern pike.

Fisherman with big muskie fish
And then man comes along and turns the tables 🙂

While these instances aren’t common, they’re not rare, either. Underwater, the large muskellunge is absolutely top of the food chain and that means anything that looks like dinner – it’s probably going to be dinner.

Whether worm, insect, small fish, mouse, large fish, duckling, or anything else. There’s a reason that large lures that look like muskrats and ducks actually sell if you get far enough north. Because there are monsters in those lakes happy to strike!

Big muskie aren’t afraid to grab their meal. Case in point: take a look at this video of a musky grabbing a smallmouth bass a fisherman was reeling in at the time.

Or this time when it happened to another angler.

Or as this video points out with some really wild underwater footage of a muskie eating a bluegill staring at a worm.

You can also type in “pike eats duck” or “musky eats duck” to see a wide array of videos showing that these fish aren’t necessarily going to stay underwater to get lunch.

When they’re hungry, any meat 1/3 of their body size or less (some would argue 1/2 their size) makes for a good lunge to this king/queen of the Esox family of fish!

What Is a Normal Musky’s Diet?

Define normal. Each musky is going to have a different diet based on its location, environment, and size. With that being said, there are some definite consistent general answers to this question.

So here are your lists on what baby and adult muskies eat!

List of What Musky Eats

While this list is far from complete (see earlier notes about local environments) but these cover the base of what these voracious fish are happy to eat.

Keep in mind that adult musky will still eat what young muskies it if it’s there, but they’re searching for larger food at a certain size.

What Fry & Young Muskies Eat:

  • Tiny water bugs
  • Insects
  • Insect larvae
  • Tiny minnows (even other musky)

What Adult Muskies Eat

  • Local fish, including suckers, perch, bullheads, ciscoes, smallmouth bass, panfish, baitfish, and even other pike, muskie, and tiger muskies
  • Frogs
  • Voles
  • Mice and rats
  • Muskrats
  • Ducklings
  • Snakes
  • Full sized fish of all kinds (up to 1/2 the size of a big pike’s body)

Even Big Pike Aren’t Safe from the Hungry Giant Muskie

Location Affects the Muskellunge’s Diet

Keep in mind that what fish, small rodents, or small birds are in a local environment will affect what Muskies eat. Because if those animals are small enough, there’s a good chance that they’ve been eaten by the local muskies.

Muskie can’t eat bluegill in a lake with no bluegill, but in a lake with these big panfish, you know muskies are eating more than their fair share.

What Do Muskie Eat FAQ

Q: Do muskie really eat bass?

A: Yup! Aside from the videos of musky eating bass that we have further up on this page, bass are much smaller than the big muskies. A 3 lb bass is just a nice meal to a 30 lb muskie!

Q: Will muskie eat pike or even other muskie?

A: Yeah big predatory fish don’t care about cannibalism. A muskie will absolutely eat a pike or musky if the opportunity presents itself.

Q: Is it true that muskie choke to death from trying to swallow fish that are too big?

A: I don’t know if this is a weird thing with just the Esox family or if it ever happens to other freshwater fish, but yes, this is true. There are multiple instances of individuals finding dead muskie or dead pike that choked to death on a carp, bass, or other large fish that was just too big to swallow.

Q: Is it true that sometimes muskie go after full sized birds?

A: There are a few instances where this has been seen or recorded. Most of the time when a musky eats a bird it’s a duckling or a smaller water bird. But there’s at least one confirmed instance of a muskie choking to death on a full sized duck.

Q: Will muskies eat worms?

A: This question is often connected to looking for the perfect live bait for muskie. While muskie will eat worms, as most freshwater fish throughout North America will,

Q: Do muskie prefer eating any type of fish over another?

A: They are happy to eat whatever’s out there, but yellow perch and white suckers seem to come up in every single study done on what the muskellunge eats.

In Conclusion

Muskie are a voracious fish, as is their Esox cousin the northern pike, and if they think they can eat it they are usually game for giving it a shot. There’s even a great video of a decent sized pike getting eaten by a giant muskie.

Fish, bugs, insects, mammals, birds, they don’t care, if it’s meat and they’re hungry then they’re willing to give it a shot. There are few freshwater fish that have the diet of the musky, but when you’re top of the food chain and can grow as large as they grow…you get to expand what you eat.

Other Great Muskie Articles