Tiger muskies are one of Washington’s most intriguing (but elusive) game fish, and they grow very large here.
These toothy giants are very hard to catch, but when one smashes your lure it’s an experience you’ll never forget.
Tiger muskies are a sterile hybrid cross between a muskellunge (or true muskie) and a northern pike.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at this writing raises them to plant regularly in seven lakes across the state both to provide a unique trophy fishery and to help control over-populations of non-game fish such as northern pikeminnow that harm other popular fisheries.
Tiger muskies get quite large.
In fact, these cigar shaped predators (a.k.a. tiger musky) must be at least 50 inches to keep (one per day).
The state record, a 37-pound, 14-ounce specimen, was caught at Curlew Lake in late July of 2014 by avid tiger muskie angler David Hickman of Richland, but many serious tiger muskie fans release their catches and larger fish have been reported.
Tiger muskies have been called a “fish of ten thousand casts,” meaning anglers very well may put in days of fishing for every one landed.
The best lures for tiger muskies include those that imitate pikeminnows, suckers and other prey species, or that otherwise provoke tiger muskies to attack.
These lures can include soft baits, bucktail spinnerbaits and similar lures, glide baits, large spoons and plugs (crankbaits). Muskies will occasionally smash topwater lures.
Members of the Mountain Muskies chapter of Muskies Inc. have recommended Mepps Musky Killer (in black and gold) and Swimmin’ Joe lures. Casting or trolling can catch these fish.
Below is a brief look at Washington’s seven tiger muskie lakes.
This is Southwest Washington’s best kokanee lake, and the tiger muskies have been planted since the mid-1990s here primarily to help keep the northern pikeminnow from getting out of control and making a big dent in the kokanee fishery.
The 3,800-acre Lewis River reservoir is located on the border of Clark and Cowlitz counties about a half hour east of Interstate 5 at Woodland.
The lake is largely surrounded by private property, and bank access is very limited, but there’s a good launch at Speelyai Bay on the northeast side of the reservoir, just off Lewis River Road.
This is a deep lake and muskie fishing may come on a little slowly here but should be good by July through September.
Look for tiger muskies around stumps and weed beds, mostly along the edges.
More: Lake Merwin Fishing
This 2,400-acre lake has lots of coves, fingers and island, with a shoreline largely lined with residential housing.
It’s located just southeast of Auburn and only a half hour or so from Tacoma.
Also known for bass and panfish angling, the Lake Tapps tiger muskies were planted in large part to help curb the lake’s large sucker population.
Bank access is limited to some parks and other public access, but boaters will be able to reach plenty of water.
Tons of boat docks may offer some likely muskie cover.
Lake Tapps North Park (Pierce County) and Allan Yorke Park (City of Bonney Lake) are good places to start. It’s open all year.
More: Lake Tapps Fishing
This 2,000-acre lake in Lewis County produced a previous state record tiger muskie of about 31 pounds and is capable of growing bigger ones.
There are stumps, boulders, points and coves, plus ample weed beds and a fair number of docks, to provide a variety of potential muskie-holding cover.
The lake also is popularly fished for bass and stocked trout.
Mayfield Lake is formed by a dam on the Cowlitz River and includes two large arms where the Cowlitz and Tilton rivers enter.
It is located southeast of Chehalis and only about 20 minutes east of Interstate 5 on U.S. 12, which crosses the reservoir.
Good access is at the large Ike Kinswa State Park on the upper end, at a Lewis County park along the highway and at the private Lake Mayfield Resort south of the highway on the lower reservoir.
More: Mayfield Lake Fishing
The state record-producer obviously can grow big tiger muskies, and it might be the best lake in the state to beat its own record.
It is 861 acres and is located on Curlew Creek outside the town of Republic, about a two and a half hour drive northwest of Spokane or at least twice that from the Seattle area.
Curlew Lake State Park on the east shore toward the southern end and several private resorts farther north offer public access for anglers.
Tiger muskies feed largely on an over-population of northern pikeminnow, which they were planted to help manage, as well as the reservoir’s trout.
Potential fish-holding structure is located around aquatic weeds, docks, islands, coves and points and the old railroad trestle (now a rail trail) at the north end.
Fishing for tiger muskies starts to ramp up during the spring and often is best from June into about October.
The state record fish struck a white spinnerbait in late July.
More: Curlew Lake Fishing
At 247 acres, this reservoir near Quincy and George in Grant County is the smallest of Washington’s waters currently planted with tiger muskies.
It also is popularly fished for bass, walleye and crappie.
The reservoir is located east of the Columbia River and north of U.S. 90 roughly between Ellensburg and Moses Lake.
This might be a good spot to hit earlier in the season or again in October before the real cold sets in, because abundant aquatic vegetation and low water levels sometimes hamper fishing during the hottest months.
Evergreen is best fished with a boat, and there are launches at both ends. You’ll find coves, cliffs, islands and aquatic weeds as you look for muskies and other game fish.
This 1,100-acre lake is one of two tiger muskie hot spots in Spokane County.
There are lots of homes around the lake, most of which have private docks that can provide excellent muskie cover.
Large areas covered in lily pads and extensive sunken weed beds are other prime spots to seek them out.
The lake also has a wide variety of fish including bass, panfish, catfish and even the occasional brook trout.
The muskies and most warmwater fish here bite best from mid-spring through the summer months.
Newman Lake is located within the McKenzie Conservation Area about a half hour northeast of Spokane, almost to the Idaho border.
More: Newman Lake Fishing
Try looking for tiger muskies around aquatic weeds found throughout this 418-acre natural lake just east of the city of Medical Lake.
It’s in Spokane County, about 20 minutes southwest of the city of Spokane and just north of U.S. 90.
Fishing for the tiger muskies here often is best in the late spring and early summer.
There also is a large number of private docks that may provide additional muskie cover.
The lake also can be good for largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie and yellow perch, and some anglers have raved about its brown trout.
Former Tiger Muskie Lakes
The state previously has stocked tiger muskies in additional lakes, but the last plantings of these sterile fish were long enough ago that it is believed they no longer inhabit these waters.
The previously stocked waters include: Fazon Lake in Whatcom County, Green Lake in Seattle, and South Lewis County Pond on the west side, and Red Rock Reservoir in Grant County (south of Potholes Reservoir).
Information sources: WDFW’s tiger muskie page, NW Tiger PAC, Mountain Muskies and articles in The Columbian and The Spokesman-Review newspapers.
WDFW Fishing and Stocking Reports
WDFW Fishing Regulations
National Weather Service forecasts