Muskie vs Pike – Differences in Characteristics and Features

By Last Updated: January 10th, 2023Categories: Fishing

For starters, it’s really confusing to identify some fish in saltwater or freshwater bodies. More often than not, most of them look the same and have similar characteristics. Two of the most confusing fishes are muskies and Pike. Both have relatively similar features, leaving beginners and even veteran fishermen unable to identify which is which.

If you are just starting to fish or have been fishing for quite some time now, and you still haven’t got your head around Muskie vs Pike, this article is for you. Below, we will discuss the significant differences between these two fishes. Continue reading for more details.

FYI: Similarities Between Muskie vs Pike

Before we discuss the differences, it’s important that you know first the similarities between Muskie and Pike. This way, it’ll be easier for you to grasp the features that distinguish the two from each other

Pike And Muskie

Both muskie and pike can be found in freshwater bodies such as lakes, rivers, etc. And they are both apex predators or top carnivores, which means that they prey on other fish and they don’t actually have any predators that could challenge them, except for those who like to fish them out of the water.

Moreover, they are both elongated and have almost similar physical characteristics. But despite that, there are still 6 key differences that you can spot to tell if the fish is a muskie or a pike.

No. 1: Muskie vs Pike – Location Differences

The first thing you should identify is where you saw the muskie or pike. Typically, Muskies are native to Northern America, and they are quite rare to find because their distribution is much lower as compared to pike. Muskies thrive on the Great Lakes in the northeast part of the US and some parts of Canada.

As for Pike, it can be found mostly in the northern hemisphere, particularly in the US and Canada up to the freshwater bodies of Alaska. And like Muskies, you can find them in lakes and rivers as such bodies of water are abundant.

No. 2: Muskie vs Pike – Color Differences

Color is one of the best ways to describe something, and this is the first thing you’d notice if you see either of the two kinds of fish. Their color can determine which is which almost immediately. To easily remember, muskies are light in color and have dark spots, while pikes are the opposite. They have light spots on a dark background.


Furthermore, muskies’ colors are brown, green, or silver. On the other hand, you can expect the pike to be in a darker shade of green. They usually come with white or yellow color on their belly.

No. 3: Muskie vs Pike – Size Differences

Size may not matter for some things, but for this comparison, it really does. Apart from color, size is the next thing you’d check if you see both of these fishes in person. Usually, muskies are larger and longer than pikes. The former grows between 18 to 48 inches long, which is really huge. The latter has the size vary between 16-22 inches. However, there were rare cases where they were recorded to grow up to 60 inches.

No. 4: Muskie vs Pike – Number of Sensory Pores

Sensory pores are very important for these types of fish. Both of them have pores on their jaw, just right at the lower part. These help them navigate, and sense movement and any changes in the water. However, the number of pores between the two is different.


For muskies, they have seven or more, while pikes only have six or less than that. If you happen to catch one, you can’t take a look at the pores and count them to differentiate the two.

No. 5: Muskie vs Pike – Caudal Fin Differences

Another key difference you should look out for is between the tail fins of muskie and pike. The caudal fins on both are shaped differently. For muskies, you can see pointed lobes, while pikes have relatively rounded lobes. The dorsal fins on both, too, share the same characteristics.

Muskie Fish

No. 6: Muskie vs Pike – Gill Cover Locations

Last physical characteristics that may need to be checked are the scale coverings in their gills. The location of the scales can also be used to distinguish which is muskie or pike. With muskies, you will notice that they only have scales on the upper halves of their gills, while pikes have scales on both the lower and upper halves.


It’s important that you know the difference between a muskie and a pike if you’re into fishing. They really look similar at first glance, but once you get a hold of the key differences we’ve mentioned above, you can identify them right away.


Yes, they can both share the same habitat and region. After all, muskies and pike are found in the northern hemisphere, The only difference is that the former is native to North American freshwater bodies.

There are no natural predators for muskies and pikes. In fact, the former is considered more of an apex predator than the latter. Muskies are more active in preying, while pike only does it on occasion. However, they may not be preyed upon by other animals if they are already grown. Small ones are still being eaten by others.