Strawberry Island and its associated wetlands are one of the most significant aquatic ecosystems in the Great Lakes. They protect spawning grounds for a variety of freshwater fish species, including the muskellunge. The island's deep central lagoon, created by sand and gravel dredging operations during the first half of the 20th century, offers refuge for may fish species including the ones pictured here. The lagoon, surrounded by overhanging trees, contains scattered vegetated shallows that provide young fish ample food and an ideal place in which to grow. [captions:]Northern Pike, Esox lucieus. Largemouth Bass, Micropterus saimoides. Smallmouth Bass, Micropterus dolomieui. Spottail Shiner, Notropis hudsonius. Courtesy NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Muskellunge, Esox masquinongy. Courtesy NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Bowfin, Amia calva. Courtesy NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Yellow Perch, Perca flavscens. Muskellunge Life CycleThe muskellunge is native only to Northeast North America. This toothy predator lurks near underwater drop-offs and shallow sandbars hoping to ambush unsuspecting prey. The shallows around Strawberry Island provide "muskies" with a prime feeding and spawning area. Adult muskellunge return to the same spawning
ground year after year. With a good food supply, most will spend their lives close to where they were born. Loss of habitat is the muskellunge's greatest challenge. they do not adopt well to changing environmental conditions and are easily affected by problems in local predator-prey relationships. Did You Know? Muskellunge can grow up to five feet long! 1. Adult muskies will sekk out shallow bays to spawn when the water temperature reaches around 55° F (13° C). The male swims alongside the female, fertilizing the eggs as she deposits them over several hundred yards of shoreline. 2. The clear, amber-colored eggs hatch in about two weeks without parental care. 3. Newly hatched fry eat plankton, but their diet changes to small fish within a few days. The young muskellunge will grow up to 10 inches by the end of its first year. 4. The muskellunge grows most rapidly during the first three years of life. Males reach maturity at four to five years, when they are 28 to 31 inches long. Females mature in five to seven years, at 30 to 46 inches.