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It Is a Fish Eat Rat World, Part Deux

A couple of weeks ago I shared a story with you about a largemouth bass caught recently by the son of one of my co-workers, It Is a Fish Eat Rat World.  That fish had consumed a kangaroo rat not long before being caught.  Recently, there has been another picture making the rounds on the internet, I was pointed to it on the Ice Team FaceBook page.

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Forty-two inch muskie found dead on a lake in Minnesota. Apparently, the muskrat was too big to fit down its throat, it could not clear it from its mouth and it perished.

This time the fish was another top-of-the-food-chain, apex predator, and one of my favorite fish, a muskellunge.  The poor little “victim” was a muskrat, from what I can see a full-grown muskrat.

Predator fish can consume anything that fits through their throat.  Unfortunately, the opening of their throat can be just a little bit smaller than the opening of their mouth and at times fish “bite off more than they can chew”.  The story is that muskie was a 42-incher, a very nice fish, but probably a little bit too small to swallow that adult muskrat.  Subsequently, it was not able to “breath” properly and succumbed.

So did the muskrat.

By the way, fish will jump and shake their head in order to clear objects, prey items, from their throat–that is exactly why they do that on the end of an angler’s line.  But, sometimes they make a mistake and try to eat something they just cannot clear.

Once again, I am fascinated by the whole predator/prey thing and the bigger the predator the more it fascinates me.  Many of us have heard stories of muskies, pike, even big largemouth bass eating muskrats, birds, baby ducks, etc.  It happens and that photo proves it.  As a matter of fact, I believe in some environments it happens a lot more than you might think.  Big predator fish need big meals (Optimal Foraging Theory).  I have seen mice in the bellies of Nebraska smallmouth bass, garter snakes in the bellies of northern pike, and had a medium-size channel catfish spit up a partly-digested, half-grown muskrat once (the fur floating in the tub of water was disgusting!).

I am a believer in big baits for big fish.  Yes, muskies can eat muskrats and many times you will be more likely to hook those big predators by using larger baits.  I also believe that fall is THE time of year when this applies the most–natural prey has grown to a larger size by fall, and predator fish are feeding to get ready for the winter to come and even to get ready for next spring’s spawn after that.  Those big predators can take in more energy by eating large prey; they will select for that larger prey if it is available.

The fall bite is on, right now.  It will remain “on” for several weeks yet.  Get out there, take advantage of it, and do not be afraid to “Go Big, or go home”.

Oh, I would keep my little dog out of the water, St. Croix Poodle Poster (Editor’s Note:  This poster is not mine, it was a marketing strategy employed to sell rods to muskie anglers.  Yes, muskie anglers are a little, a lot, “warped”.  You can accuse me of being that, but do not blame me for the poster).

About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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