Muskellunge Management: Fifty Years of Cooperation Among Anglers, Scientists, and Fisheries Biologists

Haters Gonna Hate (Esox Edition): User-Group Conflicts and Vigilante Justice in the Age of Social Media [Extended Abstract]

Brian R. Murphy

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874462.ch54

Animosity between specialized recreational angler groups is not uncommon, and esocids in particular seem to engender highly polarized views. Negative opinions regarding the pikes date back to the earliest treatises on recreational angling. As early as 1496, Berners (1885) denigrated the angling qualities of Northern Pike Esox lucius (along with European Eel Anguilla anguilla): “the pyke also is a devourer of fish. I put them both behynde al other for to angle.” James A. Henshall, a past president of the American Fisheries Society (1891–1892) and popular author on the subject of American sport fishing, touted the black bass Micropterus spp. as a sport fish far superior to virtually all others, but he had a particular disdain for the pikes: “The mediocrity of the pike as a game fish is doubtless a just estimation in a majority of cases.” (Henshall 1919). Negative attitudes towards pikes continue today, including and in some cases especially regarding Muskellunge E. masquinongy.

Humankind has a long history of disdain, hate, and fear of top-level predators. Mythology in a variety of cultures often includes monstrous animals that prey on humans. These imaginary monsters often are portrayed with characteristics of actual predatory animals that humans fear, particularly bears, wolves, serpents, and sharks. The serpentine body form and abundant teeth of the pikes may remind people of feared predators both real and imaginary, and “water-wolf” is a term often applied to the pikes. Top-level predators who are perceived to be competitors with humans have often been persecuted almost to extinction, and this prosecutorial attitude is often expressed toward the pikes, particularly Muskellunge. Throughout its range, the Muskellunge is often vilified as a destroyer of more-desirable fish species, particularly Walleye Sander vitreus, Black Crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus, and Smallmouth Bass M. dolomieu.