Although there are records of northern pike, Esox lucius, from the Connecticut River dating as far back as 1846, most researchers
believe the northerns of Lake Champlain (VT/NY) represent the only native (not introduced) pike in New England. All other occur-
rences are likely the result of introductions.Tiger muskellunge are sterile hybrids created by crossing muskellunge, Esox masquinongy,
largest of all the esocids, with northern pike. The first stocking of northern pike in the Commonwealth occurred in Berkshire County
in 1950. Several hundred Lake Champlain northerns, 12 inches or better, were released into Cheshire Reservoir. Shortly thereafter,
pike were also introduced into Onota Lake.These two waters provided most of Massachusetts’ pike angling opportunities throughout
the 1950s and ‘60s.With northerns established in Berkshire waters and anglers requesting more, the Division sought to create a new pike fishery mid-way between Springfield and Worcester.
The agency released 30 northerns — once again caught at Lake Champlain — into East Brimfield Reservoir in Brimfield in 1967.
These fish measured 15-25 inches. This operation was followed up in 1973 with 3,000 16-inch northerns purchased from Minne-
sota, and another 200,000 fry in 1974. The reservoir was stocked yet again in 1976, and an additional 1,000 pike were stocked into
the Quaboag River system in an attempt to establish a spawning population. Due in part to the high cost of purchasing northerns and the logistics involved in transplanting them from other states, the Division began an attempt in the 1980s to raise our own northerns. We took fry from Rhode Island and endeavored to raise them to stockable size at our Roger Reed Hatchery in Palmer.
Although we produced lots of juvenile fish for stocking (10,000+ a year), the cold temperature of the hatchery water made it difficult to
grow the fish to large enough size by fall to reduce predation after stocking (research shows that esocids need to be over 10 inches
at stocking to maximize survival). Additionally, when Rhode Island discontinued their northern pike broodstock program in 1992,
there was no longer a ready source of fry, therefore our program was discontinued. Throughout this time period, the Division
also worked to establish relationships with other states that were growing northerns and routinely had surpluses. As a result, through
outright gifts or trades for our surplus production (such as landlocked salmon from the Northern Pike and Tiger Muskies in Massachusetts Roger Reed Hatchery), the Division managed to get northerns from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and New York whenever they were available. Surplus sources are rarely dependable, however, and northerns have become more difficult to come by in recent years.
Our efforts over the past 50 years have resulted in over 400,000 northerns being stocked into more than 40 waters across the
Commonwealth, and the establishment of reproducing pike populations in a few waters.
Since 1969, over 800 Freshwater Sportfishing Awards (currently issued for pike over 15 pounds) have been awarded for trophy
northerns. Most of the 40 plus waters were not stocked with consistent numbers or sizes of fish, however, hence certain waters have a
higher likelihood of producing a trophies than others. Concentrating your fishing efforts will increase your chances, but bear in mind that most successful anglers spend hundreds of fishing hours in pursuit of each trophy.
Tiger muskies don’t have nearly as long a history in Massachusetts as pike, in part due to the fact that they have not been cultured
as long as pure strain northerns or muskies. The first stocking of these hybrids took place in the fall of 1980 when Division personnel
picked up 5,000 10-12 inchers from the Pleasant Mount hatchery in Pennsylvania and began a relationship with that state that
continues to this day. The following spring, tiger muskie fingerlings were brought to our Roger Reed Hatchery, where they were raised
until fall. This first attempt at raising tigers in Massachusetts resulted in the stocking of 10,000 fish. For better than a decade, fall
surpluses and spring fingerlings from Pennsylvania provided tigers for Massachusetts anglers. Along the way, New Jersey, Virginia
and New York have offered surpluses whenthey were available. As with growing northern pike in Massachusetts, however, it was
always difficult to get tigers up to 10 inches or better in a coldwater trout hatchery, and we discontinued efforts to grow tigers in 1998.
To date, over 430,000 tigers have been stocked into nearly 50 of our lakes and ponds.
Since 1984, over 50 Freshwater SportfishingAwards (currently issued for tigers over 10 pounds) have been awarded for trophies. As
with northerns, due to the inconsistencies in numbers and sizes of tigers available, the 50 plus waters were recently thinned down to one or two per District to insure more consistent stocking. Some waters therefore have a better chance of producing a trophy than others.