Muskies are known as fierce predators, with big teeth, voracious appetites and an allure that makes them particularly attractive to freshwater big-game anglers.
They grow big, fight furiously and, for a number of activists here in the Mahoning Valley, are the perfect symbol for the arduous efforts to restore our Mahoning River from more than a century's worth of pollution.
A group of creative young people who call themselves Mahoning River Consortium Tributaries has come up with an Ohio license plate featuring a leaping muskie.
The objective of the Mahoning River specialty license plate is to serve as a reminder about the value of a clean river and to generate revenue to help pay for the work. The consortium is working to secure the money required to dredge the Mahoning to remove the polluted sediment that comprises the stream bed.
"The Tributaries recognize how a clean Mahoning River can play such an important role in the reinventing of the area," said Kim Mascarella of Eastgate Regional Council of Government. She also is a member of the Mahoning River Consortium.
"The Tribs also realized the price tag to accomplish this was grand, but not untouchable," she said.
The estimated local share for the $100 million river restoration project is $35-$40 million. "In an effort to help raise [a portion of] the local share, the Tributaries birthed the Mahoning River Specialty License Plate project."
Mascarella said cars sporting the distinctive muskie license plate would serve as a reminder about the Mahoning River at every red light, stop sign and parking lot in the area.
Featuring the muskie is particularly relevant. The subspecies Ohio muskellunge is native to the Mahoning River.
Known in science circles as Esox ohiensis, the Ohio muskie differs genetically from the Great Lakes variety. It was identified in 1854 from a specimen taken from the Mahoning River near the confluence of Yellow Creek in Struthers.
"This fish has local significance and it is especially exciting to see anglers fishing for them again in the Mahoning River," Mascarella said. Every year, a number of big muskies are caught in the Mahoning at locations in Warren, Niles, Youngstown and elsewhere.
Before a specialty license plate can go into production, Ohio's Bureau of Motor Vehicles requires 1,000 valid signatures. Once the plates are approved, motorists can buy them for an extra fee of $25. Fifteen of those dollars would go toward the cleanup effort.
"We have collected 490 valid signatures," Mascarella said.
A special signature collection drive will be conducted from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 14 at Canfield Fairgrounds during the Green Team's Household Hazardous Waste Collection Drive. The signature effort will be staffed by the Mahoning River Consortium and the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.
Interested persons also can visit www.mahoningriver.com for petitions and information.
The cool weather this weekend may put a bit of a damper on the walleye, crappie and bass fishing that had been heating up on local reservoirs. Hot muskie fishing also has been reported at Pymatuning Reservoir.
Chris DePaola of Austintown, an officer in the Cleveland Chapter of Muskies Inc., said Pymatuning has been "smokin'."
He reported a large fish was taken by an angler trolling shad lures on short lines over Pymatuning's emerging weed beds.
He said two boats took a total of 11 muskies there in recent days, including one measuring 46.5 inches.