Musky America Magazine June 2022 Edition Thank you for visiting Musky America Magazine! We have been waiting for months for the 2022 season and it is finally here. This issue will cover a range of tactics to help you get reacquainted with soft water. Stay Safe, You Can’t Catch Musky From The Grave Each day of the Musky season, anglers experience encounters on the water that can provide insights for all of us Musky anglers. For information about submitting articles for inclusion in Musky America Magazine, Please CLICK HERE! Craig Sandell Owner and Fellow Musky Angler The Icons shown here are at the bottom of the Magazine pages. *All Rights Preserved©*
If you find yourself in need of “short-term” medical care for cuts, abrasions, hooks in the hand, and other Musky fishing maladies, this is a great option. Visit the website at Birchwood Family Medicine | Birchwood Direct Primary Care. Early Season Dark & Clear Water Tactics By Al Denninger © 2011 "Water Wolf," "Green Lightning," "Freshwater Barracuda," or just plan Musky; whatever you call him, his time has come. To say that the Musky is an important Wisconsin game fish would be a gross understatement. Entire economies of some towns in northern Wisconsin rest solidly on the thick back of the Musky. In these towns, the major industry most often is the resort business…a business that prospers with the catch of a large fish or declines with the imposition of poor fishery policy. This is the fish that has completely changed people’s lives. It has given fortune and glory to some, and to others, financial ruin or the loss of their happy home.
Dark Water Early Season Tactics Most of the action centers on the dark water lakes, rivers, and flowages due to the fact that they are the first to experience warming. Musky prefer 68-72 degree water temperature. Dark water bodies of water will reach this before deep clear water lakes. A few of the better bets for early season waters would be Moose Lake, which is excellent in May and early June. In addition, Ghost, Lost Land, and teal turn on fast in the early part of the season. Suggested lures are small bucktails and down sized Rapalas and Crane baits. Surface bait action starts out slow, but if you do throw one, make it a slow moving one like a ZZ Topper, or any similar top water lures. Another early season chain is the Spider Chain. Here you can use larger crank baits as you work the shoreline weeds. Fish are very weed oriented in this chain. Even the Walleyes act as though they were bass. Fallen trees are also spots where small bucktails can be very effective. Of course, the Chippewa Flowage, with its dark water usually starts producing nice fish from opening day. A quick look at the Chip’s track record says it all…look at the Musky charts from Indian Trail Resort for perspective. There is always a chance that you will tie into a big early season fish, however, most early season fish are males that range from 36 – 41 inches. Places that I would look for early season Musky action are cattail points, stump areas, and floating bogs that are hung up on stumps…you’ll find fish hanging around these spots. Also, if the water is high, shorelines with fallen trees in 12 inches of water are worth a few casts.
Clear Water Tactics Spawning areas are the key. If you can find shallow bays with remnant vegetation, you’ll be on your way to finding fish. Musky will spawn in water temperatures from 48-56 degrees. Spawning usually takes place in shallow bays on bottom muck, preferably in an area with sunken logs and stumps. Eggs are dropped in 6-18 inches of water. My first area to check out would be these bays. Keep moving out to the edge of the bays where drop offs occur. If the fish have vacated the bays, look for them in the nearest green weed patch where the weeds are 24 inches high or more. In all cases, 5-7 inch minnow baits and small to medium bucktails are good lure choices. A good approach is to use Crane, Slammer, or Hi Finn Sidewinder lures twitched on the surface and reeled or jerked 12 feet…then let them rise to the surface. My favorite is the Skimmer bucktail. This bait accounts for some of the most consistent action. Perch color on clear lakes and purple or gray crappie on dark water. Plan B If, after trying the shallows with out success, it may be that the fish have moved temporarily to deeper water because of weather of boat traffic. A trick that has saved the guide day for me on more than one occasion is using a feather tailed lure like the Mepps Marabou. I’ll locate fish cribs on my electronics, and using the rip/flutter method, jig this bait around the cribs. Musky hanging around these underwater ‘fast food buffets’ can be triggered into striking by the erratic action of the bait.
GOOD SCOUTING & A FLEXIBLE TACKLE ATTACK Will Raise Overlooked Musky By: Craig Sandell, © 2014 Good scouting of the body of water you are fishing upon is essential to being a successful Musky angler. Even if you are sure that you "know" the water you are fishing, it doesn't hurt to take a couple of hours to revisit old spots and refresh your memory. In this article we are going to discuss scouting the "spot-on-a-spot" as well as some tackle tactics for producing fish on such a location. The first step is to identify a likely candidate. You do this by getting a good map of the body of water you are on and taking the time to locate likely fish locations. Once you have a few areas selected, you have to go out and look them over. The island shown here at the left is the island that we will discuss. Notice that the island has shallow weed growth jutting out from two points. An island like this looks pretty good, however, you need to really investigate a piece of structure like this to be sure of its potential. For what characteristics should you be looking? You are looking for saddle areas, shallow shelves, rock piles, gradually deepening water and the presence of a main river channel. Any two of these structural characteristics can be an indicator of good Musky potential.
NOTE: The vegetation you see in the picture above is no longer there due to high water and tuff winters. In this case, this structural piece has all of these characteristics and is, therefore, deserving of some close attention and regular stops during any Musky outing. The redrawn topographic representation of this island tells it all. There is more to this island than one might think. There is an extensive weed bed between the small island and the larger adjacent island. The extended shelf that tops out at 3 feet is surrounded by gradually deepening water. There is a main river channel on either side of this extended shelf acting as a "superhighway" for Musky in transit. How should this piece of structure be fished? This island is a prime candidate for a flexible tackle approach aimed at hunting for those fish that are not typically hunted. The approach is one of high percentage and versatility. You need to have four rods. Each rod is set-up with a different type of lure. You may elect to use different line weights and reels with different retrieve ratios. The four lure types are bucktail, surface bait, crank bait running at 4 to 10 feet and a crank bait running 8 to 15 feet...a glide or jerk bait should also be considered. The area between the two land structures has weeds and a depth of about 3-5 feet. Weeds are also close into all visible shorelines. A surface bait and/or a bucktail are the bait of choice in these areas. The sunken bar in front of the small island tops out at about 3 to 5 feet from the surface. The bar is a rock and gravel bar and is usually void of weeds. A bucktail is the lure of choice when in close proximity to
the bar. The drop-off ranges from the 3 to 5 feet at the top of the bar to 30 to 35 feet as you get more into the original river channel. As you work out from the bar, the lure of choice becomes a crank bait. Depending upon the depth, you would use the 4 to 10 feet deep running crank bait or the 8 to 15 feet running crank bait. Reels with different retrieve ratios will be helpful with this crank bait approach. Keep in mind that there are a good number of stumps at the 20 foot depth all along the contour of the bar. It is very likely that bait fish are suspended at the lower depths among the stumps. It is also likely that Mr. Musky is lurking around down there also. Two people could probably fish this area really well in about 20 minutes using natural drift and trolling motor positioning. Most articles like this one do not tell you where this piece of structure is located so you have no way to actually test out the scouting and tackle approach that has been discussed. This, however, is the Internet and the business of Musky America is to provide information that you can actually use, unlike some other websites trying to sell magazines or a guide's brand of lure. For those of you who fish the Chippewa Flowage, this island is Willow Island. It is on the East side of the Chippewa Flowage adjacent to Church Bar. This piece of structure has produced many respectable Musky catches over the years and is the location where at least two 55+ inch fish have been seen. If you are fishing the Chippewa Flowage, make sure that you visit this spot.
Musky Success - Little Things Mean A Lot By Tony Rizzo © 2005 Reprinted with permission Most musky fishermen have a fairly good understanding of the basics of the sport. Information on musky fishing is much more available today than it was 15 or 20 years ago. The high quality lake maps on the market pinpoint most of the better spots on most popular lakes. The many books, magazines and videos on musky fishing provide information on techniques and methods. Musky clubs and musky tournaments allow the sharing of information and the observing and learning from others. The result of all this information is that there are not only more musky fishermen today, there are more good fishermen. Yet, as in any endeavor, there are a select few musky fishermen that are truly exceptional at their craft and are consistently more successful than the average good fishermen. Some people are just born with the right instincts, but for most of us it is the attention to detail that makes the difference. Little things mean a lot. I am not going to harp once again about making sure that your hooks are sharp. I think everyone knows they should be. Some people keep them sharp and some people don't. I think it has as much to do with individual personalities, as anything and my repeating it one more time won't change behaviors. And I am not going to talk about how important it is to retie your knots every few hours of musky fishing. I think you should; I do. Most readers already know that is important. Many just won't realize how important it is and probably won't until they lose that first big fish because they didn't retie their line. With the new high-quality fishing lines that are on the market it isn't as important as it used to be but it is still important. You have to decide for yourself if it is
worth the effort. I won't say I told you so when someone tells me about a line breaking at the knot; I have been there. I do believe however that it is the attention to the little things that do make the difference on the water. Let us say that it is the middle of the summer and you are fishing on a lake that you are somewhat familiar with and after several hours of casting a fish in the mid40 inch range shows up behind your bait but does not hit. What goes through your head? Was the fish active or passive? Were her gills flaring or was her mouth snapping? Was the fish suspended or did it come off of structure? Did she come out of the weeds or was she in logs or rocks? Was there any wind? Was current influencing where she was? Some people are just happy to see a fish and don't think too much about it. But the more successful fishermen will try to understand as much as they can about why that fish was there. One fish encounter may only provide a few possible clues, but multiple encounters often allow the piecing together of the overall puzzle of fish location... Patterns emerge. Over years of time on the same body of water, the idiosyncrasies of that Lake and individual spots become increasingly clear and the learning curve on any specific day is shortened. All the books and the magazines and seminars and videos can only take you so far. There is no substitute for time on the water. Going a little further with this example, let us say that it is a cloudy day and the fish came off of the point of a small rock bar
in 12 feet of water at 10:30 in the morning. There is a slight wind that is just beginning to pick up from the Northeast. There are several things that I'm going to take notice of but then I am probably going to make a few quick assumptions based on that first follow of the day. The first thing I am going to do is to check the exact time of day and file it away in my head for future reference. Based on the fact that the first fish came from relatively shallow water, I am going to finish this spot and move to the next with the assumption that the fish are going to be active. I am going to note the size of the rocks and where the fish came off the structure in relation to the wind. This is what is going to influence my decision of which spots to fish next and where to position my boat when I worked them. My tentative plan will be that I am going to cover all of the places on the lake that are similar in terms of depth, rock size, and orientation to the wind. After thoroughly fishing a few more spots I would expect to have a pretty good handle on whether there is a pattern here or it was just a single active fish. If the muskies are active, it usually isn't necessary to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together. The real key to catching muskies is to be fishing where they are biting. There are days when anyone on the lake will be catching muskies. It doesn't seem to matter what spot or lure or presentation. Those days just don't happen all that often and paying attention to the details will often mean the difference between success and failure on all those other days. There are times and there are spots that both position and retrieved angle are absolutely critical. When we are trying to understand lure presentation for muskies, thoughts have to begin with lure depth and speed. There are times when lures speed is the most important factor. Generally speaking, I believe a slow
retrieve is best for big fish, but there are times when a fast retrieve definitely triggers fish. The depth of the lure is also critical. The more active the fish the more critical lure depth becomes. Muskies are less likely to come up to a lure on lakes that are highly pressured. On a highly pressured lake, you are probably more likely to entice a musky to eat by putting a crank bait down deep and in her face, than you are hoping she will come up to a shallow running bucktail. Under cold front conditions, your odds are probably better slow pumping a large soft plastic lure near the bottom or working a deep diving slow moving jerk bait or crank bait. If the fishing conditions are tough and the muskies are not aggressively chasing, thinking deeper and slower is a good starting point. Downsizing lures under the same condition is also worth a try. Interestingly, there are times when surface baits really excel under these same tough fishing conditions. Speaking of tough fishing conditions, lure contact with the bottom structure can often make all the difference. For some reason, the Rizzo Big-T can be an astonishing cold front lure. This is a sharp diving lure and can be worked by bouncing it off rocks or the bottom with each pull and letting it float back off between them. There is something about all those rattles when bouncing off the bottom that really triggers in active fish. Bouncing the Rizzo Bit-T or a deep diving floating crank bait off sand bottoms is another tactic that works all season long, but comes into its own on the
tough days. The little puffs of sand as the lure contact bottom seem to really trigger fish. There are also times when the lure sizes can be incredibly important. Downsizing lures on action lakes or on high pressured waters is often one of the keys to success. However, I know of several lakes that don't fit these classifications; the fish in these lakes always seem to prefer smaller lures. Several years ago I was working a window on one of the larger more popular lakes in the area upon which I guide. I was taking advantage of that window for several weeks and could count on boating three or four legal muskies between 9 AM and 11 AM every morning. Now this is not generally considered an action Lake and this was a much better than normal success rate. The interesting thing is that all of the action came on the Rizzo Tail. We tried small buck tails and we tried small crank baits with no success. I tried my large Rizzo Tail a number of times and never had a hit. The difference in size between the small Rizzo Tail and the large Rizzo Tail is less than an inch, yet it made all the difference in the world. Let's go back once again to the fish with which we started. One of the decisions that will have to be made is whether to stay on the fish or move to some other spots and come back later, letting the water rest. Unless the fish was really hot, I would most likely try a few other spots and come back a while later. After fishing a few spots we are going to hope we have caught or move a few more fish and can establish some sort of pattern. I would likely be back on this fish later in the day and maybe several times if she kept showing herself. When I said that one of the first things I would do after moving a fish is to check the exact time, I can't stress how important that
little detail is. If this was a big fish, one that I wanted, I would fish that same spot at that time every time I was on that link. I have friends that accuse me of being obsessive compulsive about this because I have been known to go back to a specific spot at a specific time for a fish that I haven't seen for a few years. Once I am sure that the fish is big and worth my time, I found that this tactic has paid off for me too many times to not continue doing. Much of what I am talking about here depends on the fishermen paying attention to what is happening and being able to see fish in the water. Now I know many people have better vision than others. I have many clients that are colorblind and picking out follows can be more difficult for them. But I believe that most people will see more fish by simply focusing and paying attention. A number of years ago I received a call from a woman who wanted to book a guide date for herself and her future husband. As we talked, she told me that they had been fishing my area for a number of years but with very little success. She went on to say that not only did they not catch fish,but they were seeing very few. I asked her a few questions about what time of the year they came up and what lakes they fished. She told me that they always came up in June and I was surprised when she told me the lakes that they fished because they were excellent choices for that time of year. We booked a guide date
for the coming June. When June rolled around I met them on our arrange morning and we were blessed with good fishing conditions. I decided to start out on a stained dark water Lake and was surprised once again when I found out they were good casters. After several hours of fishing we had action from seven fish. The man boated a nice legal and the woman lost a musky that would have gone close to 40 inches through no fault of her own. The fish charged the boat and through the lure when it came out of the water. Even the best in the business have lost fish in that manner. After a short lunch, we switched lakes and moved to a deeper clear lake. And the few hours that we fish, I saw a number of other fish and we boated to more legal fish. I am happy to say the young woman caught a beautiful 39-inch musky that afternoon. As we neared the end of the day, I told them that I knew what their problem was. I told them that neither of them could see fish. They could see but they did not look. I cannot stress how important a brimmed hat and polarized glasses are in musky fishing. Just as important is learning to look and to see. I have had many clients over the years that struggle to see fish early on, but with time and experience became reasonably proficient at it. Seeing fish is critical to making your time on the water more efficient. Another little thing that I would like to point out is the importance of keeping your body in a good position to set the hook during all retrieve. Along with this is keeping your rod tip low. Retrieving with a high rod tip makes setting the hook almost impossible.
How you hold your rod is also important. Some fishermen hold the rod above the real; some Palm the real as they hold the rod; and some hold the rod below the real. Holding the rod below the reel seat also makes a good hook set difficult and you won't get nearly as much pressure on the fish. Getting good hook sets is especially important with the fish. With those hard mouths, you need as much pressure as you can get. Incidentally, for anyone who hasn't tried it, I would suggest trying setting hooks in the yard with a friend. Using your regular Muskie rod and line, have a friend take out 20 or 30 feet of line and take turns setting the hook while one of you holds the lure at the other end. (You might want to take the hooks off.) Most of you will find that the hook set that you think is "crossing their eyes" is barely a light tug at the other end. Try it; you will get a new perspective on setting hooks. Paying attention to detail is equally important after you hook that fish of a lifetime. The musky fishermen that I see using poor quality nets or nets that are way too small for the job continually surprises me. With all the money we spent on boats, rods, reels and equipment, it doesn't make sense to not have a quality net with you whenever you are out musky fishing. My preference in a net has long been those nets made by Beckman. They also have a net with a rubberized baggie and I recommend it highly. Speaking of nets, how often have we heard the stories of a big musky going through the bottom of the net? In most cases this is because the net has rotted through years of sitting in the sun. Make certain you replace your net bag whenever it shows any sign of weakening. Being prepared also means having the proper tools in your boat to release muskies quickly and cleanly. No musky fishermen should be out fishing without a good pair of long nose pliers and
a quality compound hook cutter. A musky's life is in your hands when you are removing the hooks. The less stress you put on that fish better the odds are of survival. If the hooks are deeply embedded, don't be shy about cutting the hooks. It is in court to get the fish back in the water as fast as possible. Make certain you are prepared. The key to consistent long-term success in musky fishing is the attention to details. I've only touched on a few of them here. There are no secret lakes and there are no magic lures. Success comes from learning something every time you are on the water and applying what you learn in your everyday fishing.
"YOU'VE GOT TO...FISH IT CLEAN" Especially in dark water situations… putting a lure in an active Musky's strike zone may take more than a few casts JOHN DETTLOFF © 2006 It was the spring of 1923, when veteran Musky man Jack Trombly and a young Louie Spray made an observation that was to forever change the way in which they Musky fished. From that day forward, both men began to make a conscious effort to stick with a likely spot in other words, "to fish it clean" - rather than always being in a hurry to get to the next spot. Recalling that spring day more than 74 years ago, Spray wrote: "While Trombly and I were walking the tracks, heading for Black Lake, we stopped on the railroad bridge which crossed the Chippewa River at the outlet of Blaisdell Lake, Wisconsin. There was a fellow casting from the north shore of the river, about 100 feet above the bridge. The sun was shining just right and we saw two nice muskies lying just below a very large rock that stuck two or three feet out of the water. "We told the guy fishing about it, but he mistrusted us and paid no attention. I finally ran over to him and asked to use his rod while he went and looked for himself. He took one look and lost
no time getting back, where he very rudely grabbed the rod out of my hand right in the middle of a cast! When I went back up onto the bridge, Jack said I had been laying it all around them but they never even looked at it. This guy could handle a rod and was laying it right in there too but, like Jack said, the two muskies paid no heed. "After watching for a while, we decided to start back towards Black Lake. We had only gone perhaps 400 or 500 feet, when the fellow hollered, 'Come and help me, I got one on!' So we ran back. Jack took one quick look and cut the man a nice club. The fisherman didn't want to wade out into that cold water but we both told him, if he expected to land that fish, he was going to have to get way out there. So he waded out about hip deep. "He knew how to fight a fish alright. Got him up finally and cracked him on the head, waited a few seconds until after the fish had his last little struggle, and then took him by the gills and brought him ashore. It was probably 38 or 40 inches long. It was certainly a nice little Musky." So right then and there, one Louie Spray had learned the lesson of all Musky lessons: persistence pays off. Or' as my friend Bruce Tasker has always said, "You've got to fish it clean." I believe it was during a late August morning in 1979 when I first heard this casual utterance from Bruce as he knowingly oared his 1 6-foot Shell Lake guide boat along the edge of one of the Chippewa Flowage's many prime shallow water Musky bars. And while the importance of this soft-spoken directive might not have been recognized by others, something in the way this sagely, white-haired Musky man spoke those words seemed to indicate that what Bruce said was worth remembering.
Being all ears and hungry to learn any tidbits of Musky wisdom that Bruce was willing to share with my partner and myself, I don't think I took any of Bruce's comments lightly. Still, his words, "You've got to fish it clean," seemed to implant deeply in my mind. There was a clear blue sky, slight west breeze rippling the water, and temperatures were pushing well above 70 degrees that morning. Not what one would consider to be good Musky fishing conditions but, as Bruce has always said, "a Musky will always violate any theory you might have." Within an hour we rose our first fish, one that made an impressive boil behind my black Topper. The fish came out from two large stumps which were hung up on a small sand point. After thoroughly working the rest of the bar, Bruce quietly repositioned his boat for yet another drift on the spot. "This must be what Bruce meant by fishing an area clean," I thought. Handing me one of his red bucktails with a chartreuse twister impaled on the middle treble hook, Bruce said, "Try this." I wasn't about to argue. Within just a few casts, a beautiful 27- to 30pound Musky followed to the boat. What a sight! At the time, it was one of the biggest muskies that I had ever seen. Deciding to let this fish rest for a bit, Bruce took my partner and me over to some nearby islands. And after raising three more muskies we realized that the muskies were active. Not wanting to give up on the big one we raised an hour earlier, Bruce took us back to give her a try. And I'm glad he did; on my very first cast a Musky nailed my black Topper. The initial foam job that took place after I set the hooks made us all think I had the big one, but after fighting it for a few seconds we soon realized it was a different fish still, a 40 1/2-incher.
This is just one example of how thoroughly one may sometimes have to fish an area before catching a Musky. While the Musky that I caught is likely to have moved to the spot during the time we were resting the bigger fish, I know through personal experience that many times it takes a lot of coaxing before a Musky will strike. Have you ever tried fishing a dark water lake or flowage and after seemingly hitting every likely spot, you have little more to show for your efforts than a couple of sore arms and a slightly bruised ego? Have you ever been mystified upon hearing how others were able to pull fish off of some of the very same spots that you yourself had just fished, but with no success? Perhaps you're not spending enough time covering each spot. Perhaps you're not fishing them clean.
AN OLD DARK WATER TRICK While it seems that there never ceases to be some new fishing secret or gadget that promises instant Musky fishing success these days, I think that sometimes too much emphasis can he put upon these kinds of things and often the more basic tips can be overlooked. In this faster paced day and era of high speed fishing boats it has made today's fisherman a bit less patient than those of an earlier time. And that's why I consider fishing an area clean to be one of the cornerstone dark water Musky fishing tips. Remember … the darker the water, the smaller a Musky's strike zone and the more casts it will take to cover a given spot. Run & gun tactics work much better in clear water situations but don't be in such a hurry when it comes to fishing dark water. You'd be surprised how many muskies that you may be passing over. An unforgettable guiding experience that I had four years ago on June 29th most vividly illustrates this point. I was guiding Steve and Teri Van Heuklin for a split full day. With no action during the early morning, I had hoped the evening would yield better results after our midday break. Before beginning the second half of our guide day, I noticed the clear skies quickly begin to darken and I began to get excited about what could transpire that evening. After a visit from my old friend Mitch Kmiotek late that afternoon, he got me so hyped up that I could hardly wait to hit the water again. Mitch, you see, has to be the world's greatest teller of Musky stories and after listening to a few of his classic tales, I returned to my boat primed for the second half of our guide day.
In our first spot Steve caught a small Musky on a Water Thumper. Then we hit a small reed point not the type of spot that takes very long to hit, and not the type of spot you would think would hold numerous muskies at the same time. While holding the boat in position for Steve and Teri to cast along the edge of the reeds, I noticed one little "hole" that was left open by them - a tiny spot that their lures had missed. After holding our position so my clients could get a lure into that spot, I noticed a barrage of lures land everywhere around that spot but not in the spot. Surely, there couldn't be any hungry muskies left anywhere along the edge of those reeds – or could there be? Well, I wasn't about to move the boat until I found out and a lure landed precisely in that spot. Getting a bit weary of casting that same old stand of reeds, Steve was beginning to question to himself why the boat wasn't moving. Just then, Steve's black Hawg Wobbler landed exactly on target and I thought to myself, "Bingo, that's the spot." As soon as he moved his lure, a 30-pounder exploded on his bait and came flying wildly out of the water! The fish was on halfway to the boat, did some wild turns, and threw the lure. And even though I knew that you can't afford to leave any open holes when you're working an area in such a progression, part of me still thought, "Where did he come from?"
But I knew better. You have to fish your spots clean! The fight only lasted for a matter of seconds but what a sight. Amazingly, on Steve's very next cast, he had another big one eat his Hawg Wobbler. It later measured 44 1/2 inches. Had we breezed through the area, we never would have dealt with those two fish. After working over the rest of the area, we returned about 45 minutes later - just in case the 30-pounder was still on the feed. On edge because of what could be still lurking in the area, we all just about jumped out of our skins when a 40-incher annihilated Teri's black Globe on her first cast into the area. Three nice muskies all relating to the same small piece of structure at the same time. It was just as if we had lived out one of ol' Mitch's 50year-old Musky tales. It's not necessarily knowing where the spots are that is always the most important thing but how you fish them that makes all the difference. Very often I will take my clients to some spots that they have already fished before. And a common question from many of these first time clients is, "Do you always spend this much time on this spot or do you just have a big one spotted here?" These kinds of questions often end up coming from people who are probably breezing through their spots too quickly and are not fishing them clean.
FOCUS ON PRIMARY HOLDING AREAS Every structural element has primary holding areas such as weedbeds, stumps or brush; perhaps a small piece of submerged bog and contour irregularities like points, inside turns, small holes and quick dropping edges. After spending enough hours on a particular spot, you'll begin to discover which of these primary holding areas are defining the spot's core areas. While it does remain important to still fish an entire spot, keying on its primary holding areas and fishing them thoroughly will undoubtedly yield much better results in the long run than just randomly breezing through a spot using run and gun tactics. Good boat control is essential for thorough coverage of your spots. While working my boat through an area, I hover my boat adjacent to any primary holding structures which have proven themselves as being high percentage honey holes, allowing my clients to saturate these core areas with as many casts as it takes to thoroughly cover them. Certain specific spots have shown themselves to be so consistent that I'll even do a "double hover" working them over with unrelenting confidence. A somewhat expanded version of the double hover approach is to work a small point bar thoroughly from both edges. There are many small point bars that can be easily covered by working them from just one edge and many Musky anglers would consider a spot covered in such a way to be adequate. More often than not, it won't be adequately covered until you work that same point bar from the opposite edge. I'm not sure whether it's the slightly different angle of lure presentation or it's just not until the second progression of overlapped casts that the lure just
happens to find that precise strike zone of a hungry Musky. It's often not until my second edge drift on a point bar that I get a Musky to show itself. CORNERING A MUSKY When you finally get a Musky to either make an aggressive follow or hit short at a lure, there are ways of catching them. While the muskies in some waters seem to have permanent addresses among certain holding areas, the residents of other Musky waters tend to be a bit more nomadic and can be more difficult to pin down. These roamers don't seem to hang as long on one particular spot and are most catchable if an angler sticks with a spot right after he raises a Musky. My experience with Chippewa Flowage muskies is that they often possess this more nomadic trait. Whether the numerous rivers which feed the flowage con-tribute to this increased musky movement or it's the consistent pattern of boat traffic that keeps the muskies on the move is difficult to say. I've learned that the longer you let a flowage Musky rest, the less likely you are to ever see it again. So when I raise one, I'll make sure I work the area over before I give up. And, if I want to try for a specific fish on the next day, I'll try it again at exactly the same time of day. Very often you can raise the same fish two days in a row by trying it at the same time the next day. If you think a fish is really something worth chasing, I still think there's no better way of getting him than by 'dying" on the spot and emptying your tackle box at him. Muskies tend to position themselves in certain little ambush haunts. When you have a Musky follow or take a pass at your lure, that fish will usually settle right back into the exact little ambush haunt from which it originally came.
If you're trying for a specific Musky that you have just raised, keep working the rest of the area because there's likely to be another Musky using the same area. Then quietly work back for a second pass through the exact spot from which the first Musky came. Try different lures, working the spot from different angles, and be patient! Don't give up too quickly. Many a time I've spent more than a half-hour pounding one little haunt before I've finally been able to catch my finicky quarry. I'll never forget one such occurrence. It was a cool, clear midSeptember evening in 1995 when I had a tremendous, short hit behind my black Heddon Crazy Crawler at around 8:45 p.m. The fish threw water high into the air and made a loud explosion that could only have been made by something rather respectable. This was certainly a fish that I needed to get a better look at in the bottom of my net! Camping on the spot, I decided to lay claim to the area for the remainder of the night. I worked the entire bar over with a variety of lures, often changing back to Creepers and heavily saturating the exact spot that the fish originated. After 45 minutes, the dusk had turned into total darkness and a brilliant canopy of stars had formed overhead. The cool autumn night had gotten even crisper and the quiet hum of my flasher unit began to lull me into a semisleep state. Just then I felt a sudden jolt as the big Musky took an authoritative swat at my green LeLure Creeper but I failed to connect with the hooks. And it was in the very same spot as before! This Musky almost seemed to be toying with me, but I figured if I maintained my quiet presence and stuck it out, this fish could make a big mistake. So, even though I was dead tired and it was all I could do to keep my eyes open (being sleep deprived from having a newborn baby at home), I opted to continue my vigil on
the spot. After about 15 intense minutes of whipping the water to a froth where the Musky last dared to show itself, I eased back into a more comfortable pace and systematically began to work the entire bar with my Creeper. The passing of 30 more minutes of undisturbed casting, the millions of bright pulsations in the heavens making my eyes grow heavier, and the utter stillness of the night all finally joined together to allow sleep to finally overtake my consciousness. Somehow being able to continue standing and turning my reel handle, I fell into intervals of 2-minute sleeps while slowly retrieving my lure …sleeps which were only briefly interrupted by each successive cast. I was just conscious enough to faintly hear the muffled sound of my Creeper plop-plopping on the water and the huge explosion that inevitably occurred. While still asleep, on reflex I was still able to set the hook and then three seconds into the fight I finally woke up! This time I felt meat and I could see white water flying in the distance. Being rather sluggish from my slumber, fighting this fish was more difficult than usual. And the numbness in my hands brought on by the cool night air only added to the challenge. But I was able to land this nice 23-pound Musky….a fish which took a full hour and a half to finally eat my lure, yet another example of why it pays to slow down and fish a spot thoroughly. What better endorsement could you have for a Musky fishing method than if you fish your spots clean, you too might find yourself catching muskies in your sleep!
REDEFINING THE "RUN & GUN" APPROACH... IMPROVE YOUR MUSKY SUCCESS by: Jason Long © 1998 There is no disputing that finesse fishing has its time and place when hunting the elusive Musky, however, every Musky fishing adventure should include a well thought out "Run and Gun" strategy. Regardless of whether you are very familiar with the water or exploring a new lake, establishing a "plan" prior to launching the boat can significantly reduce the amount of time required to locate active fish and ultimately boat a beast. I was born, raised, and reside in Wisconsin, therefore I am a die hard Green Bay Packer Fan. Watching coach Mike Holmgren has taught me a lesson for establishing a game plan. Through intensive research prior to a game, Mike will select 15 plays that he will "script" in an effort to identify any patterns from the opposing team and how they will respond to his tactics. Despite success or failure, all 15 plays will be executed before he attempts to make any adjustments to his offense. Mike Holmgren’s method has been proven successful through the Packers’ two recent Super Bowl appearances, and applying the same method to your Run & Gun Musky fishing approach will lead you to success too! When planning to utilize the Run & Gun fishing approach there are two key elements for developing a "milk run": developing the "script" and making "adjustments". Both will test your ability to be creative and your knowledge of the notorious muskellunge.
Before you can begin developing a "script", you must first obtain a quality hydrographic map. Not only will a map help you locate and identify key structural elements on a new or unfamiliar lake, it will also serve as a "checklist" to remind you of your plan when on the water. Once you have a map, you will need to study every contour line to reveal any obvious and subtle fishing locations. Factoring in seasonal elements, forage base, water clarity, weed development, etc., a variety of locations should be selected to begin your efforts. A good "script" would include several different types of structure and presentations, such as bucktails over shallow weeds and crankin’ rock humps. Remember, you should not jump ahead to the "adjustment" phase until you have completed your entire milk run, regardless of success or failure to boat a fish at one of your first stops. You wouldn’t want to miss a feeding frenzy on the rock bars because you caught a small, neutral fish in the weeds at your first stop and never gave the rocks a chance. After you have completed your pre-established milk run, take a few minutes to assess the information you have learned through your efforts and use that information to make required adjustments. Use the information to: Identify any location/structural patterns Look for additional locations that fit any established patterns Select productive presentations or alternative methods Consider an entirely new location
As a kid, I had plenty of opportunity to fish for Musky on a large reservoir exceeding 12,000 acres in size. This provided a seemingly endless number of fishing locations throughout a day of fishing. As a result, I naturally learned to use the Run & Gun method early in my Musky chasing days. When I traveled to Canada for my first time (1996) and fished Lake of the Woods with over 1,000,000 acres of Musky infested water, I was actually overwhelmed when attempting to develop a "milk run" with absolutely no experience in the shield at all. My partner and I established a milk run based on his past trip (this was his second trip to Canada) targeting large weedy bays, bald rock reefs, and small isolated weed beds in between. We saw a few fish on our first day and struggled to establish any consistent pattern. Fortunately, our best guess at a pattern was correct and I connected with my first Canadian Musky, a fat 46 incher estimated at 27lbs. What a fantastic release! We utilized that pattern, small weed beds on large mid lake humps, the remainder of our 3 day trip without boating another Musky, however a few made our knees shake. I am also breaking new paradigms since purchasing my own boat & trailer with which I can explore new waters. A "milk run" should not limit a person to one body of water. I have had great success on small lakes (less than 500 acres) using the Run & Gun method here in Wisconsin. Some days you may need to
hop lakes several times to connect with a good fish, other days one lake might produce consistently. Here is a classic example: I began a day of Musky hunting on a deep, clear lake and was having success due to the overcast skies and light rain. By noon, however, the sky cleared and the sun pounded down onto calm water. The fish "turnedoff" on the clear water lake, but I quickly trailered my boat to a nearby lake with stained water and connected with a nice 41 inch release. I will sacrifice 20 minutes or even an hour of fishing to trailer to a new lake if it will improve my chances of landing a Musky. As you can see, the Run & Gun approach to Musky hunting can be used in almost any situation. Whether you are fishing large Canadian Shield lakes or small Midwestern watersheds this method can reduce the time required to locate and consistently catch the elusive muskellunge. Of course, it is never EASY. Good Luck!
Early Season Musky Tips For Bucktails By Craig Sandell©2017 Real early spring musky fishing will generally be slow until the fish have spawned and some warmer weather hits. However, when the fish finally do become active, the best approach seems to be smaller lures including smaller bucktails. When I say small, I am generally referring to lure lengths of fewer than 5 inches. A small lightweight spinner is very appealing to a musky’s light appetite in this early season. Many spring Muskies have been taken on small bucktails. Their smallness makes them an easy lure to work all day long, plus they really hook fish well, and yes they do indeed take some big fish. One of the biggest drawbacks to fishing small bucktails for Muskies is their lack of weight and strength in construction. I do not recommend attempting to tackle spring Muskies with light action gear. Unless you are a very accomplished angler, the odds are just not in your favor. Being able to utilize a standard musky outfit with the smaller bucktail is to your advantage for hook setting, fighting the fish, and just plain keeping him on your line. A smart choice in tackle would include 50 or 80 pound TufLine, and a solid wire leader gauge of .029 which is greater than 80 pound test. Make certain, however, that the leader is equipped with a top quality snap and swivel (Don't try to get by on the cheap).
Top areas to fish for spring Muskies would include warm shallow mud bays with plenty of backwater areas. These backwater areas are used by the musky for spawning. Any adjacent points, bars, weed patches, or weed beds, and wooded areas could also be feeding hotspots. Sometimes a shallow rock bar near the spawning area will hold a real nice Musky early in the year. Big female Muskies will quickly vacate the shallows after spawning and take up temporary residence on such adjacent spots. Very often, these fish fall victim to the spring walleye angler using a small jig and minnow combination…Most of the time these monsters just simply bite off or break the line. But once in a while they’re hooked in the lip and tangle with a good fisherman who eventually wins and lands a 30 pound class Musky. These areas are better fished with small musky lures like bucktails worked close to the bottom with a relatively slow retrieve (you may want to use a reel with a slower retrieve ratio). Fast retrieves and high riding lures are not nearly as productive in the spring. The best retrieve for spring Muskies is slow and deep. By deep, I mean working the lure deep enough to stay just above cover or the actual bottom. If the water is stained, you would do best by bumping the low cover as much as possible.
There will be other situations when fishing spring Muskies where you will be faced with working your lure through emergent shallow cover like exposed brush and timber, lily pads, and reeds or bulrushes. In this case a treble hook lure may not be the best choice even if you are using a weedless treble configuration. Treble hooks will not work well through this type of cover. A better lure choice for this type of fishing would be a single hook spinnerbait. A larger, heavy duty model bass spinnerbait with either tandem blades or a large single blade would be a good choice with a weight of at least ¾ ounce. Single hook spinnerbaits have an upriding hook and a semi-protective overhead wire arm that also helps to prevent fouling of the lure (some have stinger hooks which you may want to remove). Spinnerbaits are tailor made for this type of cover. You can pitch them using a short sturdy rod engaging the retrieve just as the bait hits the water...this will also help to keep the spinnerbait from fouling. They can be cast into and worked right through all types of emergent cover with very few hang ups. Tight Lines
WHERE DO THE MUSKY GO? Craig Sandell © 2013 During the course of the Muskie season, the weather can be your Muskie fishing partner or your enemy. Previous Musky seasons have shown us that when the weather does not cooperate the Muskie fishing will go into the toilet. Aside from rapid swings in barometric pressure, a rapidly moving cold front has probably the greatest effect upon Muskie activity. It doesn't take much of a cold front to turn Muskie off. Actually, a cold front is a double-sided sword. As the cold front approaches and the weather becomes unstable, Muskie tend to put the feed bag on. If weather is coupled with favorable moon conditions, the lucky Muskie angler can really tap into some great fishing. However, once the cold front comes through, things tend to change. The colder weather tends to put a stop to the insect hatches that bring forage fish into the shallows. As the forage fish move into deeper water, the Muskie will either follow the food or take up ambush positions in weedy cover waiting for the return of an easy meal. The Muskie depicted in RED represent their positions prior to the cold front while the BLUE Muskie are shown in their
likely positions after the cold front comes through and the wind shifts to a Northwesterly flow. Don't be discouraged….there are some things you can do to better your chances during this slack period. There are NO guarantees, but you can try: • Fish hard from late afternoon to early evening when the water temperature is highest! • Cast your lures as close to cover as you can…You need to trigger these fish! • Fish 5 to 10 feet deeper than normal to overcome those Blue Bird Skies! • Frequent your most productive Muskie spots; Don't explore! • Use Slightly smaller lures and/or slow your presentation! In Muskie fishing there are no sure things, however, if you use your knowledge of the water that you are fishing and combine it with knowing where Muskie are likely to be; you have a better chance at success.