Early season muskies can be a challenge, but can still produce some of the best fishing of the year. Here are a couple tips to get you started chasing some early season esox. Choose your water wisely. Find the warm water. Think erratic.
I usually start my season on darker water and smaller lakes. These types of systems typically get fired up faster which makes them a good choice for starting your season. Darker water lakes will generally warm up faster making the muskies spawn sooner and start feeding sooner. Now this is a general rule! There are years when the clear water and larger systems can get going good by the opener. This is especially true in warmer than normal springs.
Finding the warmest water can be very important. I am always paying attention to my temp gauge this time of year. Even a couple degree difference can be significant in finding actively feeding muskies. No matter what type of system you choose to fish pay attention to finding the warmest water. Shallow bays, shallow flats, northern exposed shorelines, and anywhere streams, creeks, or rivers are entering can be slightly warmer. Spend lots of time in these areas.
In general I throw a lot of erratic lures during early season. Muskies can often be lethargic this time of year, especially following the spawn. Try to trigger reaction strikes by throwing smaller jerk baits, glide baits, and twitch baits. Some of my favorites for starting the season include Squirrelly hellhounds, Hellpuppies, 6” Phantom Softtails, and 5” Slammers. Just remember to work these baits erratically with lots of pauses. Once the water warms to the mid 60’s we start to mix in some Rabid Squirrel and Jack Rabbit spinners, TopRaiders and Fat Bastards, and bigger rubber like Magnum Bulldawgs. Good luck this season and get started early!!
To learn more about Steve Genson and his Guide Service click HERE.
To listen to Steve on the Back Lash Podcast click HERE.
We are always trying to expand our lineup and give musky anglers what they need and want to help put more and bigger fish in the net. We recently add a few new products and colors from Drifter Tackle to the website. Now available in exclusive Team Rhino Outdoors custom colors are the 10" Straight Believers, 10" Hell Hounds, 12" Super Believers, and 9" Super Believers. We also added new colors in the 20" Squirrely Jake and 12" Super Stalker. Those are all great products to help you have more success musky fishing this fall. Good Luck on the water.
We asked Kevin Pischke with Lay in a Line Guide Service (1) What is something you do off the water to help catch more fish? and (2) When your on the water and not contacting muskies what is 1 change you'll make. Below you'll the answers to these questions.
If you’re not contacting fish on the water what’s the one adjustment you make?
Where are the fish in relationship to the area / structure you are fishing? If it’s a spot that regularly holds and produces fish I’ll change my boat position before I do anything else. Has something like wind, current, sun, clouds, bait location or boat traffic caused them to change their position? Do I need to work the deepest edge off of a weed bed because high blue skis have pushed them deep? Do I need to cast parallel to a weed edge or rock bar because a wind driven current has them positioned in a different direction nosed into the current? Do I need to get up tight in the weeds or on a bar because heavy boat pressure has pushed fish into the areas? Maybe it’s as simple as the fish have seen baits being retrieved in the same manner all day and by working it deep to shallow versus shallow to deep is the simple change that will initiate a strike.
What is something you do off the water to help you succeed
Maintain and organize fishing records.
I keep detailed records of my fishing and on my off time I will compile that data to track day to day fishing and also trends and results drawn out over a season. This can also be taken a step further to compare trends over several seasons. This helps you fine tune your fishing efforts to specific weather, season, and regional patterns. A good example would be tracking a change in fish behavior for a season with slow warming water temperatures that inhibited weed growth on a body of water that fish are heavily weed related because of a lack of other types of structure. A simpler day to day example of records would be how a certain direction wind affects the fish on a specific body of water.
We asked Phil Schweik with Hooksetters Guide Service (1) What is something you do off the water to help catch more fish? and (2) When your on the water and not contacting muskies what is 1 change you'll make. Below you'll the answers to these questions.
#1 I work with several other tournament anglers and the guides that are on our Hooksetters staff and we share information as to what is working and what is not working to help each other become more successful when we are on the water. We share information as to what lures or baits are working, locations where we are catching fish, water temperature, current flow rate, water level, and other different conditions that are pertinent to us catching fish. I also read a lot. 😄
#2. My first adjustment if I am not catching fish is changing locations . I'm a firm believer in the fact that the fish are always biting somewhere, you just have to find them. Secondly would be changing my presentation
We asked Gregg Thomas with Battle The Beast Guide Service (1) What is something you do off the water to help catch more fish? and (2) When your on the water and not contacting muskies what is 1 change you'll make. Below you'll the answers to these questions.
(1) Off the water preparation can be very important. Making lure alterations can be key to putting more fish in the boat. Adding weight, taking weight out, reshafting spinners or even repairing broken lips all needs to completed off the water. I mess with my baits a lot and after hours is the time for me to do that. One thing that I do is add insert weights to my crankbaits and jerkbaits. By adding weights to lures it is a way to get a certain action deeper where the fish haven’t seen it before. An example would be adding weights to twitch baits. Normally these lures only go down 2 to 4 feet by adding weight you can get these lures to depths in areas where this type of action my not have been seen before.
(2) If I am not contacting fish there are number of things to try. The one go to for me is changing depths. With the electrics that are available now fishing deeper and shallower water is even easier. Depending on conditions making depth adjustments can be the key to boating more fish. If you are experiencing a heat wave or long periods of high pressure moving the boat out and fishing a cast length off the structure may pay off. If the area that you are fishing is a known “Good Area” and no fish are moving then moving off can be key. If it is a strong cold front or low light situation. Going shallower can be good. A sudden drop in water temperature either from a cold front or shade created by sun angle will trigger shallow water migrations. Both of these migrations are something to consider when on the water.
Musky season is in full swing and hopefully you’ve been having a successful year. When we put out a newsletter we try to give you something to help you become a better musky angler. In this issue we asked six musky guides 2 questions.
- What is something you do off the water to have success on the water?
- If your not contacting fish what is one adjustment you make?
With six guides you can bet we got a few different answers. If you visit the blog section of our website we will put the whole response from some of the guides we talked with. The six guides were Steve Genson with Genson’s Fish Hunts, Phil Schweik with Hooksetters Guide Service, Kevin Pischke with Lay in a Line Service, Gregg Thomas with Battle The Beast Guide Service, Jeff Van Remortel with WDH Guide Service, and Pete Rich with Pete Rich Guide Service.
When asked “What is something you do off the water to have success on the water” many of them agreed that making sure your tackle is organized, including keeping hooks sharp was a top priority. Gregg Thomas said that he spends lots of time playing with weighting of baits when he’s not in the boat. Adding weight to crankbaits and jerkbaits can help get baits deeper to fish that haven’t seen them before. Captain Kevin Pischke likes to keep detailed catch logs and use them to help develop patterns over the course of the season. Kevin said if you keep good records you can go one step further and compare fish location based on seasons where you’ve seen similar weather develop. Phil Schweik spends a good amount of time reading in addition to talking with a network of guys about water temperature, current flow, and water level so when he hits the water he has a well thought out plan. Based on the information we gathered from these guys they all made it seem that time spent preparing for a musky hunt off the water can definitely influence their success.
So now the question that most people want to know, “When your not contacting fish what is one adjustment you make”? Pete Rich said that if he’s on a good bite that suddenly isn’t producing he will make a move in if he had been fishing open water and will make some trolling passes closer to open water if he’d been casting shoreline structure. His thought is that the muskies won’t abandon the area they’ve been in overnight. Those fish will just slide in or out based on conditions. Steve Genson will take a 2-fold approach. His first change is lure style. If he’s been throwing blades and not seeing fish, he would then make a change to a top water bait or glide bait. Once he contacts a fish it’s now a matter of what TRO custom color will trigger those fish. Gregg Thomas has a similar approach to Pete when working a “Good Area”. Making a depth change is his first move. If Gregg runs into a heat wave or prolonged periods of high pressure he will move a cast length off structure. If a cold front blows in or shade is created by the sun, Gregg will move shallower to take advantage of the drop in water temperature. Guide Jeff Van Remortel will take change to a whole new level. Jeff runs his guide business in Northern WI and moving to different water or lake type that might be “on” is well within reason. When Phil Schweik is on the water he knows the fish are biting somewhere, so his first move is to change locations and “run and gun” until he finds active fish. His second move is to change up presentation type and either slow down or speed up depending on what he had been previously doing. Kevin Pischke makes a similar change to Gregg and Pete and usually analyzes boat position. If he’s working a spot he knows has produced he will slide in or out first. Sometimes he will also flip and throw shallow to deep to retrieve baits in a manner they haven’t seen recently.
Clearly we’ve seen some similarities and differences among the 6 guides. Hopefully you’ve read something you can do when you’re on and off the water to help put more muskies in the net this late summer/fall period. Good Luck with the chase.
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Early Season Outlook for Northwoods Muskies
A cool down at the early part of this week here in the Northwoods may slow fish activity down a bit. However, in a Spring that has been in overdrive with early summer like temps and abundant sunshine up until recently, it will only be a bump in the road long term. Actively spawning Muskies have been very visible for as long as two weeks or more in some systems and incidental catch rates have been high this past week on offerings intended for walleyes and bass. While some of the larger lakes will likely still have some spawning activity during the opener this upcoming weekend, plenty of hungry fish should be available. This is especially true in systems where fish concluded spawning well before the Opener.
If you are fortunate enough to have spent some time on the water up here this season, take note of the lakes you visited where you observed bass and crappies actively bedding. These lakes are prime candidates for the timing aspect of the major key to success this weekend; lake choice. Additional factors to examine are weed growth and water temperature. The optimal lake/flowage/river choice for early season should be as far away from the spawn as possible, have advanced weed growth (cabbage in particular) and have some of the highest sustained water temperatures in the area.
This loosely translates to shallow lakes(max depth of less than 25-30 feet), large systems with large expanses of shallow weed beds or attached lakes, stained or semi stained water, flowages, and rivers.
Optimal choices for lure selections will be downsized in most cases. If the weather greatly improves and water temperatures make it to the low 60 degree range, large and magnum offerings can be very effective early on. Based on the current forecast, it looks like the time to up size will come in the middle of next week. Small spinners like Rizzo whizs and Mepps are a classic choice for opener. Single bladed 700 and 500 series Bucktail and blades up to double 8s are a great choice also. Chatterbaits intended for bass are always musky magnets before the season opens. Baits like the Angry Dragon can produce tremendous results the first few weeks of the season. Small jerk baits in the 5-"7" size like Big Game jerkbaits, shallow raiders, custom X and Grandma's will produce strikes from less aggressive fish. 9" and 10" Suicks are on of my favorite "large baits" in an early season scenario. Small rubber like mini and mid Medusas, Kermits and regular bull dawg should always be kept handy for both tight to cover and open water applications. Glide baits like Phantoms and hellhounds in the 4"-6" size will likely be a hot producer, especially if water temps remain in the low to mid 50 degree range. Last but not least, the topwater bite is often overlooked and a good option to explore, especially in lakes that have areas of very advanced weed growth. In those systems, fish will hold in very dense weeds in only 2-3 feet of water and a slow moving top water can be the best weapon to dig them out. On the second day of the season last year we had a phenomenal topwater pattern going. Lake X Dr. Evil, Creepers, and scaled-down wobblers are all excellent choices.
The conditions this season should be similar to last year's opener in many respects, so revisiting areas that yielded success last year on opener is an excellent strategy. Best of luck this opening weekend! Looking forward to another great season of musky fishing here in the Northwoods!
Capt Jeff Van Remortel
WDH Guide Service, LLC
We'll we've made it to the end of July and hopefully you've been able to put a few muskies in the net. Along with the success there is usually some failure in musky fishing. For us in the Northern range for muskies we are close to the mid point of our season. Water temps are just about ticking that 80 degree mark which means it's time to think about putting the musky rods down for a few weeks and take stock of what lies ahead these next few months and wait for the next cold front. As the page turns to August and September there is usually a movement of muskies back up to the shallows and these fish are susceptible to a burned bucktail or topwater. Our selection of both products has never been better. A Genson Series Showgirl or Jack Rabbit can certainly fill this niche. While a #8 Toothy Saber can also show the muskies something they don't always see. Sometimes adding a small grub tail can be enough to trigger a stubborn musky. As for topwater The Weagle from Suick Lures has certainly been overlooked because of the popularity of the tail rotating topwater. The Weagle was and is known as a big fish magnet and musky anglers will sometimes get caught up in chasing what's hot and new and forget about baits that are battle tested.
So as we push forward to Fall and what many musky anglers dream about think about your season thus far and if it's not what you'd like it be ask yourself if you need to make a change. Maybe you've spent too much time searching shallow when the muskies have pushed out a little deeper. It's possible you've spent too much time relying on things that have worked in the past and now it's time to examine a new weed bed or find a different spot that bait fish have congregated. One thing is certain in musky fishing, nothing stays the same. Most of all Enjoy the Chase.
Stick to your Guns:
Musky fishing has been for the most part turned into a strafing run. A carpet Bombing. Precision and meticulousness has fallen to the wayside through a motif of burning...and all too often crashing because of it. "Covering water" doesn't necessarily mean covering a two dimensional expanse of water. 90 percent of the fish, as they say, are in 10 percent of the water. So, that being said, once you isolate the ten percent, why waste time performing the same routine over the same layer of water?
The real art of musky fishing comes in knowing the nature of the animal, what it utilizes as habitat and how it moved about its board, and carefully dissecting this ecosystem with different variations of depth, speed, size, action, and color. No matter where you fish, the Muskies are always either shallow, deep, or somewhere in between, and in accordance to that, either active, neutral, or inactive. These levels change periodically and almost constantly in an increase and decrease of "frequency" daily, and to be successful, you must synchronize with this aspect of nature imposed upon this particular animal, the muskellunge. No structure situation I've ever personally encountered can be covered in under an hour to any comprehensive degree. Take your time. Most musky anglers I fish with both fish an area far too quickly, and their presentations themselves usually lean far too heavily on the rapid side of the spectrum. Hastiness will not only leave your coverage sloppy, but cost you some of the greatest fish of your life, and lead to misnomers of information to use in the future. This is the single most evident reason why anglers have a tendency to get pigeon-holed into a handful of tactics on given bodies of water. Don't fear to cycle through drastic variations of depth speed and size control on the same structure situation. The evidence of being almost tedious in covering a structure was most evident when two clients of mine landed a 52"x25" musky on Melton Hill reservoir after we had staked out an area I know to be an almost year round musky habitat and covered it for at least 60 minutes over a 60 yard stretch with everything from a 12" crank to a 3" bass jig. Richard and Travis Storch were rewarded in entertaining my adamancy on our last pass with the fish of many people's lifetimes on a TRO Ice Cold Perch Shallow Invader retrieved moderately slowly over a channel break. If we had played hop scotch from spot to spot on a "milk run", we might have been on plane when this fish or another of equal size became just active enough to move up to the break and trigger. Have faith in your arsenal of knowledge and your ability to implement the right tool at the right time.
To learn more about Cory Allen click HERE