We asked Northern Wisconsin Guide Jeff Van Remortel with WDH 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. You'll answers to these questions below.
1) With the exception of time spent with family/friends, it is rare for me to be off the water for any significant amount of time during the season. When I do find myself with an afternoon or day off the water, I may spend time on gear or boat/trailer maintaince. Keeping reels spooled and leaders and split rings fresh is something I try to as the issues arise, but from time to time, I do accumulate a "to-do" list.
2) When I am on the water, it is rare that I do not have a good understanding of the structure I am fishing or other key pieces of structure available in the system. That is part of the home work that should be done ahead of time before attempting to catch fish. Having this information at your disposal allows for a fluid change from one type of structure to another as conditions change on the water. The hardest decisions come when you are fishing in good or above average conditions and you have confidence in you bait and spot selection but are failing to produce results. When I know I am presenting to fish and switching baits or techniques does not produce action, I will often switch lakes. A seasoned angler will have that "gut feeling" conditions are good to get bit, but in some cases those good conditions may not be good for the type of water you are on. The reason for this are numerous and there is often no one root cause. The easy solution is to cut your losses and change water/lake type before the next feeding window opens.
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