Post Spawn Muskies
|Gordy netted this beauty for the author|
Mike Doyle, Professor of Spanish at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, asked as we finished breakfast, “Tim, will you take me musky fishing today?”
“Sure,” I answered, “but we might not catch any.”
It was our first day in musky country, north of Fort Francis, Ontario. And the musky spawn was just ending. Many anglers find post-spawn muskies tough to catch, but there are ways to up the odds and avoid the “fish of 10,000 casts” syndrome. In Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan the opening of the musky season is usually delayed to protect the spawn. After the spawn is complete, muskies relocate to areas near spawning bays.
Rocky shorelines adjacent to bays are good spots to start. Longtime fishing buddy Bill Shumaker says the most productive are “deep with a number of rock ledges, some dropping off quickly and others forming narrow shelves.
A few years ago Bill and I were fishing muskies on Pipestone Lake, a lake on the Clearwater-Pipestone chain. As we got to the area Bill wanted to fish, he killed the engine and began to fiddle with his gear. I launched a bucktail toward the bank. A huge log moved off the rocks, intercepted my lure and tore for deep water – a 25 pound musky. The fish was foraging along a rock ledge, shelving off to deep water. Bill Shumaker took this photo of the author. )
Saddles also attract post-spawn muskies. A saddle is a ridge between a point and an island or hump or between two points. Muskies seem to hang around saddles picking off smallmouth, perch, or suckers. While the rocky shoreline or hump may seem to be the likely spots, the open water of the saddle often holds the biggest fish.
Incoming creek also attract muskies. Over the years, shoals build up near creek mouths. A few years ago, Gordy and I were fishing near a small creek. Gordy maneuvered the boat around a small point and I cast my jerkbait into a small pocket pocked with stumps and logs. Suddenly, my lure stopped dead. Then the battle was on. (See top of page photo). On another trip I was fishing with Larry Leamy where a creek tumbled out of the forest. A huge musky swirled at Larry’s jerkbait as he lifted it from the water. Though we raised the fish a couple of times later in the day, it took two more days before Larry caught it – his first musky.
Muskies, as readers of this site know, require stout gear. My favorite rod is a Pete Maina Signature rod from Bass Pro Shops; unfortunately the rod is no longer made. St. Croix makes suitable gear and I have two rods from that company. My musky rods are all seven foot long, fairly stiff, but with a flexible tip.
A large spool bait casting reel helps make long casts and take in substantial line quickly if a big fish moves rapidly toward the boat. I use Diawa Millionaire reels.
For a number of years I have used Spiderwire Ultracast braided line, 50 pound test, capped with 20 or 30 pound Silver Thread fluorocarbon leader and a substantial Berkely Cross-Loc snap or Sebile Game Snap.
Post-spawn muskies are not as active as mid-summer fish so a slow and steady retrieve may work best. There are dozens of musky bucktails and they can be retrieved at a slow and steady pace. For reasons I do not know, a bucktail often raises a musky that does not strike but can be caught later on another lure. The fish I caught with Bill Shumaker hit a favorite Windel’s Musky Harrasser.
A seven or eight inch jerkbait can be maneuvered, on the surface or just below it, along productive areas. Old favorites like Grandma’s, Jakes or Shallow Raiders are good selections. Though overlooked by musky anglers, the longest Long A, a favorite among bass folks, is a great post-spawn musky bait, perhaps because it is small enough to seem easy to catch. Craig, my son, insists a jointed black-and-silver Rapala is the best post-spawn musky bait. In recent years Patrick Sebile offers Magic Swimmer and Stick Shadd jerkbaits; I can offer direct testimony to the effectiveness of these lures.
Mike Doyle, just as we left the landing, asked Craig what he should throw on his first musky trip. Craig told him to use the Rapala. A couple of miles from the landing, I directed the boat along the side of an island. “Mike,” I said, “Craig and I have caught several along this bank. Cast as close to the shore as you can and bring the lure back in a combination of jerks and pauses. On the pause, let the lure float almost back to the surface.”
A dozen casts and 50 or so feet down the bank, Mike was startled when a big musky engulfed his lure and headed for deep water. While the fish was swimming past the boat about 20 feet from us, Mike asked, “How big do you think that fish is?”
I guessed, “Twenty-five or 30 pounds. Pretty nice fish.” When I weighed fish and net together the total was just under 30 pounds, Mike’s first musky. Clearly a post-spawn success. You can do it, too.
Last updated on March 12, 2018