Esox Masquinongy (Musky) - By Rebecca C

It was a hot muggy August evening. Dad and I checked in and were floating on the water waiting for the send off for the weekly Bass Tournament. Six to Ten O Clock every Wednesday night, we were regular participants. 

I picked up about a 4lbs Largemouth Bass off a deep structure on a Texas rigged worm. Good start!
A little later as the sun went down, we pulled into a lily padded cove. Big fish were feeding heaving in the pads, just blowing thru the pads chasing frogs. We both had visions of this cove sealing the deal on first place. I whipped my "famous" white plastic bladed Buzzbait out, it had that special gurgle to it. Just ONE of those big Bass would top off our night. 
I gurgle the Buzzer back to the boat and with a wake and an explosion, I yelled back from the bow "It's a Musky!"
With a classic Polaroid Instant print to record the moment, I had landed my first quality musky. 
A little over 40 inches...I wanted to quit the tournament and take him home! I wanted to mount the fish...but with some debate we released it healthy and finished third place with the Bass we caught that night...and went home with new plans. 
I was 10 years old...
Bob Mehsikomer Simply Fishing Musky played on repeat on VHS...
Legendary Musky Plugs with wild names were coming thru the mail...Awakers, Jackpots, Reef Hogs...
and new lakes were being added to our "need to fish" list.
We had dipped our toes in the Musky World some in the past, but we were ALL IN now...
ALL IN...What does that mean?
Well...almost 30 years later I can tell you. 
Time and effort are the equation for success in the Musky World. The more time put on the water and the more effort put into your hours; the more muskies you will boat. 
Unlike other fish you pursue, finesse and intricacies take a backseat to relentless casting, high speed retrieves, and a no-quit eternally optimistic personality. 
Honestly, if you were to navigate the mind of a Musky fisherman; it would be similar to a roller coaster. A steady climb to the top anticipating the thrill of the ride that awaits...and in a hurry to get back in line for the next ride. 
It takes that type of mentality to day in and day out pit yourself against the elusive fish of 10000 casts. 
Other definitions attached to this type of personality are hard-headed and slightly insane...
That being said, although never an easy endeavor...the Musky does not have to be the fish of 10000 casts. 
As in any realm of life, knowledge is power and in the case of Muskies; shortens the time periods between successful fishing trips. 
Muskies are the most unpredictable, predictable fish. This adds to the mystique of Musky Angling.  They are unpredictable by nature but predictable to pattern. 
There are many "tales" of the Musky accomplishing fetes beyond what seems possible. Attacking boat propellers, going airborne, busting tackle, stripping reels, targeting small dogs, and inhaling Ducks off the surface.  From experience, these are not uncommon occurrences. 
My dad caught one with bird feathers stuck to the inside of its jaws. I had a 50 plus inch fish go airborne and snap 100lbs braided line. We just had one this year hit boatside, project from the water and land in mom's lap...all 46 inches of her. Last year, a friend hooked one in his kayak that did a power run and came out of the water and with a tail swat mid-air hit me in my own kayak! Believable or not, a good many years ago we had one take a vicious strike at the electric motor propeller. There are a whole lot more of these examples I could dig up if I dug further back in the memory banks. 
Now that we know the "unpredictable"...let's talk about what's predictable about Muskies. 
Muskies frequent deep waters in close proximity to shallower feeding bays and flats. Rock Shoals, weed bars, weed flats, and wood are classic Musky haunts. 
Muskies also follow calendar periods similar to all other fish. These periods include a Pre-Spawn, Spawn, and Post-Spawn. A Pre-Summer, Summer Peak, and Summer and a fall and cold water period. 
To optimize your time on the water you want to capitalize on the best of those time frames. By my experience, your Summer Peak and Summer time frames produce the most fish because Muskies are warm water predators by nature. This is typically mid-July up till Mid-September. The Muskies are in Summer staging areas and frequenting shallower waters to feed following the bait migration. This makes them patternable. 
Prior to this time period, Muskies tend to be very scattered. They move from the shallows after spawn and in the Pre-Summer period begin seeking Summer staging areas. They can be more difficult to pattern at this stage.
Many anglers prefer the cold water period for bigger, heavier fish. Muskies are feeding heavy as they back out of the shallows to deeper water preparing for winter staging. Falling water temperatures trigger this phase. 
In addition to the right seasonal calendar period, you can up your odds my paying attention to other factors. 
Moon phases, weather and barometric pressure, lure choices, and small environmental changes all have drastic affects on Musky habits. 
Spending more time on the water around a peak Moon phase is essential. I find any time period on or after a Full or New Moon up to 4 or 5 day after produce more fish activity. Each day further away from the Moon phase after 3 days the effects lessen.  Some say three days before and three days after, but personally I have found the days after to be most productive. Most theories on this revolve around a more intense gravitational pull affecting the fish. This includes bait fish and the movement of more bait resulting in longer and more intense Musky feeding time periods. There is even more science centered around the moonrise/moonset and sunrise/sunset further narrowing down a key feeding window based on the Solunar Calendar. 
One very important thing we all notice as outdoorsman everyday are light level changes. Just your small light level changes trigger feeding activities. Morning and Evening bites are prime examples of this. The light level change from dark to light in the morning comes in slight increments and the same from light to dark in the evening. These are the two most productive time periods during the day. There are also small light level changes throughout the day to take note of as well. During certain times of the day you may notice a lure looks much better to you in the water. The color seems extra brilliant or  a double bladed spinner may have incredible flash. As a general rule of thumb, if you notice the difference in the will the fish! Some of these types of changes in the "light appeal" tend to come with how the water conditions react with the light levels as well. A little ripple on the water creates a drastically different visual for the Musky. 
As far as lures are concerned, I have found a lure every year that out produces all the rest. It may not be the same from year to year....Do they get wise to it? Maybe...
If you do find that one that's producing, ride the wave. 
Muskies feel vibration. They have the most sensitive lateral line of any other fish and therefore detect even the slightest vibrations. They are also curious and will follow lures in the same sense as teasing a cat. I have found a glide bait to get alot of attention with less strikes. Whereas a fast paced blade bait that moves water or a crankbait that thumps tends to draw bites. Sometimes a glide bait can be a great way to locate fish and then circle back on them with another presentation. Yes...Muskies can be extremely dynamic topwater feeders as well, but this takes the "Perfect Storm" of conditions.
Which brings us to the last but most crucial peice of the puzzle...Weather.
Weather conditions and barometric pressure Trump everything. Regardless of the lures, time of the year or Moon phase...a good weather pattern is a game changer.
Muskies along with all other fish react to barometric pressure changes. Science says they feel pressure from these changes on their swim bladders. Any of us that have sinus issues may be able to relate to this. A storm front and a dropping barometer are the best fishing conditions. Ideally if you can catch the leading edge of the front, you'll catch the most intense feed. The same goes for catching the leading edge of a cold front blowing in. 
Next to a storm front or the leading edge of any front, the best you could ask for is a steady barometer for three consecutive days. Muskies will react predictably to the stability of the weather. 
It is also important to note the little changes within each day. Slight change of direction of the wind, the increase in the wind, and the changes to the water from flat to choppy or even just the smallest ripple. All of these changes indicate a change in the Muskies environment and even in the barometer that maybe enough to trigger a strike. 
A morning during a peak Moon phase in the July/ August period on the edge of a storm...All I can say is...hold on to your rod!
With that being said, Anytime you can spend on the water is better than waiting out prime conditions when your time is limited like most of us. 
One Musky 30 years ago changed everything. It was the first milestone of many in my Musky career. I could never have imagined how engrained in my psyche these fish would become. Scheduled vacations, lack of sleep, roughest of weather conditions in boat and kayak, thousands of hours and casts, and hundred of Muskies later...A hard day on Musky waters never disappoints. The passion has morphed over the years from just catching a Musky to targeting bigger and more fish. It has surpassed the challenge of catching Muskies and has become more about understanding them and embracing just how unique they truly are. 
If you never spend one day on the water Musky fishing after you read this, I hope you find something just as captivating in life. If you do hit the Musky waters,  I think you'll find yourself armed with the knowledge to be successful. 
Photo of a woman holding up a large Musky Fish

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