Sep 10, 2014

TRANSITION PERIOD MUSKY                                                     

BY: KYLE SORENSEN

As the summer months slowly slip away and the leaves begin to change, I find myself in a bittersweet frame of mind.  Maybe it’s the fact the warm summer nights are soon to end, or maybe it’s the fact some of the best musky fishing is right around the corner.  I, like many musky anglers, begin to transition my presentations and tactics to coincide with the season.  It’s no secret, late season ski’s are eager to bulk up and prepare for the cold water conditions which are right around the corner. 

Late season fish tend to gaze upon a larger, slower meal in one feeding, rather than taking multiple, smaller meals.  It takes a lot of energy to get these fish moving, and they don’t like to burn it if they don’t have to.  Sometimes, however, it can be the opposite.  Maybe these abnormal encounters have to do with the musky’s predatory instincts, but I am someone that goes on my own personal statistics.

If you read a past article of mine, the May/June issue of Badger Sportsman, you know I love my top water presentations.  As the season gets later, I am still always eager to throw a top water but I tend to snap on a larger bodied bait to start.  Baits such as the Bull Dawg “series” or the Red October tubes seem to be my go-to’s for the late season bite, while my jerk/crankbaits are always waiting to get wet.  Every time out, I am amazed at what presentation will work for that given day.  My past experience gives me a little direction, but sometimes thinking outside of the box can draft an idea that you will use for years to come.

When I am throwing a Bull Dawg, I usually work it slowly, sometimes working the bait over the dying cabbage tops or jigging the Dawg like has tube has worked.  Ripping weeds can also produce quite well.  I have caught fish with these baits in a wide array of water depths.  If I had to throw a statistic of mine into the mix, I would say two out of three fish are boated when the Bull Dawg is in or around weeds (whether dead or alive).  The other fish in the statistic could be associated with fishing breaks or rock structure. 

I sometimes attach a larger bobber to the line when working these baits.  It gives you great control on the depth you are fishing by allowing the bait to effortlessly run the set depth.  From past experience, this technique seems to work better on  darker stained water.  It could be that weeds are easily observed and a bobber is not needed, or it could be that the bobber adds less attracting characteristics when the fish is closing in.  Who’s to say for sure but that is why experimenting can pay off.

Speaking of bobbers, it’s no secret; the sucker bite sure turns on in late season.  As I previously stated, the colder water fish are looking for a large, easy meal, and what’s easier than a nice chunky chub dangling in a fixed zone? 

If you have watched any of my online videos, you know I am someone that is pretty active when I’m on the water.  Rain or shine, my adrenaline seems to pump no matter the conditions.  Depending on the type of fishing and the regulations surrounding the given body of water, I usually do not have sucker fishing on the list of to-do’s for the day.  Don’t get it me wrong, it can be some great fishing and fun but I have personally seen the tragic end to some magnificent fish due to an engulfed sucker rig.

When I begin selecting my fishing areas (to start with) I tend to find myself starting around mid-lake structures such as a reef or a rock pile.  While the tops of structure can be the quickest to warm and cool, the surrounding water area gives the fish a steadier environment to hold in while being protected by the thermocline.  During the colder months (and other periods as well), these structure points give the fish the ability to ambush prey and retreat back to the depths for future stalking.  I could say that working the tops of the structure would be the best, but I have boated fish while fishing the bottom or start of these structure points as well.  These mid-lake structures are just some locations not to overlook.

I enjoy fishing break lines.  Again, another workable area in other seasonal periods, but they are still producing.  When selecting a break line to work, I look at what is in the area surrounding it.  Do I have weeds or rocks?  Are there streams, springs or discharges working into the break that might attract a worthy ski?  When working these areas, I like to start midway into the structure.  With the great electronics we have out today, it is fairly easy to recognize changes in the water while working these breaks.

Now, I would be remiss if I did not mention the last area of interest:  shallow, shoreline areas!  Last year in October, we were fishing a tournament and my brother hooked into the beauty pictured on the (FOLLOWING PAGE?).  We had fished everything I could think of until I figured, well, we tried everything else, let’s go shallow.  Shallow we did, and the action followed.  The weather that weekend was sure something else.  I think the barometer fell throughout the entire tournament as I could not remember a full two-hour period that it did not rain or sleet.  The wind was on and off the entire weekend to make conditions just as great.  It was one of those times one would look outside and say, “Yea, I think I’ll just go organize the tackle box today.”  But hey, if you have the fever, you need to feed it.

The larger baits, slower presentations, and obvious structure areas didn’t show the activity so we downsized to small Ghost Tails and top waters… and bam, fish on!  After switching tactics to a spawn/post spawn bite, the fish were being seen and boated.  Crazy to think the surface temp was well under 50 degrees.

I thought about that tournament and conditions for quite some time.  I wondered what could have drawn these fish so shallow and to hit these smaller baits.  Well, I kept overlooking one key factor which is easily seen in the pictures of the fish we boated: the green weeds.  You see, the weeds were alive.  The body of water we fished did have a cold surface temperature.  It did have a cold ambient temperature (dropping to the low 40’s at night) but in the weeks prior, the ambient and water temperatures stayed higher than normal, causing the weeds to stay alive and thus, holding fish.

A lesson learned in my book.  Look at all of the information available to you, your surroundings, and do not jump to the conclusion (on occasion) that the fall bite means you have to go big and slow down. This is the thing about musky fishing.  Sometimes one can say these fish can be patterned, while other times, you just need to try everything.

I have a feeling we will have some great fall action this year.  With the fierce winter much of the Midwest endured, this fall might just be one for the record books.  Until next time, Tight Lines. Stay Dry.

Kyle Sorensen lives in Oshkosh, WI and primarily fishes the Lake Winnebago System.  He is always eager to sneak out to various bodies of water in the hunt for a variety of species.  When he’s out, so are his cameras, and the footage gathered is uploaded to various online media sources.  Kyle’s media and contact information can be found on his website: www.oboutdoors.com