Aug 30, 2016
Keep Moving For Summer Musky Success
By: Jim Stroede
I often get asked a question something like this, “What’s your favorite lake to fish muskies?” People often think I’m being purposely evasive when I answer with, “The one they’re biting on!”
What I’m intending to say with that answer is that when it comes to summertime muskies, I like to keep moving. I like to keep searching for the next fish, the next flurry of musky activity, the next big fish.
When you live and work in an area of the state with so many lakes to choose from, staying continuously on the move from lake to lake really is a big advantage. Staying on the move means covering more water, and contacting the optimal number of fish in a day’s time. Often, the key to catching muskies in the summer is that simple: keep moving.
THE IN’S AND OUT’S OF MOVING
Often in life, and in fishing, work put in equals success obtained. Launching and loading the boat, only to launch and load again, only to launch and load yet again can seem like a lot of work. After all, you might think, there are plenty of muskies in this lake, why go chasing off to some other place? We’ll just wait ‘til they bite here!....That logic may sound good, but if the fish aren’t cooperating here now, they might not be later either. And, they could very well be in a much different, more positive mood just down the road.
I generally start the day with two lakes in mind for our outings. Lake choices are made based on current conditions, recent success, and past experience, under similar situations. Lots of factors can force a change of lakes at anytime during the day though; weather conditions, fishing or boating pressure, showing up at a lake that just had a sudden algae bloom, or simply a lack of fish activity are all possible reasons to change lakes. A back up plan should always be brewing in the mind of the musky angler; alternative lake choices are a must. Plan ahead to avoid being stumped later.
One neat feature of some of our northern Wisconsin waters are the chains of lakes. Lake chains are multiple lakes linked together by navigable channels or thoroughfares. Moving from one lake in the chain to another is easier here, as there is no need to trailer to the next lake; you can simply boat from one to another. In my area of the northwestern part of the state, we often see an advantage in changing from one lake to another in the chain during the day. It’s a common occurrence during a day of fishing a chain in which we might have caught two or three fish, each fish coming from different lakes within the chain. The chain offers diversity; some of the lakes involved could be deep-water lakes, and some are bound to be shallow. Even water clarity can differ from one lake to another, adding to the options for the musky angler. The more diversity, the better the musky fishing. This is often the case when fishing on the chains. Still, with all the chains of lakes have to offer, a better lake choice can still mean trailering off the chain.
THE GAME PLAN
Summertime musky fishing is a beautiful thing- long days, warm weather and endless water to fish. It all adds up to the perfect setup for the angler chasing muskies. After careful thought put into determining the choice of lake or lakes to fish, the topic of presentation and approach becomes the next variable to consider. In my boat, most often, we are looking to quickly and effectively strain the water trying to contact as many muskies as possible. I spend most of my time fishing within an hour in any direction of Hayward on any given day. Here, summertime musky fishing often revolves around weed growth. All lakes in my area contain weeds. And in every lake, every single day, weeds are an important piece in the fish location puzzle. Rocks, open water, and current areas, among other things, hold fish too, but if you’re not tuned into the weed bite, you’re missing a big part of the deal for summertime muskies.
Choosing baits that cover productive water and appeal to muskies is paramount. In lakes that have an abundance of shallow to mid-depth weed growth, the number one choice for us is the bucktail. Typically, there are three of us in the boat when chasing muskies. Having multiple casters gives us plenty of opportunity to vary and experiment with the baits we’re throwing. Everybody throws something at least slightly different to give the fish multiple looks. In such weed orientated lakes we will likely have one, if not two of the three anglers throwing a bucktail most of the time. There are plenty of positive things to say about bucktails; they hook fish well, they call fish from a distance, and they come in a wide variety of sizes, colors and blade types. We won’t get into all of the nuances of choosing the right bucktail for all the different situations one can face during the course of a season here, but the fact is this bait type produces fish, big time.
We rely on other baits as well for our summer musky fishing; the tail rotating topwater being a big one. There is just something about that topwater that triggers fish, especially early and late in the day. They make these baits in a wide range of colors, but black has been our best color, hands down. Once you gain experience musky fishing on multiple bodies of water you’ll begin to notice certain lakes where the topwater bite is stronger. For whatever the reason, some lakes are just better for topwater, out producing other baits all together at times, so it pays to experiment and try something new.
I fish in the back of the boat, and I’ll often be seen throwing a jerkbait or a large soft plastic. Just giving the fish a third option as we roll on down the weedline. Sometimes it pays off, but most often on the tougher days when there are less fish and opportunities to catch them is when when the jerkbait typically shines. Here again, I’m fishing the jerkbait at a faster pace, covering water along with my boat partners up front. Shorter casts, letting a weighted soft plastic fall to the deeper edge, or working a floater-diver quickly through the cover, always being aware of the faster pace of the trolling motor, always moving.
The key to summertime musky fishing is to keep moving. Vary your baits and cover the best and most water you can, looking for active muskies. With the length of day and repeated casting, it’s easy to sometimes lose your focus and start just going through the motions. When this happens pull the boat, get a bite to eat, a cold beverage and launch in a new lake. Just keep moving, and you’re sure to up your musky catches this summer.
Jim Stroede guides in the Hayward area, May through November. For more information, give him a call at 715-520-7043, or look him up on the web at www.jimstroedefishing.com