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Muskie Fishing -> General Discussion -> Seeking wisdom
Message Subject: Seeking wisdom
Posted 6/28/2018 9:47 AM (#910993)
Subject: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 5

Hello all, I'm new to muskie fishing this year and have been out a handful of times so far this season, and blanked thus far. I'll start by saying that this is no surprise and is about how I was expecting my first muskie season to go. What I an after in this thread is just some general guidance; what am.i doing right, what am I doing wrong, what am I missing?

Ill just say that I'm fishing a MN lake, from what I've gathered it's a reputable muskie lake. Water clarity is something like 11-13ft which I know off the bat puts it in a more difficult class of lakes. Last I fished water was in the low to mid 70s.

My approach this year was to just pick a lake and stick to it, learn it, and hopefully find a pattern. So far I've been focused on 3 areas of the lake, area 1 is an island with a rocky point off one end, submerged point extending the other way which is about 13-16ft deep and drops down to 25-30 ft on all 3 sides. Area 2 is similar but it's just an extended underwater point coming off the shore, similar depths: 13-15ft deep dropping off to 30 or so feet on all three sides. Area 3 is a stretch of shoreline with a pretty steep break and what I would call medium thickness of vegetation (not heavy, not sparse) on the break, in this area I try to stay in 15-20 ft and cast in toward shore.

I've been throwing bucktails, glide baits, top waters, and even tried a bulldawg a couple times with not so much as a follow, I figure 8 after 90% of my casts. My gut tells me I'm fishing the right areas and structures and to just be persistent with those 3 areas. My brain tells me otherwise.

I appreciate any input, tight lines ??
Posted 6/28/2018 12:48 PM (#911019 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 133

Location: Minnetonka
Knowing what lake you're on would be helpful. Check MN DNR lake finder for that specific lake to get an idea of the prominent forage base, based on netting results over the years. Are there tullibees or whitefish in the lake? Good perch population? Try to match what you're throwing with what they're likely eating. If there's a fair population, you should be able to get some attention from fish on the newly developing weed edges with a bucktail or spinner bait. Fish low light periods and when you move one, look for similar structure on different parts of the lake and then just keep casting.

Edited by MuskyMatt71 6/28/2018 12:53 PM
Posted 6/28/2018 12:56 PM (#911020 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 228

Location: NW IA
Does anyone guide on the lake? A couple hundred bucks could shorten your learning curve by years.
Posted 6/28/2018 1:18 PM (#911025 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 827

Location: Maple Grove, MN
I would recommend not limiting yourself in areas you fish or in your presentations. When you select lures, use those that get close to the strike-zone and then put those lures in the zone. Be careful to never fall into the "hot lure" trap. Many a fisherman has gotten all to focused on the hot top-water or double bladed whatever lure and lost sight of the most important aspects of fishing. The most important thing is locating the fish. Remember that a bad lure in a good place is much better than a good lure in a bad place. Also, you don't need a huge lure to catch a big fish. We have caught way more Muskies on smaller and mid sized Muskie lures than we have on large baits. Large baits have their time and place, but are not always the best choice.

I would recommend exploring the lake until you find fish. Good areas to try first are areas with cabbage and rocks. Muskies love those areas. Hit every depth range too. Muskies can be super shallow or suspending in 40 ft of water off the structure. Don't be afraid to try something different from what everyone else is doing. Also, if the fish are not very active, don't be afraid to down-size your lures. Sometimes smaller lures, like Baby Depth-Raiders or 1-2 oz spinner baits can put fish in the net when nothing else will.

Probably the best recommendation I can give you is to keep everything in perspective. Catching Muskies can be very difficult at times so don't expect to catch or even see fish every time out. You won't. Also, never allow fishing to become more important to you than your loved ones. If you're married, make sure your wife knows that she is more important to you than fishing - and act that way. Same for your children if you have any. Don't ever skip your kids soccer or volleyball game for a fishing outing. Those times with your kids end all to soon and you will regret it.

Good luck.
Posted 6/28/2018 1:39 PM (#911032 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: RE: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 1314

Location: Pewaukee, WI
Exactly what Herb told you. Those are words of wisdom!
Posted 6/28/2018 2:39 PM (#911037 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 5

Mark- The lake I'm referring to is Alexander near Randall. I'm familiar with the LakeFinder app, it helped me choose this lake along with some talking with other buddies of mine who muskie fish. I am not looking for any particular spots as I do find enjoyment in working the lake to find tumour own spots and patterns, in just wondering if fishing a clearer lake requires some different approaches than I'm used to

Herb- No worries about leaving a wife or children as I have neither, I'll also reiterate my low expectations for first season success, i just want to make sure I'm on the right track to set myself up for success.
I'm only able to muskie fish on fridays if I'm able to at all, so I just want to be as proficient as possible with my efforts.
Posted 6/28/2018 3:06 PM (#911041 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 279

Clear water to me is better during low light periods. Night fishing might be another good option. The spots you listed sound like they could hold fish, I would continue to fish them. I would also add some cabbage beds and main lake reefs later in the year if available. Clear water also can be good for smaller and faster baits during daylight hours.
Posted 6/28/2018 4:10 PM (#911047 - in reply to #911041)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 735

Location: Apparently where the Muskie aren't
I'm pretty new too and the best advice I ever got was, tie on a bucktail and start casting. Worked for me. Once you get that 1st fish it seems to get a lot easier for some reason.
Posted 6/28/2018 4:20 PM (#911048 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: RE: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 646

Location: Forest Lake, Mn.
In-Fisherman did a muskie video on that lake years ago. They concentrated on the south/southwest side of the lake near those islands. Rumor has it that it's a good night fishing lake due to the clear water. Try trolling off the breaks for suspended fish.
Posted 6/28/2018 4:29 PM (#911049 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 231

I'm no pro, never fished in MN, but here are some things I learned: limited hours on water makes it hard to learn much, especially if time dictates you, so take this in stride. Try to get there under different conditions if you can, and sometimes a few days in a row are needed to see feeding windows, or to make you cover new area and suddenly get a fish moving. I learned a specific lake that had same clarity you have after putting in lots of time, but it started to be predictable if I could be there every other weekend, and I was single, fishing the whole weekend. If they weren't on the 10' weed edge, go deeper and they just start showing up. At times I added weight to my leaders to get the lure down better, and other days they would follow a topper in 20' of water. My learning curve was about 5 years, and went from thinking a 36" was nice, to expecting to see 4 plus fish a day, and one or more would always be 42-44" or better. Then I got married, had kids, and have to start all over again. Keep at it.
Posted 6/29/2018 8:46 AM (#911107 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 13

A lot of good advice above, good to see fellow anglers helping each other! In my experience clear water makes it tough to trick fish so low light conditions or good chop (for me) have been most productive.

Second all the advice given with a couple adds.
Try to mark bait on structure and then start there. I tend to fish a lot of the same spots over and over and have noticed over the years that marking bait spots tends to lead into seeing more muskies. Use this mentality when looking for new spots as well. Bait + structure = success
I think its a really good idea to target areas and break down/learn the lake as you have mentioned but don't get too hung up on those spots if you are not seeing fish. Keep moving, learn more.

Last thing is, always think you are going to catch a fish! For me personally anyway when I go out and have it made up in my mind I won't catch a fish - I don't. Always think that next cast is your shot at a real trophy - you will find how you present your lures, figure 8s, and mental awareness stay much sharper knowing the next cast is 10,000. This is tough during the grind but you have to stay positive or these fish will beat you.
True story - Week long trip to Ontario without a muskie on day 3-4, told my buddy he can have all my gear for $500 I'm retired, 10 minutes later there is a 52" in the bottom of the net, followed by a 43" on the next spot!

Got my first fish with a guide on my second outing and took me 4 years to catch another fish making only small adjustments to the times before. Keep asking questions, trying new techniques, it will happen!

Edited by AaronTicknor 6/29/2018 8:48 AM
Posted 7/1/2018 3:19 PM (#911279 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 380

You are on a great fishery, it can be tough early in the year on that lake. The weeds getting sprayed and killed can really mess up the fishing. try to find any clumps of mil foil, and fish the points, humps, and weed lines. Also going out with a guide on that lake will shorten the learning curve
Posted 7/1/2018 5:18 PM (#911288 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 158

I’ve been fishing Alex for 8 yrs and have put about 60 fish in the net from there and only a few of them have been in June. June is a just tough month out there. There are fish literally all over the lake, some spots better than others, but just about any spot you look there are fish there. Things have changed alot with all the weeds they’ve killed out there but the fish are still in there. Once the night bite gets going things really turn on, from about mid July until ice up it’s a fantastic lake but I still have days out there when I don’t see one. On days when they are active it’s common for me to see 10 or more and usually will get a shot at one or two. Dont give up yet, the best is seriously yet to come. My time out there will be limited this year, PM me if you want some more info.

Edited by Shoot2Kill 7/1/2018 6:10 PM
Posted 7/1/2018 5:31 PM (#911289 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 912

Summer can be tough everywhere. I suspect your luck will change come late-August/early-September.

If you're facing limited fishing time and learning new water, I'd hire somebody with the sole intention of learning the fundamentals of the lake and how things change through the seasons. I rarely catch fish when I'm out with a guide, because I want them to show me what's going to be working the next 4-8 weeks.
Posted 7/2/2018 8:00 AM (#911318 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 53

Location: Niagara on the Lake, ON
yeah like someone said a half day with a guide might be in order - good luck!
River Addict
Posted 7/2/2018 9:06 AM (#911322 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: RE: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 3

If you have access to a musky river nearby, give it a try. Usually more active fish and less complex structure to try to figure out.
Brad P
Posted 7/2/2018 10:18 AM (#911325 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 816

The advice on hiring a guide is really good for where you are at in the sport. It will take years off of your learning curve.

I'd focus on two things right now:

1.) Fish Location
2.) Technique/Presentations

The first item is as basic as it gets, but impacts every musky angler out there. To quote Larry Dahlberg: The Fish are where the fish are." Taking it a step further, let "nothing" teach you something. If you shoot up a blank then you are either not where the fish are or not showing them something they want. Adapt/Change/Adjust. Musky Fishing is about feedback on the given day you are out. Positive feedback is great, but you also need to learn from negative feedback in order to make changes on the fly. For now, give yourself 2 hours as a guideline. If you are chucking shallow inside edge stuff, and you throw up a goose egg, FISH DEEPER or vice versa.

In general if you are not seeing fish it is either a location issue (Too deep/shallow) or a presentation issue (too aggressive)

Some clear water wisdom: In general clear water is at it's best when the sky is overcast or the light is low. On any day, but especially a clear one you should be trying to identify fish location so you can present at Prime Time ie Sundown or a moon major/minor when the opportunity for a fish to feed is highest.

Start paying attention to the weather. Take notes on it. It is the biggest factor of all.

For item #2:Contrary to some of what is above I'd focus on learning a few select baits. One inline bait for aggressive fish. The obvious choice here is a bucktail. An erratic bait, something that is slow and has side to side or up/down action. Think Glider or Dive and Rise or a twich bait. Lastly, a deep lure, ie Bulldawg or Medussa.

Every single lure has a personality and tricks to the retrieve to get the most out of it. How you figure 8 each lure boatside is also going to be different for each bait in order for it to be most effective. For these reasons it is best to master a few vs. throwing 20 different lures every trip.

Last but not least: Figure 8 on every single cast and make sure when you go into the 8 you are gaining speed, not slowing down. The circles should be as wide as possible. After awhile you will get complacent, even lazy with the technique. That is when the fish usually shows up and punishes you. Think of it as practice because when the musky does show up, especially on pressured waters, it will be harsh judgement. If it is not up to snuff, it will give you the fin. If it is up to snuff you just might be rewarded with one of the finest experiences that freshwater fishing has to offer.

Edited by Brad P 7/2/2018 10:23 AM
Posted 7/2/2018 11:41 AM (#911340 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 5

Great feedback guys, definitely some useful knowledge here and I really appreciate it! I'll keep you posted on my season as it progresses, tight lines ??
tyler k
Posted 7/2/2018 11:46 AM (#911342 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 367

Location: Almond, WI
I would say keep your presentation basic, don't overthink. If conditions are favorable (low light, possible storm fronts) fish fast with bucktails and tail-spinning topwaters. When conditions aren't so favorable rely more on rubber, or jerkbaits. When in doubt, cover water--cast a bucktail fast or troll the weedlines/structure quickly. If you fish alone, don't be afraid to double drift, it's difficult to cover a spot adequately on your own so I often loop back over the same spot right away usually switching presentations (though not always). Often I'll lead off with a bucktail, and do a second drift with a glider, dive/rise or rubber.
Personally I think MN lakes are WAY better in the morning than evening (WI is the opposite in my experience, no clue why). Another thing about MN is you need to fish all edges, not just the deep edge. Reeds have moments they really shine, the crest of rock reefs and points, inside weed lines all need to be fished. This is especially true in early fall and in windy conditions.
Posted 7/2/2018 11:55 AM (#911344 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 1836

Network with people that fish the same waters and TOW are the biggest things that have helped me. Reading a board can be confusing with all the different info. Using others personal knowledge, having updated reports easily, and fishing with others reduces the learning curve.
Posted 7/4/2018 11:01 AM (#911507 - in reply to #911025)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 1404

Location: Kronenwetter, WI

Edited by Cowboyhannah 7/4/2018 11:02 AM
Posted 7/7/2018 5:00 PM (#911753 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 7

Location: Orwell, Oh & Aurora, IL
1. Time on Water & More Time on Water!!
1.1 Fish consecutive days (like a few have already said) patterns that are dead on one day, become alive the next
2. Fish when you know some weather is rolling in- even if its 35 miles to the north (I had a 3 fish day once in OH, could hear the T-Storms in the distance)
3. Pay attention to your electronics, drops offs or humps next to deep water are my fav
3. Time on Water!
Posted 7/28/2018 10:16 AM (#913610 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 5

I was out last night on Alex and I got my first follow! Low to.mid 40 for sure, thing was a log. Started my 8 and he just appeared seemingly from nowhere, hung there like a demon then just slowly swam off. It was intense for sure, just thought I'd let you guys know that I guess maybe I am doing something right!
Posted 7/28/2018 11:11 AM (#913619 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 1677

Get your checkbook ready after one eats - ha!!!

Edited by IAJustin 7/28/2018 11:12 AM
Posted 7/31/2018 1:55 PM (#913877 - in reply to #913610)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 334

KileyHughes - 7/28/2018 10:16 AM I was out last night on Alex and I got my first follow! Low to.mid 40 for sure, thing was a log. Started my 8 and he just appeared seemingly from nowhere, hung there like a demon then just slowly swam off. It was intense for sure, just thought I'd let you guys know that I guess maybe I am doing something right!

I grew up in that area of MN and Alex is the lake I started on and caught my first handful of muskies there.  Haven't fished muskies there in probably 7 years and don't miss it.  There was definitely a lot of fish in it but back then it was absolutely milfoil choked and fish buried in it.  Did ok spring and fall but the only consistent summer fish I could get were night fishing the milfoil edges... not fun.  Sounds like the milfoil is getting beat back though.

There's a lot of areas with a nice 25-35 foot secondary break and we caught fish off of that.

Before I ever caught one or had a follow, Soldier island was my favorite spot too.  It definitely looks great but I have never caught or seen a fish off of it.  Lots of largemouth in the middle of the night on double 10s though!  Don't get me wrong there are definitely muskies there, but there's fish everywhere on that lake so don't get tied down.

Trolling weedlines and watching for weeds, fish, birds, other fisherman, etc. is a good way to learn a lot of the lake in a short time rather than locking into a few spots that look good.

Posted 8/1/2018 7:49 AM (#913949 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 5

Tswoboda, in fact I decided to try a different area of the lake for the hell of it, found some good looking structure and started working it, and lo and behold there she was! So needless to say I will continue to explore the lake and hopefully it all comes to a head and i land a fish before December!
Posted 8/1/2018 10:47 AM (#913988 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 534

Sounds like you are RIGHT THERE--- Next will be the CATCH for sure.. Keep doing what you are right now and adding things as you learn them... Once you get it rolling and add Knowledge and confidence -- you can go to any lake and know what to look for and have the tactics to match... I think you will boat multiple fish before season end....
Posted 8/1/2018 10:54 AM (#913991 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 84

Location: Tulsa, OK
The thing that to me is most important thing I have learned, log the dates and times of your catches, wind direction, weather, lure and location (the spot). You will see that certain spots seem to produce at certain times, and when you learn this you optimize your milk run because you are at certain areas when they seem to be most active instead of running around and hoping your timing is right on.

Other things you can do is find and mark similar looking spots so when the wind is out of a certain direction, you know exactly what spots are good for that wind direction. You don't waste time looking for similar spots when the conditions are optimal.

Once you start catching fish, you will get better at learning boat control and how you worked the structures, conditions and what lurers are best for them. This is all gained with time on the water. You gotta throw into the "abyss" to find and figure things out.

Good luck.
Posted 8/1/2018 1:28 PM (#914021 - in reply to #910993)
Subject: Re: Seeking wisdom

Posts: 149

The lake had a couple big cisco year classes recently. A lot of the fish might be spending time out in no man's land. I fish the lake quite a bit and it is nothing like it was 15-20 years ago. The population is down somewhat but there is still a good population out there and the condition of the fish is significantly better compared to the high number days. Some tankers for sure. I think the fish are well educated, open water oriented, and the clear water makes them skittish during the day. Try low light periods, night, majors and minors, and prefrontal conditions.
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