How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Shady Side of Musky Hunting
By David Christian

Most anglers only get to spend a limited amount of time on the water and most of this time will be during the summer months. Some of the weekends will be those perfect, overcast, rainy days that all muskie fishermen dream about. The sad truth is, that most of the weekends will be the hot, stagnate summer-time days we all despise, especially when we are on our one-and-only weekend fishing trip this month. These hot days can still be productive if you plan your day according to the suns’ angle. The suns’ angle in the sky plays an important role on any of the highland or hilland style reservoir that exists in the midwest. You will find many shady areas throughout a lake. Fish will use these low-light areas to forage in and generally, will move higher up in the water column, giving the angler a better opportunity to come in contact with them. Every piece of structure in a lake will produce a shade-line, depending on the sun's angle. Using the wide variety of shade-lines can be beneficial on those bright, bluebird days that often plague our fishing adventures.

As we all know, the low-light periods of early morning and late evening are some of the best times to be on the water. During the heat of summer, these are the periods that offer the coolest conditions, for the fish and us. Obviously, these low-light conditions are created by the suns low angle in the sky and will produce longer shade-lines. The suns bright, mid-day light will drive fish deeper. It will also heat the waters' surface temperature faster than a shaded area. The surrounding horizon can help add an advantage while you're on the water once you learn to read it properly. The combination of hilly terrain and the suns' angle will produce very long shadows on certain areas of a lake. This combination will also prolong an areas' shade, allowing you more time to fish them. You must pre-determine your "summer shade-line" run, depending on the angle of your favorite fishing spots in relation to the sun and horizon, You've heard of the pro-fisherman's "milk run"? Well, this is the bright, summer day version of a "milk run".

Some knowledge of your lake is the most important factor. If it is a new lake you are fishing, study a lake map and determine where the sun appears to "ride" the horizon. Look for the taller mountains and hills surrounding the water. On most Midwest reservoirs, the sun will be in the southernmost horizon, the south side of the lake or bay will be your major target area. Spend time learning which bay has morning shade and which bay has afternoon or evening shade. The key is to learn when the shade is in a certain bay and how the horizon lays a shadow across that particular bay during specific times of the day. Weeds and docks are always producing shade-lines. Points, secondary breaks and the edge of a flat will also create a large shadeline underneath the waters surface. We can't see this shade, but it is there and fish will use this small area as they move off the top of a flat or bar. To determine which side of the structure fish are located will depend greatly on the suns position in the sky.

During the middle of the day the sun will most likely be immediately over-head, which will make it tough to find any shade. This is when you pack-up the kids and go for a swim, eat lunch and take a nap, or go to the store and get camp supplies. As the sun begins to dip low in the afternoon sky, the combination of sun and nature will begin to cast its' shadows. This is the time of day to continue with our summertime strategy. Our most sought after gamefish has been driven deeper by the midday sun and they are now rising in the water column. Fish ascending the slightest bit shallower means, as an angler you do not have to cover as much water. Whether it is bass or musky, most species hate sunshine and will bury their heads to avoid the bright sun. As soon as the late-day shade begins to re-appear, they will begin to roam, or at least back off the cover somewhat.

During the late summer season, as the sun lowers its' position along the horizon, there will be particular bays that maintain a nice shade-line throughout most of the day. These areas will be a few degrees cooler than the sun drenched areas of the lake, this is natures air conditioning, a nice cool spot in the shade. When the lake temperatures are topping out in the upper 80's this slightly cooler water will make all the difference.

Now you’ve got a plan for those clear bluebird skies that haunt us during the summer. You should know which one of your favorite areas to quit fishing so you can get to another area and start fishing before the shade disappears. You will find that during certain times of the day an area will be very productive, but as the sun climbs in the sky, the shady area diminishes, and by 10:30 am, the fish just seem to turn-off. Figure out the time of day a specific corner or pocket of a bay continues to have shade and write the information in your fishing log. Find the deep weeds and learn where the shady pockets are. Look at the docks on your lake and know when you will target each one of your favorites. We have been told for years to fish the shady side of wood or rock, but the terrain, whether above or below the water will also cast a shade-line. By learning these little intricacies about a lake you will become a more efficient weekend angler. These are the little tricks that can help you enjoy summer fishing to it's fullest. This is also one of the little tricks that help the professionals win tournaments. Hopefully they will help you catch more fish and stay cool in the hot summer sun.

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