How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Muskies 101 Questions and Answers

This is an article from Midwest Outdoors Magazine by Jack Schwab.

From John Jenkins, Dugger, IN
Q The DNR stocked musky in some old coal mine strip pits near here about 8 years ago. One pit is about 100 acres and about 40 feet deep, with lots of points, humps, downed and standing trees, and gravel. The forage is mostly shad, carp and panfish. Could this become a possible trophy producing lake? Will they breed here as well as they do in natural lakes? I fish alone a lot. What is the best way to land a musky when I’m alone, with a net or a cradle? I always practice catch and release.

A Not being a fish biologist, I can only answer the spawning question from my personal experience with strip mines, and that is that they are usually very infertile without much of the type of cover that muskies will use to spawn in. I would have to say (only from MY experience) that the odds of a strip pit being a really good muskie spawning lake are slim. This does not mean that they won’t spawn there, but without much preferred habitat (large marshy areas with shallow dead weeds) spawning might not be too productive. The fact that there are shad and carp in the lake does offer a decent forage base to grow big fish, and that is a good thing.

Actually, do you know that they are TRUE muskies? The DNR might have stocked hybrids, which do not spawn, simply to offer more muskie fishing possibilities to the good citizens of Indiana. I know that in Illinois the DNR stocks lots of hybrids in strip mines, fishing for them is fun, and they DO get pretty big. In a 100-acre lake, if they did spawn successfully, it could easily result in over population, which can cause stunting, due to so many fish trying to live and grow in a relatively small and infertile body of water. Usually, a ratio of about one adult fish per 2 or 3 acres of water is considered a highly populated lake; more than that can cause big problems for growth, because of the competition for food and habitat in basically infertile water. It is possible that the lake could produce a few trophies, but for that to happen it will require an almost total C & R for all fish caught, and that the stocked fish actually have the genes to grow to a trophy size.

Without knowing all the details about the lake and the stocked fish, I cannot give you a positively correct answer.

As far as fishing alone for muskies, a BIG net is your best bet. A cradle is impossible to use if you are alone. I fish alone about 90% of the time, and always have my net locked open and easily accessible (not stuck under tackle boxes or wedged under a seat), and even then it sometimes becomes a real adventure! Your question is a good one, and thanks for writing. I would check with the Indiana DNR regarding the spawning possibilities, and ask if they stocked true muskies or hybrids. Good luck!

From Willard Doerfert, Sun Prairie, WI
Q Why do muskie fishermen always STAND when muskie fishing?

A Hemorrhoids maybe? Sorry… Actually, they don’t always stand. Musky trollers rarely stand, and if they do it is usually just to fetch a fresh beer or to deposit some recycled beer over the side. Oops, sorry again… OK, muskie fishermen usually stand when casting because it is easier to spot casting targets and the occasional follower, and because it is hard to get any distance and accuracy on the cast from a sitting position, and because setting hooks is much easier when standing up. Also, getting a fresh beer is easier too, and much less messy when disposing
of used beer over the side from a standing position (unless one is of the female persuasion); then you gotta hit the beach and find a bush… Actually, casting for muskies is a lot like a lumberjack chopping wood,
and you can’t do that very well when sitting down.

From Zak Kalve, Stone Park, IL
Q I am going to be doing some mid-July muskie fishing on Lake of the Woods this summer. We are mostly going to be working the shallows and shorelines. I was wondering if you have any tips for lure selection? Also, does the size of the lure really matter that much? I have been arguing with my Dad about this for years.

A Not having spent much time on LOTW (I spend most of my musky time in northern Wisconsin and (now) on Lake Kinkaid in Illinois), I put your question to my friend Larry Ramsell (noted musky guru, historian, author and excellent musky guide). Here is what he said: “I would go with surface lures like the WISHER, TOP RAIDER or JACKPOT and bucktails that can be reeled FAST. Those lures should be all you need. Size only makes a difference to the fisherman. CONFIDENCE is the key!” Sounds good to me! I could only add that a selection of twitch baits might be useful too (for working slowly over weeds), as well as a couple shallow-running gliders and jerk baits. ‘Nuff said. Good luck!

From Fred Kviz, Aurora, IL
Q What do you think of the new wave of soft plastic swimbaits and swimming jigs for musky? Can you offer any tips about which styles of baits and types of presentations might be the most productive for muskies? Do soft plastics make hook-setting more difficult?

A I only know what I have experienced, and that is that soft plastics and musky-sized jigs with plastic trailers WORK! Lots of Storm’s and Berkeley’s pre-rigged soft plastics are excellent over open water and as trolling lures, and working a big ounce-and-a ?half rubber legged jig with a shad body and a swimming tail trailer can get you more action than you would ever hope for! I don’t think that the success fishermen are experiencing with this
style of lure is because of any secret feature that the lures possess; rather it is because they are relatively NEW to muskies, and still mostly unused by musky fishermen. Most likely, once they become as common as jerkbaits and bucktails, they will become yesterday’s news. For now, though, I’d load up on ‘em, and make the most of a good thing!

As far as presentations and retrieves, it’s a no-brainer. For the most part, when using a pre-rigged plastic swimbait a steady retrieve works best, and when using the jig and plastic trailer, a simple swim, quick pause, swim, quick pause retrieve seems to trigger the most strikes. DON’T fish the jig/plastic on the bottom like a bass jig; keep it moving UP in the water column with an occasional pause, but don’t let it sink very far before beginning the retrieve again. Keep these baits MOVING.

As far as hook-setting ability, both the jigs and the rigged plastics hook very well, with not much chance of losing a fish due to a short strike. The fish seem to inhale these things quite easily, and, being relatively small lures, the hooks grab pretty well. I always bend the hook points out, just a little, and keep the hook(s) SHARP!

From John Corradetti, New Lenox, IL
Q Have you ever considered using SPOONS when musky fishing? It appears to me that the best-known musky pros never address their use, even when they troll. Because of their versatility and cost advantage, they seem to be a viable option. What is your opinion?

A I LOVE spoons! The old red-eye wiggler caught a solid 48 incher for me on Manitowish Lake, back in the sixties, as well as a good 45 incher on Big Mackenzie Lake five years ago. Why don’t we use them more? Probably because of the almost total absence of ADVERTISING in the fishing mags they are hardly ever even THOUGHT of by most musky fishermen. Also, if you have ever tried casting them, it is hard to make accurate casts because they act like a knuckleball when they are in the air; they dart and spin in all directions, and because it is like throwing a hubcap, at least in any wind! Actually, they hook well, they DO attract fish, and they just plain WORK! BIG spoons are fine lures, particularly when trolling, and in some casting situations. Eppinger makes the Daredevle in a great weedless version, and the old Johnson Silver Minnow is a classic. I use the Johnson spoon a lot in the weeds, and, while northerns LOVE them, they will take their share of muskies too. Also, the original “Red-Eye” spoons, in nickle, brass or copper are excellent open water lures. Just keep spoons rocking side-to-side, and don’t let them spin. That side-to side action is what triggers strikes. Weedless spoons can be tipped with most anything, but I usually use pork, either an ordinary pork chunk or a “bass strip”, or a plastic twister tail. Give ‘em a shot!


At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Shawn said...

I noticed you said 'hardly any advertising is done on spoons in any of the magazines...'

I suspect that this might change soon, as spoons are proven to work beyond a shadow of a doubt.

I'm running a site for my company, and we too are noticing the drop in sales over the past couple of years.

Thus, during this season, we're hoping to develope a whole new product line, and launch a major ad campaign in 2007.

I appreciate the fact that you gave some props to the spoons here... A lot of companies have gone to plastics, and then over market them.

By the way, maybe you could stop by our site, and then e'mail me your thoughts on what we might be missing. I think we have most of the basic spoons covered, and if things go right, we'll be adding some weedless spoons. Perhaps theres a few more that we should include?

Let me know, I'll take any input into consideration!


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