How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Muskie season off to a good start

Some anglers report more, bigger fish
June 14, 2007



Fishing guide Jon Bondy of Windsor caught this 51-inch muskie in the Detroit River, deep-jigging with a large Bondybait lure he created for this technique

The opening days of the muskellunge season on Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River have seen anglers catching more fish than at the same time last year, and some big fish for this early in the season.

"It's better than last spring, but it's still a little slow" by Lake St. Clair standards, said Mike Pittiglio, who runs the charter boat Muskie Mania. "We were 4-for-9 one day, then 2-for-3 the next and then 1-for-2. The main problem the last two days was that the water was so flat and clear. There was no wind."

You want a chop and a little bit of cloudiness in the water," said Pittiglio, one of the most successful captains on the lake. "We've been getting most of the fish in Anchor Bay, right in tight in 7-9 feet of water. There hasn't been much happening on the Canadian side, but the winning fish in the first Michigan Ontario Muskie Club tournament (33.9 pounds) did come from the dumping grounds over there."

Pittiglio said he has been following the usual spring pattern of fishing smaller lures, 6-inch Lokis and Wileys, and added, "I haven't had any really big fish yet, nothing over 20 pounds, but other people have had a few over 30. That's good for the spring."

Among the giants reported so far was a 58 1/2 -inch monster with a 23-inch girth that weighed in at 38 pounds on a digital scale for angler Brad Nowak, manager of the Gander Mountain store in Grand Rapids.

Bob Wyffels, president of the MOMC, said the club's opening weekend tournament June 2-3 produced more fish caught than last year but fewer than previous openers, before a disease called viral hemorrhagic septicemia appeared and killed large numbers of muskellunge and other fish.

"The big fish are still there, but we're not seeing the numbers that we're used to. What we're not seeing as those mid-range, 35-40 inch fish. When a disease first appears, it's usually the old and the young animals that die, but this one seems to have hit mostly big, healthy fish in the prime years," Wyffels said.

Steve Jones, perhaps the most experienced muskie guide on St. Clair, was pleased both by the increased numbers of fish this spring, their size and the fact that "we aren't seeing any dead muskies floating."

"This is a slower time, anyway," he said. "If you land one or two fish, that's about par for this time of year," Jones said. "What's really pleasing is the quality of the fish. Last season, we had the best year for big fish over 48 inches I've ever seen, and this year looks like it's starting out the same."

The three winning fish in the MOMC tournament weighed 33.9, 31.85 and 31.65 pounds, Wyffels said. "Nice fish for this time of year. Even though our numbers may be down, Lake St. Clair is still best muskellunge fishery in the world. Where else do you hear people complaining that they're only catching four or five muskies a day?"

Windsor guide Jon Bondy also has had a good start on the Detroit River, where he practices a very different muskie technique -- deep jigging with big swimbaits.

"I use 8-foot rods with 80-pound braided line, and when you get a strike, it just about pulls your arms out of their sockets. I think it's the most exciting kind of fishing I've ever tried," said Bondy, who guides for bass, walleyes and muskellunge on Lakes St. Clair and Erie and the Detroit River.

"I got the idea about six years ago. I used to catch muskies on small jigs when I was fishing for walleyes, and I started wondering what would happen if I tried deep jigging with a bigger bait, something the size of the suckers that muskies like to eat," he said. "I couldn't find anything that fit the bill, so I decided to make my own."

The result is the Bondybait, a 9-inch, 7-ounce soft-bodied jigging lure with two big treble hooks, a spinner at the tail and 3 ounces of lead in the center that he sells for $14.95 U.S. on his Web site,

"The whole thing weighs 7 ounces, but you need that weight in the current we fish," he said. "You let the boat drift slowly downstream while you jig the lure (keeping it off the snaggy bottom.) You try to keep a tight line, and they usually hit when it's dropping.

"Typically, we get about four a day. Today, we had two on and landed one. The best part of the season for this kind of fishing is the early part, from the opening day through about the middle of July. The last half of July and August are too hot. It gets good again in the fall, but at a lot time the weather is so bad then that you can't get out," he said.

Tim Elias of St. Clair Shores got quite a surprise when and fishing buddy Nick Dubber launched a canoe at Metrobeach Metropark on a recent evening and paddled onto the flat waters of Anchor Bay.

"There was no wind at all, so I decided to troll a red-and-white spoon to see if I could catch a pike or a walleye. I was sitting in the back of the canoe when it almost stopped dead and the rod bent way over. I though we had snagged some weeds or the bottom," Dubber said.

When he lifted the rod out of the holder and tried to free the spoon with a quick tug, the 10-pound line started zipping off the spool, and Dubber knew he had a big fish of some kind.

"With that 10-pound, I couldn't take any chances on horsing it in, so I let it run and just gained whenever I could for the next 15 minutes," he said. "It was a muskie and when we got it alongside the canoe I used a piece of line from Nick's rod to mark its length. We measured the line when we got back to shore, and it was a little over 51 inches."

Contact ERIC SHARP at 313-222-2511 or Order his book "Fishing Michigan" for $15.95 at or by calling 800-245-5082. Pittiglio can be reached by telephone at 586-260-4068 or on the internet at In addition to his Web site, Bondy can be reached at 313-332-9813. Jones' internet site is; his telephone number is 586-463-3474.


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