October 01, 2014

Have you ever gone down to the basement, stared at the rafters and said to nobody, “What in God’s name am I doing down here?”

Yesterday I did just that. Then I saw some muskie lures lined up on a clothes line and remembered, “Oh yeah, I need to start looking at some favorite fall baits in all types: blade baits and spinnerbaits, plastic crankbaits, wooden jerkbaits, and some rubber “Bulldog” type baits, that will trigger reactions from bigger, Michigan “mama muskies” – trophies if you will.”

With my cranium cranked up a bit, a decision was made to get organized for the final autm push again. What do I need to do to make this Michigan fall muskie season a success? Taking this idea one step further, “What practical things can I think of to help everyone from the beginner to the veteran muskie nut just plain be a better muskie angler?”

With over 40-years of muskie fishing experience, I thought I would put together 5- common sense ideas that will help Michigan muskie anglers put a few more fish in the boat (knowing, of course, that many of these tips can be used by all anglers during all seasons).

Number 1

Control Your Own Destiny

Maintain Your Equipment & Boat

Brian Mulherin, from Ludington came to Iron County in the U.P. and caught this nice muskie. He remained patient and confident throughout a long ride with Mark Mylchreest and the author.

This tip may be a no-brainer for many anglers but before that 1st fall outing, let’s remember to sharpen our hooks with a good file. Also, let’s change our lines even though the new superlines like 80-lb Spider Wire (Stealth Braid) or Power Pro Superline are much stronger and reliable than the old Dacron muskie line. An old guide told me one time to cut 4-feet of line off after a long day and retie, especially after trolling.

Finally, oil your reels. And – spray some WD-40 on them especially if you are as paranoid as me about extra oil getting on your line or hands. Heck, wash your hands too.

My 17.5-ft. Tuffy – Osprey Boat has 2 livewells. I make sure they are working properly and that the batteries are charged for the big motor and 2 Minnkota electric trolling motors. My bowmount trolling motor is an i-Pilot and I enjoy the features such as Spot Lock (works as an anchor) and Auto Pilot. Of course, it’s quiet so I use it for short trolling runs. My transom electric motor is used primarily for dragging suckers around while casting.

I have a Hummingbird fish locator which also has GPS and navigation capabilities to use for waypoints, routes, and tracks. For all these functions, it is a constant learning experience. I have a saying that says if I don’t learn something today, I am falling behind. I also think that boat control is very important as far as proper depth, angle, and speed whether casting or trolling.

Number 2

Choose A Good Muskie Lake

There are many more muskie lakes in Michigan than most anglers think. Even after many years of catching muskies in Iron County in the Upper Peninsula, I am asked, “Where did you catch that big fish.”

When I tell people, for example, that I caught that 45-inch muskie on Stanley Lake, some people are astonished and say, “You mean that big toothy critter is swimming around in my lake.” Some people just don’t believe me but most anglers do.

To get reliable information on your local lakes you can call your local DNR office, email the DNR website, or get a “Sportsman’s Michigan Fishing Map Guide” for your area. Also, ask around your favorite sports shops to find out if the lake is a “numbers lake” or a “trophy lake.” They will tell you whether that lake has plenty of small muskies or it is a known fact that most fish that are caught are in the low to high “forties” with a few “fifties” caught each year.

Number 3

How To Fish

Crowded/Pressured Lakes

Living in the U.P., I have fished for all species of fish from bluegills to muskies and I have seen some lakes that have become crowded or pressured over the years, especially during the summer months. Also, sometimes the good muskie lakes are home to the best resorts. Lately, the Internet, Facebook, better communication between anglers and just plain word of mouth speak about muskies caught just hours ago. This all add up to pressured waters and wary muskies. I think it’s a known fact that bigger muskies do not react well to pressured or crowded waters. What to do?

Let me say that my Wisconsin buddies tell me about crowed lakes and when they come over this way they usually say, “You call this crowded – this is nothing compared to some of our lakes.” Well, okay, maybe I am a little spoiled.

If muskie lakes near you are crowded or pressured, even after Labor Day, you can make these adjustments:

Try fishing a flowage or more remote area where the pressure is way down. Use your maps to fish smaller humps or secondary locations near a favorite muskie reef or rocky point. Also, when popular weedlines are getting pounded, some of the bigger muskies may swim into deeper water so cast out into open water or stay out further from the weedline and cast just short of the weeds. A friend of mine likes to cast Bulldogs, those heavy, rubber lures that sink to the bottom, and he does well. Again, in my neck of the woods, they aren’t used very much so they produce.

That leads me to another subject: throw lures that are not as popular on certain muskie lakes during the fall and tinker “confidence” baits to make them produce even more often. One lure immediately stands out and that is the spinnerbait, meaning the one that has the upper arm that holds the spinners.

Mark Mylchreest, our resident superintendent of DNR fisheries and super muskie angler, tunes his bucktail blade baits and spinnerbaits by “cupping” the blades, changing them from Willow to Colorado blades, for example, changing the size or diameter of the wire he uses to make his own leaders and uses only single wire leaders on all of his muskie baits. He works with AFW Tooth Proof Stainless Steel Leader Wire (for toothy critters). A simple Haywire Twist (knot) attaches to a split ring and the bait and, on the other end to the line with a swivel connector.

Number 4

Fish With The Best Angler You Know And/Or A Reliable Guide

One of Mark Mylchreest’s more memorable and re-“mark”-able statements came while Brian Mulherin, yours truly, and Mark were fishing the Paint River in Crystal Falls last week. When I fish muskies with Mark I am like a “Detective Fishbrain” in his boat. I spied about a dozen single-strand leaders on top of one of his tackle boxes. I knew from past experience why he ties his own. Like “Neuman’s Own” salad dressing, “Mylchreest’s Own” muskie leaders are simply of the highest quality. He threw out a tinkered spinnerbait and opined the fact that several years ago he discovered that a certain gauge, single strand leader he made outperformed other leader/bait combos. The combo spreads out vibration on a longer line of sound waves that interact with the long lateral line of a muskie. Mark can feel the intensity of the vibrations in his hands and he listens to the tune his baits sing. Tinker, my friends, tinker!

Number 5


“Muskies are a fish of the next cast,” said Mark.

“That’s beautiful,” I said, as a muskie hit my “just tinkered” spinnerbait and jumped 3 times in and out of a misty fog.

“Not only that,” said Mark — “It’s perfect.”

To build confidence, know that attitude is the invisible karma that turns the game around.

Essential to this belief is the equally important trust in the statements: stay alert; step outside the box; have fun.

Fallacy: The guy that casts first to a hot spot always gets the strike.

Axiom: Mark M. believes that different muskies have different tastes. Certain lures

like a topwater bait almost always triggered

a certain 48-incher in a certain spot. No

other bait spurred her curiosity. Certain

muskies have individual triggers. Find it

and hang on!