Muskies are a fish of the next cast!

October 01, 2015

Oh yeah, there’s a sharp keen, kaleidoscope of colors out there, intensified by the reflections on the water. That means I need to load up some of my favorite fall baits: blade baits, spinnerbaits, plastic crankbaits, wooden jerkbaits, and some rubber “Bulldog” type baits, that will trigger reactions from bigger, Michigan “mama muskies” – trophies if you will.

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).

This tip may be a no-brainer for many anglers but before that first 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.

This beautiful 48-inch muskie was caught by John Vengen (right of author) of Ludington, in the Paint River. Because several muskie lakes were crowded, they switched to a lesser-known, tannic-stained river where they had a perfect October, Michigan muskie day.

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 a GPS, capable of marking waypoints, routes, and tracks. For all these functions, it is a constant learning experience.

I also think that boat control is extremely important as far as proper depth, angle, and speed whether casting or trolling.

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.” You need to find out whether a 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.

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, and better communication between anglers and just plain word of mouth talk 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.

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 noticed 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 simply perform better. 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!

“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. For Example, certain lures

like a topwater bait almost always triggered a certain 48-incher in a

certain spot. No other bait spurred

her curiosity. Yes, certain muskies have individual triggers. Find it and hang on!

The point of all this information is that on lakes like LOTW in Minnesota and Michigan muskie lakes like Chicagon Lake in Iron County, Mark and his son, Matthew, account for more strikes, more fish caught on figure-8’s, and total catch for the week than any other duo, making them a consistent dynamic duo. And, I think it has a lot to do with their knowledge of a lake, boat control, and the

sound and vibration of his lures

and leaders.

There is one pressured lake in the U.P. that is very susceptible to trolled and weedless spinnerbaits but really, any fairly weedy lake will become hard to fish because of dying weeds into September. Change tactics and troll down the center of the lake. It works.

We should make an effort to fish during the week when prime time October rolls around and make sure to fish during the full and new moon phases and use your GPS to mark places where you see or have caught muskies before. Follow the routes and tracks.