Yep! I still get the “yipees and hollers” when the NFL season starts. Frosty mornings and football games and hungry muskies become the predominant thoughts on my Fishbrain mind.
It’s an October Sunday! We muskie fish in the morning only and get home in time for the game. Whether you are a Detroit Lion fan or a Green Bay Packer fan, autumn is an exciting time of year. Michigan’s stunning autumn “coloramas” are the backdrops for touchdowns and muskie strikes.
The numbers in the title? Well, they are water temperatures. Any resemblance to the signal calling by Aaron Rogers or Mathew Stafford is purely coincidental.
The temps correspond to the four periods we will be discussing for the fall muskie season. By keeping an eye on weather conditions during the months of September, October, and into November and paying close attention to the changing water conditions on your favorite muskie lakes and rivers, you will become a better, more successful muskie angler.
Why do some muskie fishermen catch more muskies in the fall and all year, really? Well, here it is, folks! Preparation and observation of weather patterns and water temperature.
Earlier in my muskie fishing career, I thought, “The predictability of muskie fishing is the fact that muskies are unpredictable.” Now, however, I beg to differ with myself. By using water temps somewhat like a compass, an angler will know where and how he should be fishing. And, even though muskies, especially female muskies, have no way of knowing it, their instinct tells them they need to feed. The females, of course, need to maintain and nourish their eggs to get through winter.
67 Degrees Equals
The Fall Transition Period
The fall transition starts when the water temperature drops to 67-degrees. This is an average temp and a range from 69 to 56- degrees should be monitored. Don’t worry. The muskies will tell you. Just be on the water!
A muskies autumn clock starts a migration towards shallow locations in 6-feet of water or less. It is my favorite time for muskie hunting because all the muskies in a given body of water “seem to sense” that turnover is just around the corner. Its binge time, folks, and fresh, big muskies will be arriving every day.
So, make hay while the sun shines, all you muskie hunters, and be aware of the first cold front and cooler evenings; you’ll probably be able to predict that muskies will drop out of shallow water and search for cooler, more comfortable conditions.
Yes, also make a mental note that an angler’s nemesis – turnover — is lurking in the shadows and, unfortunately, turnover may happen several times a year – a real bummer for esox Masquinongy anglers.
Lures For This Period
Big bucktails like Cowgirls with double mag, ten-inch blades that really flash, like a night in Las Vegas. Add the super vibration factor of these spinning blades and you’ve got yourself “good vibrations.” (Remember that song?) And armed with a generous, sparkly flashabou skirt, you are now throwing one of the most successful muskie baits of all time.
I have discussed spinnerbaits quite extensively so you know how dominate they can be. Ruff Tackle Deep 10 Rad Dog, Shumway Funky Chicken Spinnerbait, and Lindy MAG are all big fish baits.
Surface baits, to me, included ReefHogs Phantoms, weighted Suicks, and Poe’s Giant Jackpot Topwater baits like Topraiders and River 2 Sea 190 Whopper Plopper rule.
Now we have a real challenge. Patience is a must in these conditions. Muskies will be seen in the 6- to 15-fot range. Actual turnover is now happening; the warmer surface drops while the colder bottom water rises and we have, well, cloudy, messy water conditions. We will see weeds dying and the fishing, well, it sucks! For a while.
You’ll be in a wee bit of a quandary of what to do so you might want to do a little trolling to cover lots of water. Another option would be to soak a sucker with a quick-set rig like a Smity quick-set rig (best that I have used).
It is definitely time to really work your crankbaits. Work them hard and get them to give the illusion of an erratic, wounded baitfish. Also, use any bait that you can crank down and then let rise – slooowly. Bam – Muskie on!
Use a variety of baits until the muskies tell you what they want. Use Bulldawgs and other plastic baits, especially paddle tails.
Finally, this tough time should make you very aware and go lake hoppin’. As I have discussed many times, the smaller lakes will turn over first so hit the bigger lakes first. When the bigger lakes turn over, go back to the smaller ones.
One thing we do in the U.P. area is to fish larger river system like the Brule River and the Paint Pond systems. The water is coffee-stained and muskies are less wary. I have seen muskies hit my chartreuse-black dotted SwimWhizz, miss it and come back again and whack it. Even more interesting is how determined or crazy, I don’t know which – how river muskies will strike my sucker rig, get loose, and whack it again. You gotta love that! We usually hook ’em good the second time.
During this fall turnover period of around 57-degrees, a smart choice is to downsize your lures to 7 or 8-inches or smaller. On Big Lake Of The Woods, for example, I came back to the dock with a total of five muskies in one hectic morning. Next day, the while camp downsized. My 8-inch ReefHog was scarred to the max.
Fall Trophy Time
I always have used one number like 47 degrees, even though I know that a range of temperature like 45 to 52 degrees would probably be more accurate, if I could remember it. Let me just say that 47 degrees is my lucky number and I have caught more fall 47-inch muskies than most of my Yooper pals. Just sayin’! Watch for #47!
Yep, first muskies are shallow in the fall, then many of them move out to deeper transitional areas and, lo and behold, in they come once again. What a game of cat and mouse we anglers have. And ouch! It hurts to think too much!
Around 47-degrees, my experience tells me that not only do muskies feed with reckless abandon, but they are also in an energy conservation process. They are well aware of nearby baitfish schools and whitefish and ciscos (because they focus on fish with a high fatty content – with protein) and suckers (your pet one on a leash). It has been a theory of mine that trophy muskies, if given a choice, would rather eat a bigger fish than spend useless time chasing smaller fish in schools. It’s the energy conserving thing again. And that, my friends, leads me to the next subject.
In these colder conditions with muskies being in this energy conserving mode, it is logical to sloooow down your reel retrieve. Not that my adrenalin is sky high or my metabolism has got me two inches off the boat floor, but I actually have a tendency to reel my baits like a madman. I have to remind myself to slow down.
Slow And Methodical
Muskies will be deep in most
lakes so when I spot them on my
locator, I drop a sucker or troll
over them. However, I know of two river systems where I can catch them shallow, like 6 to 10 feet. Sooner or later I’ll catch a big 47-incher. I knew it!
Watch for hard bottom/soft bottom areas on your locator as these areas become travel routes. Dress warm and fish only a few good spots a day. Troll and cast to keep warm and nail one. Be methodical and cast your lures towards your soaking sucker.
If you run into ciscos, fish the heck out of the area.
Most of all have fun and watch those water temps; muskies are predictable in the fall. I use a chart and check. I hear it – 67-57-47-37- Muskie-Go Long-Hike! Ooops! The game starts in 30-minutes. Let’s mark this spot and get some lunchmeat.
I guess our muskie crew is pretty predictable too!