Cool weather, we need some more of it! Hunters crave it as one of the factors to triggering the rut during dear season, when the bucks loose all sense, and only have lust on their minds. The same colder weather can be calling to the pike and muskie angler. While its not THAT primal urge that turns on these fish, none the less, hunger and the outlook of a long cold winter make the members of the esox family extremely active.
Recently I had a long talk with a good friend of mine in Minnesota. He has a couple of long deserved days off coming up starting tomorrow. Minnesota is famed for its muskie fishing, and the conversation centered on fall strategies for landing these monsters.
All lakes are different and the make-up of its structure is critical in determining how you plan to locate and land a muskie. What can be said of the ski, more often than not, can be applied to the northern. Apply these fall characteristics of the fish to the lake you are on, and there is a good chance you will be able to hook up.
Colder weather means that the fish will come up in the water column. Notice I didn’t say the fish would be shallow. Although true during mid-day while sunning themselves, this idea just doesn’t apply to shallow water. Fish can be running shallow in 40 foot of water during the fall, being only 10 ft below the surface.
Morning bites can find pike and muskie roaming (patrolling shallow) the shallow flats and edges in a lake’s coastline. They are looking for larger minnows and panfish before they head off to the safety of the weedbeds for the day. Work some of the jerkbaits, and topwaters to locate these critters.
Mid-morning, the big fish can be found on the weed edges, either on the shallow or deep side. Waiting to ambush, they lurk within the beds. Spinnerbaits, cranks and jerks are good choies.
Noon, the fish could be anywhere. In the shallows perhaps sunning themselves and taking advantage of the sun’s warming rays. Over deep water doing the same thing, from five foot to the surface. Suspended over a sunken hump or flat. A good map before you begin fishing will help you key in on good areas to target. A wounded looking bait can be the ticket here. Cranks and jerks would be the first method to try. Also, a fast moving spinner could make them strike out of sheer annoyance.
As the day progresses, reverse these keys. As night approaches you will find yourself doing the same things as you did in the early morning. An early night bite, although you will catch pike, is often more productive when targeting muskie.
Trolling will either be your main method or serve as a time to take a break from casting. Use the same areas as you would be casting in, work the edges and breaks. Go over those humps and the outer areas of the flats. A bait moving at three and four, perhaps five miles an hour is more than enough to trigger these fish into a strike. You do not have to tone it down too much for northerns, but starting out at 2, 3 and 4 mph can be more productive.