Musky America Magazine July2022 Edition

Musky America Magazine July 2022 Edition Thank you for visiting Musky America Magazine! Sorry for the delay in the July edition, I just got back from my 3week adventure on the water. This issue will cover a range of tactics and information to help you with success on the water as the season trudges onward. Stay Safe, You Can’t Catch Musky From The Grave Each day of the Musky season, anglers experience encounters on the water that can provide insights for all of us Musky anglers. For information about submitting articles for inclusion in Musky America Magazine, Please CLICK HERE! Craig Sandell Owner and Fellow Musky Angler The Icons shown here are at the bottom of the Magazine pages. *All Rights Preserved©*

If you find yourself in need of “short-term” medical care for cuts, abrasions, hooks in the hand, and other Musky fishing maladies, this is a great option. Visit the website at Birchwood Family Medicine | Birchwood Direct Primary Care. The Making Of A Memory By Craig Sandell © 2022 It was June and time to revisit the folks at Indian Trail Resort. I had been fishing for about 2 weeks…well, the wind made it unsafe to be on the water for at least 5 days of the two weeks. There are some really accomplished Musky anglers who stay at Indian Trail Resort, so the low number of Musky registered at the resort was not typical. The wind and rolling storm fronts had many of us drowning our disappointment at the bar. I have been fishing out of the resort for about 33 years, spending most of my fishing time learning the East side of the Chippewa Flowage. Over the years, I have developed a “dance card” of spots that have produced fish in the past…some successes and some disappointments. It was June 27th and the weather finally decided to cooperate with light winds, light

evening overcast and a storm front on the horizon. I had planned to go out around 8pm and do some night fishing but the weather forecast showed some unsettled weather about then. I decided to hit the water about 6:30 to beat the weather. I hit my first “dance card” spot and threw everything I could over and around the weed bed that was off an island point…No Luck. I pulled up my bow mount trolling motor and slowly motored off the spot on my way to spot #2 on my list. As I approached spot #2, I noticed some folks haunting the spot…they weren’t fishing but the water was well disturbed. I moved on the spot #3. Spot #3 is a sheltered bay with a lot of water character. That is to say, it has a rocky point on the entrance to the bay with deep water as well as a substantial weed bed toward the back of the bay. Last year in September, I tied into a really nice fish on a Hawg Wobbler in this bay. I usually fish by myself, so fighting a fish with one hand while trying to manipulate the net, had me doing what I call the ‘Musky dance’. I got anxious because the fish was not hooked well. I tried to horse it into the net…I lost the fish on a bad net job. As you might suspect, my fishing ego was crushed. So, as I pulled up on the bay, the memory of last year’s failure still haunted me. I was determined to not repeat the failure should I be able to coax a Musky onto one of the Toppers that I make. I came off the rocky point and slowly cast toward the weed bed at the

back of the bay. There was a slight ripple on the water. About 7:30 I got to the outside of the weed bed and tossed my lure in an area where I had caught a 37 incher a couple of years back. I was lulled into the routine of casting and retrieving…not really expecting eminent action as a Musky came out of the deep water in the bay and attacked my lure. The Musky hit and immediately dove down. I couldn’t see the fish, but I could feel it shaking its head as it tried to free itself from the 3/0 VMC treble hooks on the lure. After a tug of war with the beasty, I was able to bring it to the surface. I gasped…it was a nice big fish. The Musky went down again and was inspecting the bottom of the boat. I let out some line while keeping the rod tip high to give it some room to move and lessen the chance that it would straighten a hook. I still hadn’t seen how well it was hooked. I tussled with it for a bit and then its head broke the surface with my lure firmly in its mouth, and then it went down again. When it came back up at the front of the boat, it banged its head into the boat as it tried to dislodge the lure. I knew I had to get it under enough control to get it in the net before its efforts to dislodge the lure were successful. Fighting the fish with the rod in one hand and the unfurled net in the other hand, I was doing the ‘Musky dance’ again. I was finally able to maneuver the fish toward the net. I dipped the net into the water and got three quarters of the fish into the net. Remembering my failed net job from last year, I tossed down the rod and grabbed the rim of the net, getting the rest of the fish in the bag. My exhilaration was short lived. I now had to get the fish out of the net to get a measurement and a picture.

The fish was still ‘green’ and I couldn’t safely get my hand under the gill plate. The last resort for me was to wrestle the fish into the boat while it was still in the net, something I just don’t like to do. Once the fish was in the boat, I was able to get the fish under control using my FishPic. I struggled to get the fish on the bump-board, and it measured a beefy 45 inches. A quick picture and then the fish went back into the water. The fish was out of the water longer than I like and its lethargic condition meant that an extended time to revive it would be required. The wind had pushed the boat into the weedy shoreline, meaning that there was likely good oxygen rich water in which to release the fish. It took a little TLC for the fish to get back in control of itself, and with a gentle squeeze of the tail, it wagged its way off into the stained water. I cannot imagine how difficult it would have been to handle a larger fish by myself. Tight Lines.

Lure Selection...A Monthly Profile By: Craig Sandell © 2017 The table shown below is the basis for the graphs that display a picture of lure production over the seasonal months. May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. Bucktail 12 128 77 124 107 16 Surface 2 93 102 188 153 4 Crank 16 16 13 17 19 18 Jerk 1 7 11 16 37 25 Live 7 2 4 3 28 74

The chart shown below provides a more detailed perspective on what lures worked well for each of the months of the season. As you can see, there are some predictable lure patterns in the chart presentation. One of the interesting patterns, though, is related to crank baits. The interesting thing is not the number of Musky caught on crank baits. What is interesting is that even though the crank bait catch quantities for each month are generally low, the productivity of the crank bait was consistent over 6 of the 7 months of the season. Although trolling is allowed on the Chippewa Flowage, the crank bait does not get a lot of use because of the relatively shallow water and the abundance of sub-surface clutter even in the deeper river channels. This study would seem to indicate that a crank bait is a good lure choice for almost any time, assuming you are fishing the type of cover and depth of water most conducive to the crank bait. Not surprisingly, bucktails and surface baits account for the majority of the Musky caught over the Musky season. The study

shows that bucktails and surface baits are producers, however, you MUST keep in mind that these are classic Musky bait categories. The high numbers of Musky caught on them could be related to the fact that more people are fishing with these types of lures than with other lure types. The jerk bait also shows some productivity over 6 of the 7 months of the season although September and October have higher catch totals than the other months for the jerk baits. Once again, this could be related to the fact that not as many people fish jerk baits as other lure types. Personally, I didn't get confidence in the use of the jerk bait until relatively recently. Once I started using the jerk bait, I found that it produced Musky and was useable in almost any condition of weather and structure. The live bait catch information is not a surprise either. Late in the season is live bait time, however, many people swear by the technique of hanging a sucker over the side, while casting other lure types, throughout the Musky season or what is referred to as "Suckering Musky". Well, are bucktails and surface baits the most productive lures? The catch statistics would appear to tell us that, however, we need to be sure that we are not "short changing" other lure types. What is the best approach to lure selection? When I fish I have 3 rods set up with different line weights, different reels with different retrieve ratios and different lure types. I try to balance the use of each of the artificial lure types, depending, of course, on the condition and depth of the water and the prevailing weather.

Musky Lure Selection...A Weather Profile Note: This data applies to Musky caught by cast, NOT trolling ! The conventional wisdom of Muskylore is that overcast days and rough water represent the best chance for a Musky catch. In deed, the data does show that overcast days do have good Musky production. It is, however, significant to note that partly cloudy (and therefore partly sunny) days also have very good Musky production. If you add up the Musky caught on clear and partly cloudy days you will get a total of 488 fish from the study. Overcast days accounted for 517 fish. That is not that much of a difference in productivity between these two major weather factors. Once again, crank baits put in a respectable catch record for clear days, given the fact that crank baits are not the lure of choice on the Chippewa Flowage. The table below will provide you some perspective: Clear Haze/Fog Overcast Partly Cloudy Rain Stormy Bucktail 14 43 190 72 26 17 Surface 157 49 214 78 19 25 Crank 45 6 28 14 1 4 Jerk 26 6 43 11 2 9 Live 48 7 42 23 9 3 Totals: 290 111 517 198 57 58

Is there a lure type better suited to a particular weather condition? The numbers in this study don't show any. If anything, the study supports the balanced approach to lure use. Although weather is important to the Musky hunt, it is equally important to be prepared to use a variety of lures for the same weather conditions. Lure selection, based upon the structure being fished, appears to be the approach to take rather than allowing the weather to dictate a particular lure type. Time Of Day Is there a lure type that is more productive at a certain time of day? Based on what we have seen so far in the study information, one would suspect not. Well, numbers are full of little surprises. It turns out that there is one type of lure that is a better performer based upon the time of day. Surface baits are better performers during the evening hours. The fact that surface baits are designed to emulate, in many instances, small animals, coupled with the fact that many of

these small animals find fading light a comfort to their safety, could account for this evening productivity boom in surface baits. Also, consider that most Musky anglers find comfort in using a lure that they can hear when it is pitch black. All of the other lure types spread productivity pretty evenly over the fishing day. Once again, crank baits provided good activity throughout the day & evening. A Quick Summary We have looked at lure selection from a few different angles. We have seen that, with the exception of surface lures in the evening, no lure type enjoys a clear selection advantage. It would appear as though the high percentage approach to lure selection is the approach that puts you in the position to use at least two different lure types for any pass over a particular piece of structure. The selection of lure color depends as much upon the color of the water that you are fishing as the personal preference of the person doing the fishing. In the final analysis, lures are a very personal thing to a Musky angler. We all have lure types and colors in which we have confidence. We all tend to use the lures with which we have had success. This little article has shown that being prepared to use any of the lures types in which you have confidence will give you the best shot at a muskie. There are no sure things when it comes to fishing for Musky, except perhaps, that you'll work hard to raise one and even harder to hook one and get him in the boat.

The Third Man, Everyone Has A Job In A Crowded Boat By: Craig Sandell © 2010 This summer I had the great pleasure to share a Muskie adventure with my good friend Rob Meusec. He joined me for a few days during my annual pilgrimage to the Chippewa Flowage…so I hired a guide, John Dettloff, for a half day (evening & night) and we set out on our quest in search of Mr. Muskie. This was no philanthropic exercise on my part for you see, Rob is the person who infected me with Muskie fever some 25 years ago and this is my way of thanking him for all of the memories and adventures since our first excursion. We set out hitting several spots and Rob and I absorbed all of the information about fish and water that John eagerly shared. It is always a pleasure having John for a guide. He will always impart some very valuable knowledge as part of the guide experience and over the years I have benefited greatly from such outings with John. This particular evening, however, was a real eye opener for me. I have fished the Chippewa Flowage for a number of years hitting such notable spots as Fleming’s Bar, The Eagle’s Nest, Rudy’s Island, Willow Island, Church Bar to mention just a few. The one place that had remained a mystery to me was Pete’s Bar. Pete’s bar is a very large sub-surface piece of structure. It has numerous depth variations and vegetation population locations and, quite frankly, can be very intimidating by virtue of the fact that there are no surface structures that can be used for location

assessments. To the uninformed Muskie angler, Pete’s Bar is just another open expanse of water on the 15,300 acres of the Chippewa Flowage. To complicate the issue, this outing we would be fishing Pete’s Bar at night with no moon. As we pulled up on Pete’s Bar, I watched closely how John positioned the boat. As I was getting ready to ask some positioning questions, John began to explain every aspect of how he was positioning the boat using shoreline and tree line references and further explained the sub-surface depth and vegetation. As we made our first pass across what John called the "Sister’s Edge" I found myself spending more time absorbing the location markers than fishing…not so my good friend Rob. He was intently pitching the Orange Frenchy creeper that John had given him to use. The creeper made its usual loud splash entry into the water and its characteristic Muskie calling plop as Rob retrieved it through the blackness of the evening. We finished our forward pass over this prime edge location and John then employed a technique he calls a "double hover". This means that you simply retrace your forward path back over what most folks would consider used water. This is a technique that many of the best guides use and it usually will coax a fish into striking if one is about. This evening was no exception. About halfway through the double hover at the edge of a weed line, a Muskie inhaled Rob’s creeper. We all heard the water explode and, upon setting the hook, we heard Rob colorfully announce that a fish was on.

When a Muskie is on, an 18-foot tri-hull with 3 excited fishermen can become very small. Everyone in the boat has to know what to do in order to support the angler with the fish on the line. In this case, the guide’s job was easy. John encouraged Rob to keep his line tight and gave him tips on fighting the Muskie as it foamed the water and inspected the bottom of the boat. For me, as the third man, I had some tasks to perform also. First was to get my lure in and ensure that my tackle did not get in the way of the fight. My next task was to watch the progress of the fight closely. It was up to me to make sure that I did not become an obstacle in the boat. Since the night had stolen our normal visual acuity, I made sure that head lamps and flashlights were available when needed. It doesn’t sound like much of a contribution to the battle, however, staying out of the way in a crowded boat is a very important part of the process. After about 10 minutes of tussle with his Muskie, Rob positioned him alongside the boat where John netted the fish. The lure, upon the relaxing of the line, dislodged from the Muskie’s jaw and came to rest at the rim of the net. John removed the lure from the net…I took the rod from Rob and placed it out of the way. I got the camera (s) out and got ready to snap a couple of photos for prosperity. John reached into the net and extracted the Muskie to measure him…a healthy 42-inch 20 pound Muskie. I snapped a couple of photos using John’s camera. As I readied Rob’s camera, John handed off the fish to Rob for another couple of pictures. Photos completed, Mr. Muskie was back in the water and on his way…a little tired but none the worse for the experience.

On your next Muskie outing where you are sharing a boat with another angler or two, remember that everyone in the boat has a job to do during a Muskie encounter. Remember also that keeping clutter in the boat to a minimum is an important aspect to preventing hooks in fishermen and broken rods. Fishing at night demands even greater care to ensure that your boat is free from clutter. Take only the rod you will need and only the lures you can safely transport. As a footnote to this story, I would like to direct your attention to the two photos shown here. Both photos are of the same fish taken not more that a couple of minutes apart. Notice, however, that the fish looks smaller in the photo of Rob by himself. The reason for this is the fact that the fish tensed its tail section moving its tail toward Rob’s body and away from the camera. It is interesting to note how different the same fish can look by small adjustments to the fish or the camera position. Many of the photos that you see in publications are taken using a camera angle that can exaggerates the size of the fish.

Working Deep Wood, Late Summer Flowage Tactics By John Myhre © 2001 Sure we all like to catch those super active Muskies in shallow water. But how about those days or even weeks in the mid to late summer when the shallows seem to be devoid of any Muskies, much less active ones? One could schedule fishing only during low light periods such as early morning, late evening, or even at night. Or wait for a nice stormy day, when active Muskies are sure to venture into the shallows. However, this approach obviously would leave an awful lot of time when we would not be fishing. Muskies are usually catchable under almost any light and weather conditions. It's just a matter of knowing where to look for them and what special tools it takes to catch them. One of the best choices in late summer is flowages. Many flowages have darker stained water that limits shallow weed growth. However deeper cover is present in the form of wood. This deep wood could be natural timber or man-made brush piles and fish cribs. In either case, deep wood cover can hold summer Muskies. WHICH WOOD? Not all wood has the potential to hold 'em during the dog days. The very best potential wood protrudes well off the bottom and has plenty of branches or brush providing good cover for baitfish.

Generally speaking, wood located along or very near the original river channels or the deeper old lake basins in a flowage are most productive in summer. Deep water stump fields that are located inside sharp "S" bends in the river channel are also definite hotspots. Key Musky areas in flowages with deep wood are near old lake basins or river channels. Area A with wood on the inside of a bend in the river channel is particularly good. Deep wood in the form of man made cribs, as in area B, along the channel or old lake basin are often under fished. Steep breaking shorelines (area C) with deep wood are also worth trying, especially later in the season. Man-made fish cribs are often untapped Musky producers in many flowages. Cribs are usually placed along deeper shorelines and river channels in areas that lack adequate natural wood cover. Cribs are often fished by panfish and walleye anglers but overlooked by most flowage Musky hunters. The fact is cribs not only attract baitfish, panfish, and walleye, but also Muskies. "WOODY" PRESENTATIONS Productive wood may be as shallow as 6 to 10 feet in small flowages, or as deep as 25 to 35 feet in the larger, deeper flowages. Lure selection and presentation varies accordingly. In shallower flowages try lures that run in the top five feet of water like jerkbaits, bucktails, and shallow running crankbaits. Surface lures are a great choice now.

In deeper flowages, diving lures and other deep runners usually produce bigger fish. Heavier single spins weighted straight shaft buck-tails with willow blades and deep running crankbaits are some of the best choices. Jigs can be dynamite later on in the fall when fished around cribs that have a relatively clean bottom around them but are hard to use in areas with lots of wood since they snag up too easily. Hot lure colors seem to produce best in flowages with a characteristic stained water. I've had especially good results with chartreuse, hot orange, and red on nearly all the lures I fish in flowages. The best deep wood sticks up well above the bottom with lots of branches, roots, and brush to provide cover for baitfish. LIVE BAIT TAKES LATE SUMMER FLOWAGE MUSKIES, TOO In some states, like Wisconsin, where you are allowed more than one line it's a good idea to run a live bait trailer in addition to casting an area. This will increase your chances of catching a big Musky. Live suckers in the 12-to-14-inch range rigged on quick strike rigs work well in this situation. The "wait 'til he swallows it" approach doesn't always work in heavily wooded flowages. The Musky simply has too much time in which to tangle your sucker rig around troublesome woody cover. Quick strike rigs enable one to set immediately. When running two sucker lines, rig one just a few feet below the boat for followers and run the other sucker so it floats just above the deep wood to avoid snags.

FIGURE "EIGHTS" If you don't figure eight at the end of every cast when fishing over deeper stained flowage water, you may be missing out on a lot of Muskies. Most of the time a Musky that follows in stained water will be just deep enough that you will not see it. A figure eight triggers these indecisive Muskies to strike. The next time the sun shines brightly, and you just can't seem to find Muskies in the shallows, don't give up. Instead head for a stained water flowage, find some deep wood, and fish it hard. It just may save the trip for you.

Musky Bucktail Colors To Consider By Craig Sandell © 2012 Over the years, I have kept track of Musky that I have caught on different bucktail color combinations. I want to stress that these color combinations are NOT cast in stone but are, rather, guidelines for you to consider when you are on the water trying to decide what color lure to cast. You will note that I have not included blade colors. The reason for this is related to the emergence of double-bladed lures with blade sizes from 9 to 13. If you are accomplished at re-shafting your bucktails, you can mix blade colors to give you a color combination in which you feel confident. The body color chart below can also be used to make blade color selection. DO NOT forget that that brass and silver-colored blades are typically used in stained and clear water respectively.

Lure Body Color Guidelines Time Of Day Clear Water Stained Water Muddy Water Early (5:30am) Purple, Blue, Yellow Orange, Yellow, Red/White, Black/Orange White, Yellow, Red/White, Orange, Brown/Yellow MidMorning (10:00am) Blue/Yel/Chart, Chart/Blue * Blue, Red/White, Orange Blue/Yel/Chart, Red/White, Chart/Blue, White Noon (12:00pm) Black/Orange, Red/White Blue/Yel/Chart, Chart/Blue Black/Chart, Purple, Blue/Yel/Chart, Blue MidAfternoon 4:00pm Orange, Black/Orange, Chart/Blue, Black/Chart Blue/Yel/Chart, Purple, Red/White, Orange Red/White, Blue/Yel/Chart, Chart/Blue Evening (8:00pm) Brown/Yellow, Blue/Yel/Chart, Blue Black/White, Yellow, Black/Orange, White Orange, Black/Orange, Yellow, Brown/Yellow After Dark Black/White, Black/Chart, Black/Orange Black/White, Black/Chart, Black/Orange Black/White, Black/Chart, Black/Orange

*Chart is an abbreviation for Chartreuse Hopefully, you will find these guidelines helpful as you hunt for our Musky friend this season. Good Fishing

Mid June Fishing For Musky By Tony Rizzo © 2005 Reprinted with Permission I fished for about nine hours this June 18th. I must say that it was an outstanding day. The water temperature is at 74° and the air temperature at 80°. It's hot and sunny with the wind coming out of the West. I'm guiding a father and son today, neither of which have ever musky fished. The fish were going wild. One of the best action days I've ever seen. We had follows from doubles and even triples. Several times we had doubles on. The first cast of the day I caught a 38 inch on their rod, just showing them how to cast a Garcia reel. After catching the fish on their Rod, I released fish, only to hear "why did you let the fish go?" I said, "Well, I guess you'll have to get your own." Would you believe it, they did! We boated seven legal Musky, 10 undersize of which three were 31 inches. We also lost seven others because they were beginners and they made lots of mistakes. I told them to make big turns when the lure came to the boat and not to slow the lure down and to maintain the speed on the turns at the boat, and above all, do not stop the lure on any follows. It is a very hard task for beginners. They made lots of mistakes. One mistake they didn't make was they got very few backlashes. That was good. Imagine getting action from 10 muskies in hour. It was a musky fishing dream. Then it happened, they had two muskies in the holding tank and although the aerator was on,

they died anyway. The son hooked a fish that was 40 inches. Suddenly, as the son was fighting his fish, a fish came out of nowhere and took the dad’s white Rizzo Tail at the boat. This was a nice fish and when the son saw the size of his dad's fish he gave his fish total slack his fish threw the lure. After a good fight, the father got the fish to the side of the boat where I could net it. It was the best fish of the day, a 43-inch musky. I said to the dad, "You have to throw it back." He said, "Are you crazy?" That's the biggest fish I ever caught in my life and I'm not throwing it back!" I asked him, "Will you mount it?" He said, "No, I'll eat it." I said, "You have 28 pounds of fish in the holding tank now, you don't need another." I went on to tell them that if they released the fish I'd stay out until my batteries were dead. I also told them that they should take advantage of this day, as it was one of the best action days I had ever seen. I said, "Look, you have to dead fish in the tank, if you don’t release this fish, my day is over." The father looked at me and said, "Well Tony, I guess your day is over." I must admit I didn't want to quit; this was too good of a day. It was a day of a lifetime. Being beginners, they just didn't understand. I couldn't say or do anything to convince them to release that fish. I was very

disappointed. I didn't want to quit that day, but I did. We had action from 81 musky that day. I'm sure if they had released that fish we would have had action from over hundred fish. I heard later that he did get that 43-inch musky mounted, but they will never have another day like that again. Now I'm not a big color man, when it comes to lures. Action, depth and size are what I feel are the important factors. But I must admit, in this situation the solid white with silver blade was the best bait in the boat for that day. However, in saying that I will tell you of the seven legal we caught; I caught three of them. I mixed my colors that day. I caught one on brown and orange with a brass plate. I caught one on green chartreuse with a brass plate. Also, keep in mind that both of them threw solid white lures all day. Mistakes cost them a lot of fish. Going slow at the boat on follows and not making big turns on the eights at the boat, cost them fish. Also, at times just not being ready for a strike cost them fish. Let me say that I've been a guide for 33 years and I released around 2000 legal muskies. I have told clients to only keep fish you want to mount it. I've never told my clients they cannot keep a legal fish if they chose to do so. I would never let a guide dictate to me that I can't keep a legal fish. I don't care how good a guide he may be nor do I care how

big a name that guide has established for himself. I don't care if he has a TV show and I don't care about his rules. When I hire a guide, I'm not hiring someone to dictate to me what to do with the legal fish I catch. A guide is paid to put you on fish; not to dictate what you can or cannot do with your legal fish. You are paying them your own hard-earned money to put you on fish not to be a dictator; unless you want to go along with that rule that's up to you. If you folks reading this article want to mount a 45-or48-inch musky, I strongly suggest you talk with your guide ahead of time and get it straight, that if you get a legal fish you want to keep, you will keep it. If the guide does not agree with your wishes, I would suggest you find a guide who will allow you to keep a legal fish if you so choose. There are still a lot of good guides working today that will agree to keep a legal fish. In my opinion, a client is a fool to allow a guide to dictate the terms of what to do with a legal fish. If you catch a fish of a lifetime that is 40 or 50 pounds, no one has the right to demand that you released that fish. Let it go they will tell you; you can always get a graphite replica. Now what I am going to say next may be offensive to some people reading this, but I don't care, I'm being honest. A graphite mount is a liar's mount; plain and simple. Once you released a fish you can make it anything you want it to be. You call it a 46inch fish or 48 inch fish or a 50 inch fish. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying all graphite mounts are lies; he'll no. There are a lot of honest respectable fishermen out there, but there are a lot of liars out there also. This is a cutthroat sport and business. A real fish mount is the real thing. In my opinion, it's the honest way to mount a caught fish.

Also keep in mind that fish of a certain size are old fish. A 50-inch musky could be as old as 19 or 20 years. This means that the fish has only two or three more years to live. Also keep in mind that fish that big and that old are more likely not to spawn. It is a fact that all female muskies will not live to be 50 inches long. No male musky will live to be 50 inches long. Very few Tiger muskies ever live to be 50 inches long. I'm not a fish biologist but I've spent over 32,000 hours on the water, and I will tell you the best spawners are female fish of 44 to 47 inches, larger fish are no longer in their prime. That simple fact is why I have always supported a slot limit for Musky. It is a fact that a female Musky will begin to spawn at 5 years of age (26-30 inches). So if you say that you can keep Musky between 39 and 43 inches and any Musky over 48 inches, you protect Musky that are in their spawning prime. You also have the opportunity to remove male Musky which if not removed will only decimate the forage base. But don’t take my word for it…the DNR has all the facts in their 1993 publication "Casting Light Upon The waters". Not long ago I guided a friend to a 52-inch musky. The fish was only 23 pounds. I told my friends he caught a trophy fish that was past her prime and going downhill fast. I told him I didn't believe the fish would make it until spring. People that tell you to throw back that 30-to-40-pound musky in the hope that it will live to be 50 pounds or maybe even a world record are just chasing a pipe dream. Don't let anyone give you

that snow job. I have a friend who told me that if he catches a world record, he would release it. I told him that if that happened not to bother telling me about it; I would never believe him. I don't care what kind of picture he showed me. In my opinion, they have carried this mindless release philosophy too far. Releasing fish is great and I enjoy releasing fish. I've done it since 1962 but I'm also proud of the big fish I have caught and mounted.

Sometimes It’s Not Really Fishing By Craig Sandell © 2009 Early June can produce some great Musky action but, in general, it requires a tougher and more thoughtful approach. My good friend and fishing partner, Rob Meusec, and I hit the water in early June to test our Musky skills. The water temperature had been hovering around the mid 60's and other fish species were in a ‘boom and bust’ cycle. The weeds were still sub-surface in depths from 3 to 5 feet and Musky were being caught on all of the Musky lure categories. In these types of conditions, Musky anglers are keen to discover a pattern to Musky movements and feeding preferences hoping that this will give them an edge on the water. Accomplished Musky anglers will re-visit areas where they have had success in the past. Rob and I had decided to engage this type of ‘search and catch’ approach. We visited deep water connections, drop offs next to isolated bars and shoreline connected shelves at different times during the day. We did enjoy some action with this approach but the fish had been hitting short and we did not have any fish in the boat as we pulled up on an area known as ‘The 3 Sisters’ during the late morning on June 12th. Being a regular on the Chippewa Flowage, I was very familiar with this area. This area had a reputation of ‘turning on’ in late summer and early fall but without an established pattern, all areas were in play.

We started our slow methodical fishing effort in front of the first sister positioning ourselves to be able to pass lures over a variety of depths from 11 to 3 feet. We each were changing lure types to be sure that we were covering the whole water column. Rob was using a Hawg Wobbler when a respectable Musky came up behind the lure and displayed some fleeting interest in the lure but did not really make a serious move on the lure. We tried a few more casts in the area but could not re-interest the Musky. We continued to move the boat to cover the rest of the area around the 2nd sister and then we circled back to the area where we raised the Musky, giving the water about a 30 minute rest. Rob was throwing a bucktail and I was throwing a Best American Crawler. As I retrieved the lure, I noticed some movement at the surface of the water as our Musky displayed some interest in the lure but again, did not strike. We were in about 4 feet of water and I could see the fish sitting near the bottom sort of sunning itself. We tried a few more casts but we could not interest our Musky quarry. As Rob and I moved off to fish other areas, we resolved to re-visit the area again later in the day when the sun was not as high in the sky. This was the moment when this became a hunt. After taking a mid-day break, Rob and I hit the water again about 6:30pm. We fished a couple of spots as we made our way back to ‘The Sisters’. We pulled up on the spot as the sun was inching its way lower in the sky. Rob started casting a Best American Crawler as we entered the zone where we had seen the Musky earlier in the day. After about 15 minutes of casting, I saw our Musky come up behind Rob’s lure and assault it…the fight was on.

The fish hit about 15 feet from the boat in about 6 feet of water and immediately went down thrashing its head trying to free itself from the Owner™ hooks of the Crawler. As it breached the surface, I could see that the fish was connected to the rear treble. The fish was still green when Rob brought it within netting distance. I began to move the net toward the fish when it made another run. As I moved the net away from the water, the handle bumped into an unused rod with a bucktail parked into one of the rod’s eyelets. The rod fell on the floor of the boat and as luck would have it, one of the exposed trebles snagged onto one of Rob’s shoe laces. I dropped the net, got a compound bolt cutter and freed Rob’s shoe from the hook. Rob continued to fight the Musky for a couple more minutes. He finally coaxed it back into netting distance and as he brought the fish to me, I scooped the fish into the net and the fight was over. Rob and I howled our excitement and then Rob began to free the fish from the lure and the lure from the net. The fish measured in at 40 inches. I snapped a photo or two and then Rob set about releasing the fish into the shallow area in front of the 2nd Sister.

We started out fishing for Musky and ended up hunting. After locating this fish, we had high confidence that the area held the fish and our casting approach reflected that confidence. A valuable lesson in Musky fishing was learned as was the importance of having the right tool available for those ‘unforeseen circumstance’. Tight Lines Big River – Little River John Myhre © 2011 There are many good-sized rivers like the Chippewa or Flambeau rivers in Wisconsin, or the Upper Mississippi in Minnesota that are known for producing Muskies. But there are also many smaller rivers that contain Muskies in these states and others. These smaller streams and rivers are often overlooked.

Many larger rivers have good access and are navigable by boat, but many of the smaller rivers run through remote areas and are sometimes navigable only by small boat or canoe. Sometimes small rivers contain beaver dams or old logging dams that tend to restrict fish in certain river sections and also make the river harder to navigate. This means less fishing pressure. PRESENTATIONS FOR RIVER MUSKIES Because much of river fishing is in or around heavy cover, bucktails or surface lures are usually a first choice. Shallow running crankbaits worked much like a surface lure come in a close second. When working around deeper structure or the deep pool areas, jerkbaits and deeper running crank- baits are also good options. Since Muskies utilize current shelters as ambush points, they nearly always expect their prey to come from upstream, so retrieve accordingly. This retrieve angle is very important when fishing rivers. Always try to position yourself so that casts are upstream, bringing the lure either down current or across the current as shown in figure 2. By doing this you will get the most natural presentation which usually results in more Muskies.

FINDING A RIVER Most of the time a letter or a phone call to the State Department of Natural Resources will provide you with a list of some rivers that contain Muskies. Many smaller rivers that feed into some of the larger well-known musky rivers also hold Muskies. Usually some real big fish opportunities exist here. RIVER MUSKY LOCATION The key to finding Muskies in a river is to look for rock or wood structure, (like areas marked A, D, E, and F in Figure 1), that create shelter from current as well as provide an ambush point. Look for this type of structure near deeper pool areas and you will have found Muskies. Locating deeper structure and pool areas is best done with the aid of a depth finder, but much of the shallower structure, like down trees and stumps (area E), can be visually sighted. In the summer months active fish will usually station themselves on the backside of an obstruction just out of current while inactive fish will hold deeper in the pool (area C).

During normal water levels Muskies will use mid-river structures, like boulders (area A), as well as shoreline areas. When the water level rises and current increases, however, Muskies tend to use shoreline areas more often because there is less current than in mid-stream. Shallow bays, like the one marked area B, will also hold Muskies, especially on a stormy overcast day, or in early morning and late evening hours. Don’t overlook cuts or small coves in the shoreline (area G). These areas often hold Muskies in periods of high water, too.

Early Season Top Water Tactics By: John Myhre © 2020 It was the opening of Musky season. The day was bright and sunny, yet a little on the cool side. Taking into consideration water temperatures and weather conditions, I decided our plan of attack for the day was to look for the Muskies around deeper water near the mouths of spawning bays. Several good spots and hours later without so much as a follow called for reassessment of the situation. After some thought I headed into one of the shallow back bays, and dug out some top-water lures. My partner looked at me as if I was crazy. He remarked "It's too early for topwater lures." It only took a few casts to prove him wrong. My Creeper had just cleared the end of an old partially sunken log when a nice Musky exploded on it. By the end of the day we had boated 3 nice Muskies and had action from several others. Switching to topwater lures on that spring day really paid off. There are many Musky anglers who, because of old myths and beliefs, mistakenly reserve the use of topwater lures for the summer period. Topwater presentations however can be very deadly in the spring. Whenever Muskies are in shallow water they may respond to a topwater lure.

Weather conditions, water temperatures, and the type of lake are all important factors to consider when deciding where to use a topwater presentation. As the water warms Muskies will eventually become more oriented toward deeper water, but this is not necessarily so in the spring. Shallow spring Muskies are actually activated by warming air temperatures and solar heat. Careful choice of lakes and a watchful eye of water temperatures will provide you with active Muskies in the shallows throughout the spring and into the summer transition period. Daily weather conditions will determine just how active shallow Muskies will be. It can also move deep water Muskies into the shallows. Deep cold natural lakes tend to warm much slower than shallow dark water flowages. Consequently, these deep natural lakes will often hold more Muskies in the shallows much later in the season than most flowages. In many deep lakes Muskies may stay near shallow spawning areas for quite some time after spawning. Usually the north and northeast sides of bays receive more warm sunlight exposure. This faster warming water produces good weed growth and abundant forage. Muskies will gravitate to such spots. These bays will be prime topwater spots for early season Muskies. As water temperature readings move upwards into the high 60's to low 70's look for Muskies to move out of these bays, and head towards deeper waters. Once this movement towards deeper water occurs, active Muskies may be shallow less often. Conditions, such as morning and evening low light periods and stormy overcast days will be best.

Never overlook the possibility of active Muskies being shallow at night in the spring. Look for these night movements to occur earlier on smaller lakes and dark water flowages since they warm faster than deeper natural lakes. Heavy fishing pressure, and a lot of hot spring air temperatures will promote an unusual spring night bite. SPECIALIZED SPRING SURFACE BAITS Topwater fishing is undoubtedly one of the most exciting ways to fish for spring Muskies. There are many lures on the market designed especially for topwater fishing Muskies. Water temperatures will be the number one factor determining surface lure type and speed. Most expert surface bait Musky anglers agree that the very best speed to use with all wobblers is ultra-slow. Rarely is a fast speed more effective with this style of surface bait, plus hookups are much more consistent with slow speeds. As water temperatures increase the use of buzzbaits or prop style lures, like the Topper or Globe, can be super effective. Here the complete opposite is often true. A water spraying, fast moving lure often triggers more response. Another advantage of this lure style is that far more water can be covered.If strikes are missed with a buzzbait or prop style surface lure, a quick switch to a wobbler will often fool the fish more often than not. Usually frustration sets in and the fish smashes the slow moving wobbler as soon as possible.

SURFACE LURE TUNING TRICKS When it comes to tuning baits, many fishermen overlook their topwater lures even though tuning is often critical to performance. On wobbling type lures such as the Creeper or Jitterbug, carefully adjust the wings or lip to obtain a uniform wobbling action or side to side roll at slower speeds. Make sure that props rotate smoothly and evenly without any resistance on propeller type lures, like the Globe and Topper. I often bend up the inside of the prop on a Globe or a Mudpuppy lure to get a more pronounced plopping sound Changing the actual sound by tuning the bait will often produce more strikes. In fact, sometimes changing the sound pitch in these lures makes all the difference. Study the sounds these lures make very closely. Sometimes the most subtle difference in sound can produce amazing results. Also check all screw eyes and connectors for sturdiness. They will pull out of wood plugs quite easily if they're not checked often. Finally, make sure all hooks are sharp. Needle sharp hooks will catch those fish that don't hit the bait solidly. TOPWATER TIPS Proper timing on the hook set is really important when fishing topwater lures. Many times, a Musky will "blow up" on a surface lure, but never actually touch it. Setting the hook on a "blow up" more often than not results in a missed fish. Watch your lure closely and set only when you see or feel the Musky take the lure. I know that a "blow up" can really rattle your nerves, but by following this policy you will increase your hookups dramatically. Occasionally twitching the lure after a miss every few feet will often draw solid strikes with a few missed fish, too.

Most often black is thought of as the best choice for a surface lure. Black is a top choice for one single important reason. It casts a better silhouette. However, in very dark or shallow water, a bright colored surface lure often produces better since it has more side flash. Your arsenal of topwater baits should include some of these high visibility colors, as well as "classic" black. Yes, topwater lures can be effective in the early spring. Pick your lakes and watch the water temperature closely. You can enjoy early topwater action if you hit the right areas and match lure style, color, and speed to existing conditions. Stay with warm water and shallow cover early. Stick with slower retrieves, too. This combination might provide some exciting early season Musky action! EARLY SEASON LOCATIONS Key topwater areas to look for are in and near the entrance to spawning bay areas. Downed trees like those in area A provide cover in an area with warmer water which produces more food earlier in the season. Look for the warmest water to usually be on the north and northeast sides of these bays. Area B provides deeper water with easy access to the shallow areas and a good weedline of new cabbage. This will be a key area later in the spring. Muskies may hold in this area for quite some time before moving out of the bay. Look for Muskies to hold on points

and turns in the weed line as well as thicker stands of new cabbage. Areas C and D - The trough into the bay would probably be used by most fish both entering and leaving the bay. Big Muskies will often hold in these trough areas and weedy bars like D throughout the early part of the season before moving out into the main lake. These areas will usually hold small Muskies all season. Nets…A Fresh Perspective By Craig Sandell © 2020 The 2019 Musky season was one of some tackle changes for me. These changes started with the use of VMS XHeavy hooks. Because of the inherent sharpness of these hooks and their penetrating power, I recognized that I would be tearing up the cloth fabric net bag that has been graced by a good number of Musky over the years. But which net to get?... Anyone who has read my articles on tackle and tactics knows that I am an advocate of getting first hand insight from other Musky anglers rather than relying upon the advertisements in catalogs or the sport shop spiel. That is exactly what I did. I talked with folks who are using the Frabill coated net and the Beckman Fin Saver coated net to get some informed perspective Note: I did not consider a cradle because of the sharpness of the hooks and because a cradle is really a two man

operation and, like most Musky anglers, I am fishing alone more often than not. Both of these nets fit the bill relative to resistance to penetration by the Owner Hook, so the decision came down to ease of use and fish and angler safety. The Frabill net has a traditional large mesh bag. The handle is light weight and the rim is reasonably sturdy. The Musky, when in the net, will have its body bent by the net by virtue of the fish’s weight pulling down on the lowest part of the bag. It is easier to remove tangled hooks from the larger mesh but the stress upon the fish is greater. The smaller mesh also makes it tougher to untangle hooks and free the Musky from the lure. The Beckman Fin Saver has a dual mesh design. Overall the mesh is smaller but the bottom of the net is designed to flatten out with the weight of the fish. This allows the fish to sit comfortably in the net in a manner similar to that of a cradle. The net handle and frame combine to make a sturdy net, however, the weight of the net is a bit heavier than what most anglers are used to…especially when you are alone fighting a fish and doing the "Musky Dance" as you try to lead the fish to the net with your

rod hand while maintaining the ability to strategically remove the net if the fish bolts. Bottom line…both nets have draw backs and selling points…I chose the Beckman and here is why: I really liked the bag configuration concept and so did the other Musky anglers with whom I consulted. Having a nice 43 inch fish in the net reinforced the belief that the decision was a good one. The hook entanglement in the smaller mesh was a problem but, ever since I had a hook driven into my hand by a thrashing Musky when I stuck my hand in the net to free it, I have adopted the practice of cutting embrangled hooks with my compound bolt cutter…so net/hook entanglement was a minor consideration. I felt that the extra weight of the net was manageable for me…you may have a different perspective for yourself.