As the season quickly turns here in the Northwoods, I look forward to sharing with you my adventures in chasing down the next esox in the Tomahawk area. I wrote the attached article for our North Country Style section of the Tomahawk Leader, and I'm posting it here for all of you who might not have been able to read it. I hope it may hold something to learn:
Make time for fall muskies...
Over the next three months, musky waters throughout the Tomahawk area will become ferocious feeding grounds as fish start packing on massive pounds in preparation for winter hibernation.
Gains of 10 and even 20 or more pounds over this short time span means a lot of feeding needs to take place at a pretty rapid pace.
Fish that were selective feeders throughout the summer months will begin attacking, and fish that were holding tightly to specific structures will begin moving farther for what looks like an easy meal.
For musky hunters, fall marks the beginning of prime fishing and a closing window of opportunity. And for those who are able to put aside thoughts of chasing other active fish species and whitetail in the woods, the reward often is the catch of a lifetime.
Muskies reach peak feeding activity when water temperature drops to about 60 degrees, typically around mid- to late-September. As fish react to this internal alarm clock known as the fall turnover, they begin working to put on the weight that will carry them over until the spring thaw occurs. During this time, muskies will return to prowl shallow haunts along weed lines, wood structure and points that they moved off of during summer.
Fish will move into the shallows to follow prey and become even more active during periods when the temperatures rise above average after the fall turnover has occurred. Muskies also will move to deeper weed brakes and become lethargic following cold fronts, at which time a slowed down presentation works to trigger hits. Later in the season, a slow and deeper run presentation also can work to catch fish along the newly-formed ice line on area flowages, as it can mark where the channel and shallower weedy waters meet.
Weather changes, a new moon and moon patterns continue to play a critical role in the fall, and when conditions align, the trigger can result in multiple fish days and even multiple fish hours. Some refer to this explosion of musky action as a “wolf pack” mentality, where every fish is feeding and seemingly reacting to the splash of the bait. This type of activity can be triggered by a major or minor moon phase or as little as a passing cloud on a sunny day.
Many musky anglers prefer to go big with baits in the fall to match the growing baitfish muskies have been feeding on throughout the summer. These lures can include larger suicks, the cowgirl made by Musky Mayhem Bucktails and Musky Innovations’ bulldawg.
A key to remember is big muskies will always expend the least amount of energy to feed, and particularly in fall, big baits will mean big fish.
As with musky fishing any time of the year, confidence is the greatest tool any musky hunter has at their disposal. And by pounding the water this fall, each musky angler will be able to look back on this season as one of great and memorable success.
I would really like to spend more time discussing fall musky fishing, but as poet William Wordsworth put it: The eye - it cannot choose but see; we cannot bid the ear be still; our bodies feel, where'er they be, against or with our will.
Time to go medicate my musky fever. Good luck to everyone heading out this week and enjoy your Northwoods water time.