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Ontario's Monster Muskies

• Credit: Jim Saric
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Ontario's Monster Muskies

I could still feel the summer heat, and as the sun lowered it lit up the trees with an incredible glow. It was magic time in Ontario. That classic time between dinner and dark when anything can happen. I fired a long cast with my topwater lure into a dead calm bay and the only sound, besides the loon in the distance, was the plopping of my lure crawling across the surface. As the lure approached the boat I noticed a wake developing and pushing a wall of water towards my lure. The wake rose towards the surface and you could see the tail of a giant musky.

Instinctively, I reeled a few times faster to pull the lure from the fish to create a little separation between the lure and the musky. The musky responded by swimming faster and rapidly closing the distance between itself and the lure. In a split second, the musky had its nose on the lure and was and moving in a snake-like fashion just below the surface. I braced myself for what was about to happen. Instantly, the musky engulfed the topwater lure from the side. As soon as my rod loaded, I set the hook, and it looked like someone dropped a boulder in the water. The quiet bay exploded with sound and whitewater fury as the musky thrashed on the surface. The fish dove deep and then brilliantly jumped into the air, lit by the magic light of the moment.

As the musky landed back in the water and I realized it was still hooked, I breathed a momentary sigh of relief, but realized the battle was still not over. Seconds later, my boat partner netted the beast and the celebration ensued. After calming down, we quickly unhooked the fish in the net, took a few photos, and released her into the water to fight again another day.

It was an incredible Ontario musky memory, which also made for a great episode of The Musky Hunter Television Show. Fortunately, my mind is full of such Ontario memories, for Ontario is home to monster muskies, which is the essence for why I prefer to spend my time musky fishing in Ontario, rather than anywhere else in the world.

Sandy’s Blackhawk Island Camp. (Photo credit: Jim Saric)

Ontario offers many waters that hold muskies, most of which are large relatively to the many inland waters of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, or other parts of the musky range. The simple truth is that larger waters tend to produce bigger muskies. I call it the fish-bowl effect, but the fact remains there are more monster muskies in Ontario than anywhere else. More big muskies mean your odds are increased a catching a giant. Attend any musky fishing sport show, or musky club outing and the talk is not about how many muskies are being caught, but how large. As a musky angler, the most common question you are asked is "what’s your personal best musky?" Musky fishing is all about big. We fish with large lures, longer and heavier action rods and heavy line, with one purpose: to catch a monster musky! Ontario offers endless opportunities to catch your personal best musky.

Martin’s Camp Restoule Lake. (Photo credit: Jim Saric)

Ontario has musky waters spread throughout the entire province. Although the waters in northwest Ontario such as Lake of the Woods or Eagle Lake tend to get the most press, there are many waters throughout the province that are equally if not more productive. Lake Nipissing, the headwaters to the French River, has a reputation for consistently producing 50-pound-plus muskies every season! The Ottawa River runs more than 400 miles across the province, and is home to some of the best musky fishing on the planet. The Kawartha Lakes are only a couple hours from Toronto, and offer incredible opportunities. Of course, the St. Lawrence River, Georgian Bay, and Lake St. Clair are lands of the giants. Besides these larger waters mentioned, there are countless smaller musky waters scattered throughout the Province that consistently produce 50-inch class muskies. The opportunities to catch a monster musky in Ontario are virtually endless.

Ottawa River Musky Factory. (Photo credit: Jim Saric)

Start planning your trip now. Review various lodge websites, attend a few sportshows and make a few phone calls. Take notice of the date of the many big musky catches. Every water has a few weeks in summer or fall, when the big muskies are more susceptible to being caught. Try to schedule your trip at that time, if possible. Get a good map of the lake and gather some information on potential musky holding areas. Most lodge owners will be willing to help you get started, and many of them have musky guides that can help you make the most of your trip.

It’s a great idea to fish with a guide early in your trip to help you get oriented and a flavor of the types of musky holding areas in a lake. If a guide is not available, take a close look at the map and circle many islands. Typically, the southeast side of islands will hold weed growth and muskies. Any sandy bay or rock point may be a potential musky holding area. Also, any red, green or black/yellow channel marker is adjacent to a potential shallow musky holding area.

Cedar Lake Lodge. (Photo credit: Jim Saric)

The great thing about Ontario musky fishing is that once you catch one musky from an area, there are usually similar areas nearby, also holding muskies. The first thing I do when I catch a musky after fishing a spot is to look around for areas that look the same, as well as checking my map for nearby spots that look similar. Try to replicate the same situation or pattern where you had a musky follow or caught a musky. Every year I am amazed at the fact that no matter how long I have fished a particular Ontario lake, I am constantly learning new musky spots. Don’t get caught in a rut fishing the same spots; if something looks like it might hold a musky, go fish it!

Promised Land Camp on Lake Nipissing. (Photo credit: Jim Saric)

One of the big advantages of fishing in Ontario is that you are not competing with a large number of musky anglers like we do in many waters throughout the US. In fact, in many Ontario waters, you are virtually fishing alone. That means you can truly hunt muskies and maximize your opportunity to catch a big one. Monster muskies are notorious for following lures to the boat and to catch those fish you need to execute a figure-eight maneuver at boat-side with your lure. You don’t catch all of the muskies that follow at that time. In fact, as a musky hunter it’s not always about catching them at that moment, but spotting them first and returning to catch them later.

The beauty of Ontario is with minimal fishing pressure, you can return to the spot where you saw that musky several times throughout the day, to increase the odds of catching the giant. Return to the spot when you have a weather change, moon rise/moon set, or in the evening as the sun is setting. Just make sure to only spend about 10-15 minutes on the spot. Then leave and return later. Don’t be afraid to switch lures when you return. In fact, my most productive way of catching a giant musky is to save the spot for the last, right as it is getting dark. Put on a slow moving topwater lure and methodically work the spot. I have lots of photos of friends and I holding monster Ontario muskies at dark.

I’ll end this with one last thing for everyone to consider. Ontario muskies can live for 25 - 30 years, and it’s essential that to be able to catch monster muskies well into the future that we take care of them when we catch them. Make sure you have the proper tools such as pliers, hook cutters and a large net to safely land and release the fish. Leave the musky and net in the water until you are ready to take a photo, then quickly pick up the musky, take a couple photos and put it back in the water. As a general rule, if you need to take a breath, so does the musky, so get it back in the water. Hold the musky upright by the tail and they will let you know when they are ready to swim away. When they are ready, give them a slight push and watch them swim away. That’s the ultimate beauty of Ontario: releasing a monster musky for someone else to catch again in the future.

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