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Last Chance Muskies

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Last Chance Muskies

As Gord Pyzer discovered last week, when you target muskies in rivers in the fall the action can be electrifying.

Fall fishing for muskies in Ontario rivers can be electrifying



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Depending on where you fish in Ontario for muskies, you still have at least two to five weeks remaining before the season comes to a close. And though the weather is definitely turning colder, if there is a muskie river nearby, you can still enjoy some mighty fine fishing.

In fact, as I re-discovered last week, while casting and trolling the Ottawa River with legendary muskie guide, John Anderson and buddy Wally Robins, when you target the most exciting sportfish in Ontario's rivers, the action can be electrifying.

I say, "rediscovered" because a few years ago, even later in the season, I enjoyed the single best day of muskie fishing ever while plying the waters of the Detroit River with Windsor, Ontario muskie guru Jon Bondy.

In 15 hours of fishing, we hooked 15 muskies -- that is an average of one big toothy critter every 60 minutes -- and successfully landed 11 of those fish. And, are you ready for this? Four of the muskies were behemoths topping 40 pound apiece.

So much for the supposedly tough-to-catch, legendary, "fish of ten thousand casts."

Something else in favour of selecting an Ontario muskie river at this time of the year is that the fishing conditions can be downright pleasant. When you pick a river -- unlike a big lake -- you are not at the mercy of the weather and can almost always find plenty of prime locations that are tucked up out of the wind.

So you're never blown off the water, or feel so cold that you wish you were.

The key to catching muskies in rivers in the fall, like this beauty that John Anderson is holding, is often finding a weedline located adjacent to deep water and then swimming your bait out from the edge
The key to catching muskies in rivers in the fall, like this beauty that John Anderson is holding, is often finding a weedline located adjacent to deep water and then swimming your bait out from the edge. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Another reason I like choosing a river is because muskies are first and foremost a "riverine" species of fish. This means that while you'll find some of the finest fishing on Earth in lakes like St. Clair, Georgian Bay, the Kawarthas, Nipissing, Nosbonsing, Eagle, Rainy, Wabigoon, Lac Seul and Lake of the Woods, muskies flourish even more in moving water situations.

Want a couple of examples?

How about the Niagara, Detroit, French, Ottawa, Rideau, Goulais, Winnipeg and St. Lawrence? If these mighty muskie rivers were hockey players, they'd be first liners on a dream Team Canada at the Olympics.

In fact, how's this for sticking out my neck? I predict that a lucky angler will catch a new world record muskie in the next few years from the St. Lawrence River. Or, maybe the angler will haul it in from the Ottawa, French, or. . .well, you get the message.

The final reason you should think about targeting an Ontario muskie river over the next few weeks is because the fishing is so relatively straightforward. The big boys and girls are in the last stages of feeding up heavily, gaining the needed nourishment and packing away the calories with which to sleep away the winter. So they're not fussy about eating whatever swims by their noses.

When John and Wally were out on the Ottawa River last week, we stuck almost exclusively to casting large, near foot-long, four- to seven-ounce, soft plastic baits like Water Wolf Shadzillas, Bondy Baits and Bull Dawgs. The key was finding a weedline that was located adjacent to deep water and then swimming the bait out from the edge.

Gord Pyzer predicts that some lucky angler will soon catch a new world record muskie in a river in Ontario – a fish twice as big as this 40-pound brute caught by Brandon Broderick in downtown Windsor, Ontario
Gord Pyzer predicts that some lucky angler will soon catch a new world record muskie in a river in Ontario -- a fish twice as big as this 40-pound brute caught by Brandon Broderick in downtown Windsor, Ontario. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

It helped immensely, too, if we spotted a school of emerald shiners suspended 12- to 20-feet below the surface, out from the edge of the vegetation. Many times the silvery baitfish were stacked together in massive schools stretching for hundreds of feet, up and down the river, and at least ten or more feet deep.

As a matter of fact, the balls of bait were so thick in many sections of the river and there were so many tens of thousands of shiners swimming together that they tricked the sonar unit into believing the top of the school was the bottom of the river.

Even more intriguing were the giant arcs we also spotted on the sonar screen, indicating big fish harassing the defenseless shiners. It was the aquatic equivalent of a pack of timber wolves trailing a herd of caribou.

Targeting these big fish was as basic as casting out our soft plastic lures, counting them down as they fell about a foot a second, and then retrieving the lures through the balls of baits. I suspect as our lures swept through the schools of shiners, it caused them to spread out and scatter, enticing the big toothy critters even more.

Imagine my surprise, however, when I did this one time, felt a thud at the end of my line, set the hook hard and fought a sturgeon to the side of the boat. Talk about an exciting bonus fish.

But it's what I've come to expect every time I fish in one of Ontario's magnificent muskie rivers in the late fall. As I mentioned earlier, someone soon is going to catch a new world record muskie. It could be you.

You just never know what is going to bite next, as John Anderson holds up the sturgeon Gord Pyzer caught last week while casting for muskies in the Ottawa River
You just never know what is going to bite next, as John Anderson holds up the sturgeon Gord Pyzer caught last week while casting for muskies in the Ottawa River. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

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