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Ontario Muskie Mania

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Ontario Muskie Mania

Wally Robins with a beautiful muskie he caught on the Ottawa River. • Credit: Gord Pyzer

Fishing for Muskie in Cool, Wet Weather Conditions



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You can find a silver lining just about anywhere if you look hard enough for it.

Case in point: while the weather conditions this spring and early summer were slightly cooler and wetter than normal, they appear to have created perfect extended fishing conditions for muskies across all of Northern Ontario.

As a matter of fact, I can't recall so many impressive size fish being caught so early in the season, like the trio of toothy beauties young 16 year old John Percy recently wrestled into the net within three days of the season opening in Northwestern Ontario's Sunset Country.

While any angler would have been pleased to have caught either of the bookend, mid-40 inch fish John caught and released in Lake of the Woods, they would have been ecstatic to land the mammoth 55 inch by 23 inch post-spawn trophy he also nabbed.

That is a fish of a lifetime for John, who still has a lifetime to fish.

What has happened is that the water conditions have remained optimal for an extended period of time this year drawing out the post-spawn. As a result, the big toothy critters haven't had to rush the reproductive ritual, meaning they are some huge horses still milling about the stables.

Predictable places to intercept these giants include shallow, weedy bays and inlets, as well as the adjacent muddy coves with plenty of overhanging trees and sunken logs littering the shoreline. After spawning, muskies have a fetish for finding woody cover along the shoreline and then lying alongside of it, bathing in the warm water, soaking up the sun's rays and ambushing anything foolish enough to swim by them.

Like the white-tailed / silver bladed bucktail John has been casting. It is another part of the successful early season Northern Ontario muskie pattern.

Indeed, while big-bladed-bucktails sporting tandem #10 or bigger blades have taken the muskie world by storm the past few years, they are not the best option to use early in the season when smaller "normal" standard-size in-line spinners, like the famous Mepps Muskie Killer, Mepps Muskie Marabou and BlueFox Vibrax Spinner have ruled the roost.

Indeed, it has long been the doctrine of muskie anglers fishing in the spring, to preach that the fish prefer smaller meals and thus, smaller lures.

To which I say, "nonsense."

C'mon, the legendary muskie is the pinnacle predator in most of the famous Northern Ontario waters in which we find it. Hallowed sanctuaries like Rainy Lake, Lake of the Woods, Eagle Lake, Rowan Lake, Lac Seul and the Winnipeg River. It is the aquatic equivalent to the mighty timber wolf on land, and just as a big grey wolf will rarely pass up a sick or weakened deer or moose, a 40 or 50 pound plus muskie is not going to let an easy meal -- big, small or otherwise -- swim free.

So, why, then, does the "small lure in the early season" theory prevail?


(Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

(Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Well, in my humble opinion, it is not because the fish fancy a light appetizer over a hearty full-course dinner early in the season, but rather you can present a smaller lure in the manner that most attracts, triggers and appeals to the big toothy critters.

In other words, by bulging it swiftly under the surface.

Indeed, just like John, my favourite early season muskie lure is a white-bucktail-skirted Mepps Musky Killer sporting a modest #5 silver Aglia blade and weighing an unexceptional 1 ounce. Compared to the giant Cowgirls most anglers are throwing these days, it is the skinny kid on the beach getting sand kicked in his face.

Perhaps, but it is a much better choice to be throwing in the spring and early summer, precisely because you can cast it effortlessly all day long and not wear yourself out, and retrieve it quickly, so that it runs so closely to the surface, you can see the water bulging up and over its back. And it is that swollen speedy retrieve that is the key -- especially around the shallow wood cover that litters the shoreline -- to catching muskies early in the season.

Something else to ponder. I typically retrieve my spring bucktails so quickly -- using one of the super high speed Shimano Tranx baitcasting reels spooled with 25 pound test Maxima Ultragreen monofilament line to help keep it up -- that I visually follow its progress with my eyes, from start to finish.

Doing so, not only allows me the enjoyment of watching the inevitable train wreck when it happens, but I can also spot any big fish scooting in behind the lure. That gives me ample time to slowly dip my rod tip into the water, keeping the lure in front of the fish's face without having it rise, as I swing into a figure-eight, or elongated circle, for the final faceoff.

It is the best of all possible worlds, but you don't have to take my word for it. Just ask young John Percy from Kenora, Ontario. He is the hot, Lake of the Woods muskie stick these days, with the smile on his face that stretches from one ear to the other.


(Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

(Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

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