Fall Musky Fishing

Not too many people think about fishing this time of the year in the upper Midwest…but right now can be one of the best times to do a little musky hunting. That’s right…I call it hunting because in the fishing world there are few species you can actually target on an individual fish basis. Yet, musky fishermen do that…they learn the unique habits of their prey almost like a bow hunter who sits in ambush for that certain trophy deer.

Indeed, musky fishermen are a unique group of folks who enjoy the outdoors in a special way. They can cast all day until sore arms set in…only to be perfectly content by witnessing a fish follow their lure as it’s retrieved back to the boat. How many other types of fishermen do you know who keep track of follows and will then brag about it to their friends? I’m guessing musky anglers are one of the few…but even these close encounters will serve to fuel the passion of a true essox head.

I admit that when it comes to musky angling I’m lucky to get out but a few times a year. Still, it’s a sport that truly fascinates me. Obviously the thought of landing a trophy fish is exciting in and of itself; however, I can easily get intrigued about every facet of the sport. To be successful you need to be meticulous about your choice of equipment, you need to be in the right spot at the right time…and it doesn’t hurt to have a little luck on your side.

This time of the year one of my favorite lures to cast is called a Suick. Ask any serious musky fisherman to open his tackle box and I’d be surprised if you didn’t find one inside. Moreover, chances are if you find one you’ll find a half-dozen in an assortment of colors and sizes. Personally, I think the Suick is a bread and butter lure for the musky fisherman. It has the weight for extra long casts, depending on how it’s retrieved it can create all sorts of commotion (mimicking a wounded sucker), plus it’s a surface lure that will more likely than not cause an explosive and sudden strike. If I’m spending the time on the water casting for the “fish of 10,000 casts” then I want some drama when it finally occurs.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t relate a story that happened in Northern Minnesota on Grace Lake several years ago. I was fishing with my buddy, Mark Cook, who at the time was a Minnesota DNR Musky Researcher. We no more than landed the boat and were trolling past some vegetation near the landing when I made my first cast. BAMM!! I had a strike of epic proportions but…much to my chagrin; I wasn’t really paying attention yet. I made a critical error. Who would have thought that on the very first cast I would see hot musky action? Hell, I figured I had at least a few hundred, if not thousand, casts in me before things would get serious. Unfortunately, my lack of concentration on my very first cast proved to be the only opportunity of the weekend…and it was wasted.

In another incident with Mark, we were fishing on a different lake but this time in the boat with us was Mark’s wife. Mark and I were at the bow and stern of the boat casting feverishly working the shoreline. Mark’s wife was in the middle mostly just passing time with us. Eventually she picked up a bass rod and cast a hot-pink bass spinner bait to pass the time. After a few casts she suddenly had a huge musky follow the pink bait back to our boat. When she seen the size of the enormous fish following her lure…she got scared and quickly pulled her lure out of the water. Here we were seriously casting a complete menu of musky baits with no success…only to be out-done by a fisherman casting a lure that by all estimations should not equate success. You can imagine how fast both Mark and I worked the water after switching to anything pink we could find in our tackle boxes. Once again…opportunity missed and all we had to talk about is what could have been.

Perhaps to me that is one of the reasons that musky fishing is so intriguing. It’s not easy…and you never know what’s going to work. Even the experts who seemingly have musky hunting down to a science are fooled more often than not. Then again, if boating a musky was commonplace it probably wouldn’t be associated with the well earned mystique it carries in the fishing world.

In my mind a perfect fall day would be one spent grouse hunting in the morning…and musky fishing in the afternoon. Only, in my mind the next time I go musky fishing I plan to get the damn fish in the boat and not just take home the fond memories of what should have been.

**NOTE**: Mark Cook has since retired from the MNDNR and now owns a bait shop in Bemidji, MN called Bluewater Bait & Sports.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.