How to Catch Muskellunge: Fishing Tips in 2022
Muskellunge also known as musky for short, is a species of fish native to North America and is found in Canada, the United States, and Mexico. The muskellunge is the largest member of the pike family and one of the most valued game fishes in North America
Musky’s range extends from Nova Scotia west to Saskatchewan, south to northern Florida, with introduced populations in southern California. Although called “muskie”, it is rarely seen or caught using this method anymore. Most musky are now caught by trolling crankbaits behind large boats on large lakes. They are also frequently caught while fishing for northern pike on rivers that eventually run into larger lakes, such as the Brule River that ends at Lake Superior on Wisconsin’s border with Michigan where they can be very plentiful.
The muskellunge is prized both as a sport fish and for its fighting abilities when hooked. It ranks among the top gamefish in North America in both popularity and fighting ability.
Ideal Time to Catch Muskellunge
The best time to catch muskellunge will always be in the spring when the water is still cool. Muskies spawn when water temperatures are around 55 degrees, so they’ll be most active at this time of year. They will move to shallower areas around drop-offs, weed beds, or any kind of cover. Once they spawn though, muskies don’t eat the rest of the spring and summer so focus on catching other species like bass during these months if you want to catch something.
Muskie becomes difficult in the heat of summer and cold of winter. This is because they tend to go deep and stop feeding as much. You can try fishing deeper areas during the summer and fall, but you may have better luck with other species. In the winter it’s tough to get them on top of the water, so focus on catching other fish instead.
Where to Catch Muskellunge
The best places to catch muskellunge are the following:
1. Canada: Muskellunge are more common in southern regions of Canada, but they’re still found up north. A few good areas to try include waters around Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba.
2. Great Lakes: The best place to catch muskellunge if you live near the Great Lakes is Lake Erie. It has some of the best populations in North America! There are other lakes like Huron/Superior, Michigan, and Ontario that contain healthy populations of muskies too though.
3. New England: Lake Champlain has had many documented catches of over 40 pounds! This makes it a hotspot for catching a trophy muskie in North America. One unique thing about Champlain is that in fall and winter, muskies move into the main channel and become very active.
4. The Mississippi River: The best place to catch muskellunge in the US is probably along the Mississippi River system. This includes places like Lake Pepin, Lake City, and Lake Gage. You can also try out rivers like the St. Croix and Wisconsin as these are connected to larger lakes like those mentioned above.
5. Florida Everglades/Okeechobee: Florida’s Everglades has a healthy population of musky as well as some other large species like bigmouth buffalo and largemouth bass! Okeechobee is another great place to catch trophy-sized muskie provided you’re fishing from a boat (for safety). With plenty of grass and lily pads to hide behind, fishing from a boat is highly recommended.
6. Texas: Texas has some good spots like Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn Reservoir that hold healthy populations of muskie. The size limit varies depending on where you are in the state, but you need to be careful not to keep them if they’re small (usually under 30 inches).
7. Mexico/Cuba/Bahamas: Mexico includes places like Cancun and Chichen Itza which both have large populations of trophy-sized muskie! Cuba and the Bahamas also have large populations so these may be worth checking out as well if you get a chance.
Is Muskellunge Hard to Catch?
Muskellunge are definitely not easy to catch, but they’re not impossible either! What works for one person may not work for you. You might have to try a few different things before you find what’s effective.
It also depends on where you plan to fish, the time of year, and other factors like the weather conditions. For example, calm days with little wind are preferred since it makes muskies less wary of boats and fishermen.
Techniques for Muskellunge
Fishing for Muskellunge can be done in a variety of ways. Here are some of the suggested techniques:
1. Spoons: Spoons are very effective for catching musky because of the flash they produce in the water. Try using ones with at least 3 treble hooks or 4 single hooks to increase your odds of getting bit, but you could get them just by fishing with one spoon too.
Jigging spoons (with an oblong shape) work best since it’s easy to make them fall and rise through the water column naturally while drifting/trolling around an area. You can also try spinnerbaits, spinners, crankbaits, or other lures that move a lot of water when retrieved quickly (adding vibration).
2. Spinners: Spinners like Mepps may not be as flashy as spoons, but they can still get a reaction from a musky thinking it’s food. Try using ones with silver blades and a few red spots on the lure to mimic a shad or an injured baitfish. You can use larger spinners near the end of the day when the water is cooler since that’s when big Muskie are more likely to feed.
3. Baitcasting/Shimano Crucial Reels: These reels cast further than your average spinning reel so you can cover more area when searching for Muskies in deeper waters. They’re also great for fighting large fish because they’re smooth and durable which helps prevent line twists which is important in muskie fishing!
Tip: You may want to try out a few different fishing rods before you decide on the perfect one. Remember, it’s important to be comfortable when Muskie fishing! The Abu Garcia Veritas Casting fishing rod is the go-to choice for musky.
4. Live/Natural Bait: You can also try live or natural bait like shiners or sunfish for Muskellunge. Just make sure you get the appropriate licenses (if required) and follow any rules about minimum sizes and bag limits to prevent overfishing.
Keep in mind that Muskies are cannibalistic so they may turn on each other during feeding frenzies if there are too many of them around at once. Make sure you release oversize fish while practicing catch-and-release fishing.
5. Trolling Spoons/Jigging Raps: A great way to cover a lot of water is to troll spoons or jigging raps behind the boat. This way you might get a bite from multiple Muskie in different locations. Try fishing different depths and use your electronics (like graphs) to locate the fish before casting out your lures!
6. Fly Fishing/Casting Rigs: If you prefer fly fishing or casting, it’s also possible to catch a Muskellunge this way. You’ll need a large, strong rod with a solid backbone while using braided line for maximum toughness while fighting big fish.
Regular monofilament may not be able to handle the abuse associated with muskie fishing! You can also add wire leaders if you don’t feel comfortable without them depending on where you’re fishing. A good tip is to try different colors and styles of flies/lures when Muskie fishing since they seem to have a preference for certain types.
7. Do-it-Yourself Bait: If you don’t want to buy packaged lures, you can make your own! For example, some anglers use a piece of nightcrawler on a jigging spoon with a live shiner in front of it or a smaller salamander muskie worm hooked under the jaw with the tail fanned out.
Or if you prefer artificial bait (like spoons), try using plastic minnows or other soft plastics like Gulp! Shrimp. Some anglers like to cut scent pockets into their plastics to make them more enticing too.
8. Trolling Boards/Boardswipes: If you put out trolling boards, try taping a scent pad to it for some extra muskie attracting power! Or if you want to use an old trick some anglers like to use, take some bristles from a broom and soak them in musky gland lure (found at most fishing stores) before attaching them with twine on the end of your line. Then just drag it behind the boat while moving forward to attract Muskies!
You can also try using an electric fan or batteries to power boardswipes that will generate more noise underwater which may help attract Muskies (especially later in the day). Just be careful about getting them wet since they’re electronic and can short out.
9. Use a Fish Finder: To improve your chances of catching Muskie, try using a fish finder to figure out what depth the fish are at. You can even use it to determine where they’re hanging out so you know how far down to cast! Just make sure you get one that’s specifically designed for freshwater fishing (since saltwater fishing models aren’t as accurate). And remember, this isn’t necessary but it may improve your results while Muskie fishing!
10. Stay Organized/Know Before You Go: It’s also important to stay organized when Muskie fishing in case something happens that requires a quick response from you. For example, you need to be extra careful when boating so you don’t lose your rods or get tangled up in fishing line since muskie are known for swimming around structures and breaking off heavy lures easily. It’s also important to check the weather ahead of time before going out on the water so you know what to expect.
11. Don’t Forget Your License: Last but not least, always remember to bring your fishing license with you! You can usually purchase them online or at a local store/outpost if needed before heading out on the water just remember to do it ahead of time since they’re required even if you’re ice fishing during part of the year.
Basic Information on Muskellunge
Muskellunge, also known as “muskie” or “musky,” are the largest members of the pike family. As mentioned, they can be found in lakes and large rivers throughout North America, but they are most common in Canada and Alaska.
Muskellunge are usually gray with dark tiger-like stripes on their sides. Their bellies are white to yellowish-white, while their tail fins may be banded with black spots.
Muskellunge Scientific Classification:
Genus/Species: Esox masquinongy (the scientific name for muskellunge) They are the largest members of the pike family. Males can reach lengths up to 14 feet, but usually, top out at about 10-12 feet and weigh from 70-100 pounds. Females grow even larger – sometimes reaching weights upwards of 150 pounds! In terms of appearance, they have a greenish cast on their backs and sides, with light undersides.
Their back is marked by wavy vertical bars or patches, while their head has a distinctive large dark spot on each side. Their fins are yellowish with clear central spots of varying sizes, including a distinctive black patch over their pectoral fins. Their heads have scattered light blue vertical lines and hard bony ridges along the sides.
Muskellunge Diet: Mature muskellunge almost exclusively eat fish, including yellow perch, emerald shiners, golden shiners, trout-perch (also known as darters), bluegill , pumpkinseed , largemouth bass , northern pike , walleye , bowfin and burbot.
A study on Lake St. Clair indicated that adult muskellunge there had a diet made up of about 70 percent large fishes (including other muskellunge ), 25 percent amphibians and 5 percent crayfish. Juvenile muskellunge feed mainly on crayfish and large invertebrates.
Dominance: Muskellunge are solitary and territorial predators, which means they usually hunt alone and will fight one another for prey or for territory. Their hunting grounds can be up to 1,500 acres in size. They use their long bodies and excellent camouflage to sneak up on potential food – waiting patiently until the right moment to strike.
Their breeding season begins in May when the water temperature reaches approximately 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius). At this time, muskellunge move into shallow shoals in order to breed and lay eggs. Males build nests out of large stones picked up by their mouths and deposit the eggs in crevices between rocks. Females can lay as many as 40,000 eggs at a time! After about 30 days, the eggs hatch, and the fry become free-swimming.
Average Lifespan: Muskellunge can live as long as 20 years in the wild and up to 30 years under ideal conditions.
Muskellunge as Food: Because muskellunge are not as widely distributed as other fish, their meat is often expensive to purchase. However, it has a lighter color and finer grain than that of salmon or trout, but with a milder taste. It’s also low in fat and high in protein. Therefore, it can be used for any recipe calling for Pacific salmon or whitefish.