Riege: Muskies Before Freeze-Up

Published 6:47pm Wednesday, November 7, 2012

By Bob & Ginny Riege

The fall period has always been one of my favorite times to be on the water. The radiantly colored trees, increased wildlife activity, the decreased human activity and the accelerated fish activity all combine to make any weather adversity mother nature can dish out worth enduring.

Lakes normally “turn over” around late September or early October. If you find that a lake has just “turned”, fishing will be poor for at least a week. Move to a smaller or larger lake. Weighted jerkbaits, deep divers and large minnow baits are excellent now. But live suckers will generally produce the most muskies.

The key to finding big, trophy muskies on the large, deep, clear lakes is locating the big suspended schools of bait fish, especially cisco. The muskies won’t be far away! Watch your graph carefully. Working the area between two schools of bait fish is super!

Cisco will move in to spawn on gravel and rock shorelines around the full moon in October or the full moon in November. The water temperature will be around 42 degrees. Lake trout also move in and spawn in the fall. Watch the moon, watch the depthfinder, watch the water temperature. This is big fish time!

In September, all types of baits can produce at times. Usually by the third week of September, I’m also using live suckers from 10 to 13 inches long. In October, I put away my bucktails and surface baits as they start to lose their effectiveness. Many cabbage weedbeds start dying off now and muskies may move to other structure like logs and rocks. They often move to deeper water in search of forage. The 25 to 50 ft. depth range is most effective now.

If it’s a warm day, you can still cast deep divers, but use a very slow retrieve. On lakes with cisco or lake trout, late fall is their spawning time. If you can locate schools of cisco on your graph, fish around the outside of these schools because big muskies won’t be far away!

Fishing in the fall I like the big baits. These baits, because of their size, usually run deeper, but that is fine. The cabbage weeds will die off more quickly in the fall on the dark water lakes. This will either move the muskies to deeper water or to structure such as logs, brush, rocks or piers and boat houses.

Time of day can also play a role. If you are not having action early in the day, stick with it, because they might become active in the afternoon or evening. I usually fish from around 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the late fall. If it’s very cold, I may shorten the day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is the most productive time period at this time of the year. Also a change in the weather can turn the muskies on. I usually stop by the bait store and picked up some sucker minnows on the way to the ramp. I select some very large suckers, 15 to 22 inches, to be used with a single hook fished in deeper water. I prefer to drift fish with these large sucker minnows. With the aid of my depthfinder I want to locate the big schools of suspended bait fish and the muskies that surround them. Don’t overlook some name-brand quality lures like: Cisco Kid/ Suick, Bagley, Grandma, Hi-Fin, Smity, Bucher DepthRaider, Big Fork Lures, Dick Gries Lures, and Rapala. Look for high-quality, well-tested lures that really work. For bucktails, make sure they are well-made from quality components. I prefer Bionic Bucktails, because they stand a lot of pressure from aggressive fish. At no time of the year will muskies be heavier than they are in October and November. These months test the most avid fisherman. Frozen hands, numb feet, and ice covered livewells, tackle and sandwiches are normal experiences. Snow storms, slippery boat ramps, and iced-over boat landings can all add to the problems encountered. Snowmobile suits, pac boots, wool socks, waterproof gloves, and lots of hot coffee help a bit. A little action from the fish can help a lot during this brutal time of the year!

Autumn is a transitional period of changing weather and with this transition the outdoorsman needs to make sure that his equipment is in proper working condition. An inspection and a checklist will aide you in packing before you are out in the elements. If you are a fisherperson, or a hunter who is on the water (doesn’t make any difference the size or depth) do yourself and your loved ones a favor and wear your PFD (Personal Flotation Device).

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