Alright, time to winterize the boat and call it a season, right? Wrong. Stop this “I can’t wait for ice fishing” stuff and get your head wrapped around the fact that the largest predators in the north are still ready and waiting for you in the soft water.
Matthew Heayn (left), Chris Huskilson (right)
Photo: Jamie Wilson
Musky favor cooler water and are readily available as the lakes drop to temperatures that have a negative effect on game fish such as Bass. Their metabolism simply reacts positively to these late season changes. Musky are truly opportunistic feeders, which is due to the fact that these fish are highly evolved apex predators. There is a reason they get so big you know – they engorge themselves until their bellies are full of our other favorite sport fish, day in and day out. Keep in mind they aren’t easy to fool, so let’s figure out how to make ‘em bite so you can curb your “end of the season” depression.
Southern Ontario Musky angler Chris Huskilson, who is a pro-staffer for Water Wolf Lures, Huskie Musky Leaders, Muskallure Custom Baits, Handlebarz Musky lures and CL Fishing can point you in the right direction (obviously). Let’s start with his bait of choice when water temps begin to dip well below 60 degrees, down to near freezing conditions – the Water Wolf Lures “Gator Tube”.
These extra tough, hand painted tubes include a ¾” solid nose, are built on .062 stainless steel wire and use VMC 3X strong hooks. Available in 11” and 13” sizes, these baits can turn heads when nothing else will at this time of year. On a slack line, Gator Tubes perfectly mimics the spiraling action of a dying bait fish, which to a Musky includes Perch, Walleye, Cisco, Sucker, Smallmouth Bass etc. Gator Tubes are not just tough, they are very tasty due to the salt impregnation. “When a fish chomps down on our tubes, they get a burst of salty water which mimics the taste of blood” –Water Wolf Lures.
Now let’s get to the rod/reel set-up of choice which is very specific to Musky angling, believe me. Chris Huskilson favors a G Loomis 8’6” XX-heavy, fast action casting rod paired with a Shimano Curado (large arbor/low profile) casting reel spooled with 65-lb Power Pro braided line (green) tied to a custom 12” 150-lb fluorocarbon casting leader by Huskie Muskie leaders. Some of his favorite colors include Walleye, Sucker and Red Shad, but really, Chris simply makes a game time decision on color selection. My advice is to have a wide range of choices if you are fishing say, new waters regularly.
The where, when and how-
Photo: Aaron Jolicour
First off, Chris favors the un-weighted version of the gator Tube, as it has a much slower fall which also bodes well in the cooler water temps late in the season. Keeping his trolling motor at about 60%, he covers water while casting ahead of the boat which is what creates that slack line needed to give the Gator Tube it’s slow, seductive spiraling/falling action. Make no mistake, this is what fools large predators anywhere you may fish around the world. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – predators feed intelligently on the weak as to not expend too much energy and stress…that’s what keeps these monsters on top of the fresh water food chain. Chris makes a simple twitch-pause, twitch-pause cadence, covering water slowly and methodically back to the boat. Keep in mind that at this time of year, baitfish are fairly lethargic so this presentation also mimics the behavior of a Musky’s forage base.
Musky in current with Chris Huskilson
Musky tend to relate to current at certain times of year, early spring and late fall when water temps are between 40-60 degrees. Typically, Musky are edge predators which is defined by the locations in which they feed, in this case, points of ambush. In most cases these locations include weed edges, depth variations, humps and main lake saddles (eg. connecting formation between islands). These patterns hold true in heavy current found in river systems at this time of year, which to the untrained eye are not as obvious. So let’s train your eye shall we?
“I like to look for current breaks where Walleye and other bait fish school up”, he continues to explain “these are areas directly adjacent to the main channel edge where current and slack water (or eddies) meet. This creates an edge that Musky can use to ambush bait”. Chris also tends to key in on areas such as current bends, points, rock bars, weed edges along with subtle break lines in deeper water directly adjacent to, once again, the main current. “These spots might not look like much, but as a matter of fact, these locations provide both protection from heavy current along with a perfect edge to ambush prey”.
When bait fish are present, so are Musky. I like to stick with natural color patterns such as Walleye or Sucker, which dominate in current for obvious reasons, match the hatch if you will”.
Keep in mind that you should know your waters. If this is not the case, show up with a variety of color patterns to experiment with, in time you’ll figure out what works for you. For example, I like black with red flake for dark, overcast days; for all types of fish for that matter.
So, wanna put your boat away after everything you’ve read today? Come on girls and boys, fighting these killing machines will leave you breathless and hopelessly obsessed with the late fall Musky bite.
Photo: Michael McNaught
One thing that Chris Huskilson said to me on our first outing was “you’ll be hooked on this type of fishing the first time a huge Musky follows your Gator Tube to the boat, and crushes it.” He could not be more right. I am hooked, and hopelessly obsessed with everything from the feel of the gear to the fact that you pretty much have your favorite lake all to yourself at this time of year. It’s solitude meets heart stopping action. You gotta love it! See you out there right? That’s what I thought.
(Author; Jamie Wilson) Previously posted on http://anglingauthority.com/