Fall fishing in the Kawartha’s Northumberland Region is one of my favorite times of the season. Not only is the fishing spectacular, but the sheer beauty and fall colors have made their appearance in full. The leaves have turned and begun to fall. The nights are cooler, the air is crisp and the fish are feeding up in preparation for winter.
For myself personally, this is the time to focus my efforts on trophy Muskies and Smallmouth Bass. These two species are without question my favorite target from mid-September right through to ice up. Why you might ask? Well the answer is this. Not only are they aggressively feeding during this time, but they are much more likely to be susceptible to simple angling techniques in areas that are much more obvious and easier to access. I keep my techniques very simple during this time and the results are always very good.
When targeting Smallmouth Bass from late September through November my approach is simple. During this period the fish within the region tend to school up on shallow rocky points extending out from the shoreline. Points close to deep water. Fall equals BIG smallies. Fish at this time of year feed heavily on crayfish and minnows in preparation for the cold winter months. I always start my search right on the bank in as little as a foot of water. Early morning “walk the dog” style topwater baits are a great option. I will fish them very slowly and in a color pattern resembling the local forage. In most cases white will do the trick. When the water is really starting to get 60°F or lower, nothing beats the steady cadence of a suspending jerk bait. I will allow for very long pauses between jerks to allow enough time for the fish to commit to the bait. The pause is the key. This is a great time for the shore angler to take advantage of some great accessible shallow water fish! Check out the “Fish From Shore” fishing locations on the Kawartha’s Northumberland website and catch the fish of a lifetime! Below are a few lake recommendations and examples of baits I suggest you try.
A White Jerkbait is a great minnow imitator. Remember to allow for long pauses between jerks to trigger strikes. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your cadence though! The fish’s reaction will dictate the amount of time between twitches.
A walk the dog style topwater bait in shallow water first thing in the morning can be a great way to trigger big fish to strike. The same rule applies during this time of the year. Slow and steady wins the race.
When targeting Muskies from late September right through until Ice-Up, my approach is even more simplified. They are packing on pounds before winter as well and quite literally can be found in the same areas as the Smallmouth–Rock and/or weed points with close proximity to deep water. While I will shy away from top water presentations during this period, I will lean heavily towards a suspending/neutral buoyancy type bait that will allow me to impart a jerkbait type presentation triggering bites in the exact same manner as I would with the Smallmouth. It is during this period that I lean heavily on large profile soft plastic baits. Large swimbaits and water dwelling rodent imitators are a favorite for me as well as large Tube style baits that have been rigged weightless so that I can fish it in the upper portion of the water column instead of the bottom. Long pauses are key! Fish slowly and the fish will come. The Muskies within the region this time of year are feeding heavily! They are opportunistic, meaning no bait is too big. This is the time to increase in size and hang on for the fish of a lifetime! Below are a few lake recommendations and examples of baits I suggest you try.
A heavy leader is an absolute must and will ensure you land your fish of a lifetime. I prefer Fluorocarbon leaders made from only the finest and strongest components.
Large swimbaits slow rolled are a great local forage imitator and trigger big bites!
Water dwelling rodent type baits are exceptional this time of the year as they present a big meal to big opportunistic fish!
Large profile casting tubes are an absolute staple for me during the cold water periods. Fished like a jerkbait with grewat hang time and long pauses trigger some of my biggest bites of the year!
Late fall right through to ice up presents some of the greatest Muskie and Smallmouth bass fishing of the year in the Kawartha’s Northumberland region of Ontario. Your opportunity to truly catch a legend awaits right here. Come see for yourself!
Chris Huskilson- Exist To Fish Canada Writer
ALL FISH IMAGES IN THIS ARTICLE WERE CAUGHT AND RELEASED IN THE KAWARTHAS NORTHUMBERLAND REGION OF ONTARIO! COME SEE FOR YOURSELF!!
August and September can be one of the best times of the year to catch BIG fish in the Kawartha’s Northumberland region. As we reach the end of August and the days start to shorten. The nights a little cooler and the leaves begin to change so does the trigger for our native fish species to feed! And feed a lot! Not only is everything seemingly hungry, but locations and patterns start to change as well. As the days shorten and temperatures reduce the aquatic vegetation follows suit and will start to deteriorate to the point where the fish will no longer use it as cover.
Largemouth bass in the region will now start to seek out what healthy green weeds remain. In most instances Milfoil is preferred. It provides a higher oxygen content creating a place for the panfish to hide which in turn attracts the Bass. Its root system holds the bottom in place, which holds phosphorus in place as well. It will also improve water clarity making it easier for the bass to ambush. The shallow water vegetation is the first to go and in most cases the healthy green weeds will be in deeper more stable water temperatures. 8-10′ is a depth I like to target when seeking out healthy vegetation that may hold Largemouth this time of year and the presence of bluegill and other panfish are a sure bet that you are in the right area. Once you find them they will be there in high numbers! Shallow water can still be a very productive option this time of year as well. Overhead cover is at a premium given the decaying plant matter. As the resident weeds die they will float to the surface creating matted clumps that will hold heat and panfish which will keep the bass in shallow as well. These fish are much more susceptible to temperature change this time of year if a sudden cold front or other weather pattern develops they will either vacate the shallows or developed a case of lock jaw.
Jerkbait- Twitch this along the edge of the green weeds you locate. The fish will dart out and strike!
Topwater Frog- Drag this over the matted vegetation! The shallow fish will be under it and cannot resist!
Spinnerbait- A steady retrieve over top of healthy weeds will generate strikes. A spinnerbait is a terrific option this time of year!
Flippin Jig- Dunk this right in the middle of the healthy green weeds and feel for weight! Set the hook hard and winch the fish out of the heavy cover.
The regions Smallmouth Bass population is on the move this time of year as well. They will begin their transition from deeper offshore structure to more accessible closer to shore haunts. Rocky points are very popular this time of year. They tend to really tighten up into schools. Instead of two or three fish together we often see 10 or more together. The same rule is true. Once you find them they will be present in numbers. Every fish I catch this time of year seems to have at least a half a dozen friends following it in as I land it. Some if my biggest Smallmouth of the season will be taken after Labor day in as little as 3-4 feet of water! Rock and sand points being my main target, but not to forget hard bottom healthy yet relatively shallow weed lines as well. The same rule applies however! If the vegetation is still green and baitfish or panfish are still present so will the Smallmouth be. Lake Recommendations:
Jerkbait- twitch this along the outside green weedlines and rocky points. Hang on because they will smash this!
Tube Jig- hopped and dragged along the bottom will entice a strike from a hungry smallmouth. Also a great follow up bait to drop to the fish that may be following the fish you are reeling in!
The Muskie bite during the fall transition can be absolutely lights out at well. The drop in water temperature is the que for these apex predators to put the feed on. This is not only the time to catch a lot of Muskies, but can also be the time to catch an absolute monster. They can be extremely aggressive in late August, early September. The forage they have been feeding on has grown throughout the season and as such the tackle I like to use will increase in size as well. Large soft plastic baits are a go to for many as the water temps start to fall into the 60’s. I like a bait that will allow me to impart a “stop and go” retrieve and has a fair bit of buoyancy so that it will hang suspended in the water column between jerks. That extra hang time is just what the Dr ordered for big Muskies this time of year. I have good success fishing fairly shallow weed line edges this time of year. Edges with relative proximity to deep water. Green weeds seem to be less of a factor ironically enough and my belief is that they simply need something for cover to ambush their forage whether the weeds are healthy or not. So don’t shy away from decaying vegetation just yet for these fish during the fall season.
Bulldawgs- a slow steady retrieve will often win the race with this big plastic. Don’t hesitate to impart a pull pause retrieve as well! Fish will often strike on the pause.
Large Swimbait- Swim this bait in current or over the tops of the weedlines. A very slow presentation that the fish really like this time of year.
On the flip side the regions Great Lake tributaries are on the cusp of exploding with the annual fall Chinook Salmon run. A drop in temperature and a good rain will trigger the “run” in full force, and what a blast these fish are to target and fight in shallow flowing water. There are a plethora of accessible locations to park and fish along some extremely product and renowned tributaries like the Ganaraska river flowing through port hope or the Wilmot in Newcastle. There are many bait and tackle shops along the way that are licensed to sell tied salmon roe that can be used under a float as bait. This is a very popular and productive method for catching these massive fish. They will stage in enormous schools at the mouths of these tributaries in waiting for the river conditions to suit their spawning requirements. They can be caught as early as mid-August at the mouths and right in to the tributaries as early as late August, early September. Light line and small hooks are imperative as these fish have very keen senses. A medium action 10-13′ Rod and large spooled spinning reel are also very helpful when fighting these long running, head shaking, high flying fish and will dramatically increase your odds of landing them.
Tied Roe bags- Drift these under a float or on a bottom bounce rig at the mouth of the tributaries and the upstream pools and wait for the float to drop!
Bead/egg imitators- Drift these under a float in clear pressured waters.
Fall fishing in the Kawartha’s Northumberland Region of Ontario is an opportunity for any angler to catch the fish of a lifetime from shore or boat all within an hour’s drive. The region is regarded as one of the greatest freshwater fisheries in the world. Your next trophy fish, A Kawartha’s Northumberland Legend, is waiting! Come see for yourself!
To say this has been a hot summer is an understatement. With countless scorching days along with little rain, this bass season has truly been a grind for many anglers.
Low water levels, high water temperatures and nothing but sunny days means tough, hard to predict fishing right? Well, not really. Are bass easy to predict? Yes. Are they less than agreeable? Kinda. Don’t cuss me out just yet.
At this point of the season there are a few key variables that make for a seemingly difficult equation to solve for the best of anglers. Really, the variables or unknowns are where and when do these ghost-like fish show up? Feeding windows become dramatically shortened and strike zones shrink which can make for a pretty frustrating day on the water. Smallmouth will suspend at various depths in relation to the thermolcline (a steep temperature gradient marked by a layer above and below which the water is at different temperatures) and where the forage they are targeting are located. Their green cousins, largemouth bass, can be found on deep weedlines, under trees, docks or buried beneath undercut banks.
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Now, we are talking about mid-day, but what about dusk periods? What about cloudy days with a falling barometer? Put that stuff on the backburner for a moment. These are the dog days of summer so just focus on the things you can control. As smallmouth “suspend” does that mean they aren’t oriented to the bottom? No – not at all. One great tactic right now is dragging on bottom. This is a great option because you can cover a lot of real estate, ultimately searching out aggressive feeders and the hot spots they are holding on. Don’t just drift aimlessly. Use whatever wind and/or current may be available while using an electric motor for precise positioning and a drift sock to control your speed if the drift or current is too swift. Also, the use of GPS can be crucial here. If you have a couple good bites, or better yet, catch a smallmouth, mark a waypoint and double back asap as smallmouth tend to travel in (sometimes) large groups. Why you ask? Forage, that’s why.
If smallmouth are actively feeding on bottom there are a few presentations that will mimic said forage. For this I lean heavily on craw imitations of both the hardbait and soft plastic variety. For hardbaits, a perfect choice is the Kamooki Lures ltd. “Smartcraw” as this lipless crankbait has a forward weighted, nose down/tail up position at rest which mimics a crawfish in a defensive posture. Simply dragging and bouncing no more than 6” off bottom will trigger some pretty serious strikes my friends. The unique sound of the zinc weight deflecting off of rocks coupled with the internal rattles will catch the attention of lethargic fish while the posture and realism fools them into attacking. In addition to this, a soft plastic creature/craw imitation can pay dividends as they can be rigged weedless and weighted accordingly to depth, structure and cover. For this I prefer creature baits such as Lake Fork Trophy Lures “Craw Tube” and “Flipper”. One little trick during these tough conditions is the use of scent. I will apply a generous coating of Liquid Mayhem “Garlic Craw” to these presentations. I mean, why not appeal to as many senses as possible right? (especially when strike zones diminish).
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Craws aren’t the be-all, end-all for this technique as Smallmouth will often pick off baitfish feeding on bottom. Many anglers lean on shaky heads for this which is pretty deadly, so are swimbaits rigged on football heads as well. One particular hardbait can re-create this type of feeding response trigger and that is the “Smartfish” by Kamooki Lures ltd. which has the same patented forward keel weight resulting in a nose down/tail up position. This is precisely how a baitfish forages on bottom, and is their most defenseless position.
For this dragging, bottom bouncing technique I favor a medium heavy/fast action spinning rod coupled with a 3000 series spinning reel spooled with 20lb Gamma braid paired with (depending on the nature of the structure) an 18” 10-15lb Gamma Fluorocarbon leader.
Colin Booth loves to dunk deep weed with a Liquid Mayhem laced jig! Seeing the pockets in the weeds is key and he does so with his Smith Optics sunglasses.
If this bottom bouncing tactic proves unproductive, that’s fine. While drifting keep a keen eye on your sonar in search of arcs/fish holding at a particular depth, killing two birds with one stone if you will. If there are zero bites on bottom and you see a depth pattern then pick up a few baits that will run at or just above the depth the fish are holding. Mark a waypoint, double back and fan cast the area until something gives. If a horizontal presentation isn’t cutting it, try vertically tempting them. Experiment with subtle and aggressive cadences and retrieves as well, while keeping water clarity in mind as well. Natural/muted colors work well in clear water while bright, flashy colors catch their eye in murkier stained water. I’ll mention the Kamooki “Smartfish” once again as these can be fan casted horizontally or jigged vertically and come in many colors to suit clarity and forage base. I also lean on spinnerbaits and a variety of crankbaits of various diving depths for horizontal presentations as well.
As far as the ‘where’, breaklines, mid-lake reefs, and main lake points with both access to deep and shallow water are great places to search for smallmouth. My theory is that this variety of depths within relative close proximity offers everything fish need, as well as the anglers that chase them. We’ve discussed the daylight hours but when the sun dips, smallmouth can pull up into shallower waters to feed. But, sometimes they will become more aggressive and will chase down anything that moves, at just about any depth, so keying on these spots that offer variety is the right move.
What about largemouth? Well, during these hot months, they can become very lethargic and hunkered down. Lush vegetation offering an abundance of oxygen, docks, trees and undercuts and providing a canopy of shade are great places to skip or flip soft plastics or jigs. What I like to visualize is a big huge, grumpy old bass sitting in a proverbial lazy boy recliner in the shade. Skipping a stickworm, fluke, swimbait, flipping a jig or creature bait into its little piece of heaven will do nothing but anger that fish, resulting in a very angry response. This is the more “predictable” tactic and if you hit as many of these types of cover on a hot sunny day, you will inevitably run into a few not so gentle giants if you’re willing to work for it.
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did you know that a fresh water bass can detect 1/200th of a drop of a substance in 100 gallons of water? That a bass can detect a prey fish odor source at 25 feet or that bass have been noted to have a better sense of smell than even the best bird dog? With that sense of smell the masking powers of a quality fish attractant are critical in hiding unpleasant odors such as gas, sunscreen and cigarette smoke.
If these shallow haunts aren’t producing, deep weedlines are a good option as well. Dunking creatures, jigs or weighted stickworms inside these weedlines can prove effective during high skies. On the flipside, running shallow to medium diving cranks, spinnerbaits, rattlebaits or swimbaits along classic ambush points like inside or outside bends in weed edges at dusk/dawn for opportunistic largemouth can be the deal. P.S- don’t forget your arsenal of poppers, walking baits, buzzbaits and the like.
When reading sonar, look for hard bottom transitions on these weedlines/flats/patches which show up as light to dark colors on the screen. I read these transitions in composition as a broken light blue to solid red reading on my sonar (Lowrance HDS) but do your research on this as color palettes can be customized as you see fit and can be vary depending on your choice of name brand. As I mentioned, look for anomalies such as bends, turns, underwater points and sunken islands which can be found with the use of updated GPS cards and of course, a good pair of polarized glasses. My personal choice for these are Smith Optics ChromaPop lenses in a frame that blocks light from penetrating from below and through the sides which aids in spotting these choice hidden gems that usually go unnoticed with cheap lenses. Also, good UV protection is of obvious importance so do yourself a favor and don’t skimp on this essential item.
The Fork Frog features legs that are at a 90-degree angle to the body, which creates more resistance and in return slows the Fork Frog down to where you can fish it slow to where fish will not miss the bait. The Fork Frog has the physical features of a realistic frog, with the paddle feet creating more commotion helping the fish locate the bait.
Beyond everything just mentioned, punching slop and burning frogs have their time and place as well. The number one rule here is that you must commit to it. Flipping 1/2oz-1 1/2oz baits on 65-80lb braid on a heavy action flippin’ stick can take its toll on you, but can tempt the biggest bucketmouth on any given lake. Using either a hollow body frog or a rigged up plastic buzzin’ frog with a flippin’ bait like a creature or a tube as a 1-2 punch can knock out any heavyweight bass you may encounter. Fan cast key areas until you contact one, and if you catch it on the frog, great! If you have a missed strike, double back with a flippin’ bait and get ready to set hook. The best way to pick apart a large expanse of vegetation is to hit transitions such as variations in weed types, small openings which will often be hard bottom, stumps or just about any change you find visually. Working these areas should be done erratically with sudden stops on openings, beside stumps and along said transitions.
Okay, now you’re going to cuss me out. What if none of the tactics I’ve mentioned work out for you? Well, they might not. Why? Please don’t come looking for me, but this time of year can prove to be the most difficult to figure out, as so many patterns could work on a multitude of different areas. If there is a lack of current on a riverine type lake, river or stream, fish could be in a funk. Low water levels, stagnant waters, high traffic/high pressure situations, higher than normal water temps, lethargic fish (and complaisant anglers alike) and, well you get the picture. This is the time of year to keep an open mind and experiment. Do not get stuck in patterns, look at every day as a new day and just get out and put your time in. There is no substitute for time on the water. I don’t know what is going on in your neck off the woods, only you can figure it out.
Cover All Depths: Breaking down water columns to locate Bass.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, patience is not the key to success during any outing on the water. Sitting and waiting for Bass to “turn on” will be a waste of your time and abilities.
So, what do you do when you show up at the lake? Does it have to be so random? Should you be aimlessly searching, hoping to find active fish? Or should you essentially find the key depth that Bass are relating to and simply appeal to their instincts? The latter is the obvious answer, so let’s break it down.
I believe your success is predicated on good preparation and clear, well thought out game planning that begins the night before you hit the water. Let’s say your plan at first light is to hit a shallow rocky point adjacent a steep break line that drops into a main lake channel or basin, and for arguments sake, your theory of the Bass being up on this shallower structure is correct. Then what? What happens when the Bass pull off this structure and begin the next phase of their day? Are you prepared to follow these predictable daily movements?
Start by getting your arsenal in order. Hitting a good morning spot brings to mind one obvious presentation – topwaters such as poppers are high on my priority list. If poppers aren’t cutting the mustard, walk the dog style baits can be very effective. Storm Chug Bugs and the Lake Fork Magic Popper(1oz) can be strait retrieved in a pop and stop cadence or can serve as a very erratic walk the dog meets popper presentation. A 6-6’6” medium fast baitcasting rod, coupled with a 6.3-1 reel spooled with 17lb mono is a great choice for this job. I find the 17lb mono allows more action and makes it easier to walk the bait than 20lb mono. Also, the mono floats and tends to keep the bait from being pulled underwater as with thinner diameter braided line.
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Next, as Bass begin to pull off a bit deeper as the sun comes up, having sub-surface baits like wakebaits and shallow running crankbaits tied on will pay dividends. This will allow you to cover water yet still target Bass that are transitioning off their morning spots. Looking for pods of bait dimpling the surface can still be a clue, but as the sun gets higher and the surface of the water breaks up with the wind, this clue disappears. This is where the shallow crankbaits can help you deduce where the Bass are set up. Now, Late morning brings high sun and light penetration pushing fish that much deeper, so pull out the medium diving crankbaits or 1/2oz willow leaf spinnerbaits. Line choice is important here. Fluorocarbon is the deal for both, so I like 10lb fluorocarbon for cranks and 17lb, or as light as 15lb test for spinnerbaits. Keep in mind that fluorocarbon sinks, and the thinner diameter the line, the deeper the bait will run. When weeds are present, braided line can be beneficial in snapping free a crankbait from snags but make sure to have a true medium speed, soft crankbait rod as braid can cause lighter trebles to be ripped out of a light biting Bass’ mouth. I prefer medium action Crankin’ Sticks by Bass Pro Shops in a 7’2” length for open water/long casts and the 6’6” for more precise casting around cover/structure. For spinnerbaits I prefer Bass Pro Shops 6’6”-7’ heavy action/med-high speed (6.1-1 to 7.1-1) Rick Clun signature series baitcasting combos.
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During the mid-day/afternoon period, in open water, Bass are cruising below suspended pods of baitfish so pull out the deep diving cranks. If you are seeing clouds of baitfish with small arcs mixed in, you are not seeing Bass. Look deeper, along bottom as Bass will be following these schools around in a non-threatening way until they can corral them into a point of ambush such as weedlines, large rocks, steep banks etc. Match the depth of the area with a corresponding crankbait. Many companies manufacture crankbaits that can dive down to as deep as 22ft, long casts being obviously important here. Lipless cranks can be dropped down to a given depth which is where I favor the weight forward Kamooki Smartfish. If you contact Bass but you are getting short strikes, that’s a great time to throw a vertical presentation like a jig or tube in the same location around the fringe of the school. Also, one of my go-to baits for this game is again, the Kamooki Smartfish which has a unique spiraling action when ripped/jigged vertically mimicking an injured or fleeing baitfish.
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The next order of business can be targeting Bass relating to, and keying on a narrow strike zone a couple feet off bottom. My favorite presentation for this situation is drifting or strolling a drop shot. That fact that this rig can be suspended and held in this strike zone for longer periods than other presentations is what sets it apart. If you are seeing large arcs holding 2ft off bottom, you can literally put a drop shot right on their noses and keep it there for as long as needed. If Bass are keying on baitfish feeding on bottom or crustaceans, dragging tubes, swimbaits or creature bait rigged on a 3/4oz football jig is a great option. My latest favorites for these are Craw Tubes, Live Magic Shad(swimbait) and The Flipper(creature) by Lake Fork trophy Lures. Another great option for bottom bouncing is the Kamooki Smartcraw which is a lipless crankbait with a neutrally buoyant tail up position at rest which mimics a crawfish in a defensive position, Bass candy indeed. For these choices I like 7’ medium heavy spinning rods/2500-3000 series reels spooled with 20lb braid/18-24” 12-15lb fluorocarbon leader. For tubes and Kamooki Smartcraws, a swivel for the mainline/leader connection(tubes) and the split ring(Smartcraw) is a must as both will spiral on the lift and drop, causing line twist. As late afternoon transitions to dusk, just simply follow the fish back to the spots they were found at dawn, ending off with the first technique we discussed today.
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There you go. We just covered all the water columns in your favorite lake. Obviously, every lake is different so make the appropriate adjustments to match depth, cover etc. One thing to note is to not get lazy and caught up in steady straight retrieves. Fish erratically, fish fast, fish hard! Don’t wait for something to happen, get out there and make it so! See you out there.
When talking to people about fishing I get excited and passionate like most of us do! But when I talk to people about lake trout, watch out, my excitement is thru the roof! I can’t help but to be fascinated by this specie, I become a totally different person when I get in the lake trout mode, almost like a hockey player gets during game 7 of the Stanley cup playoffs, determination. For those who know me, this isn’t new to them, but for those who are reading this and thinking, is this guy nuts, I have to say yes I am!
I wrote an article on downrigging basics a while back and I had a hard time writing that article without talking about lake trout because it’s what I do so I am super pumped to share with you one of the biggest success I have had fishing for big Larry’s! For those of you who don’t know, Larry is what we call Lake Trout!
If I told you to bounce bottom for lakers, you would probably say, sure no problem, but if I told you to bounce bottom for lakers using your downriggers, you would say, no way dude! Settle down, I am here to tell you that there is a safe and successful way to do it without breaking or losing expensive gear!
Step 1, the set up.
Whether you are using electric or manual downriggers, this method works with both. Make sure you have some good steel downrigger cable spooled on your downrigger, I use 250 pound steel cable. Next, you will need a snubber, people use these for dipsey divers when fishing steel line to basically brace the impact of a fish hitting it since steel line doesn’t have any stretch, no different for downrigger cable. Attach your snubber to your downrigger and then attach your downrigger ball to that. You must use round downrigger balls for this method, the fish shaped ones will not work good. As far as weight, I always start with an 8 pound weight and move up from there depending on the water conditions or the depths I am fishing.
Step 2, release clip.
Most people will have their release clip attached to the ball, instead, I use a stacker clip and attach it just above the snubber on the downrigger cable, this will help ensure nothing gets caught on your lure, except the fish of course! I like to have my leads pretty tight to the ball, usually 10 -15 feet and sometimes a little closer but never more as I will explain soon. It’s important to use a quality release clip like *Scotty release clip, they are great for this type of fishing, make sure it is nice and tight on the clip, I always pinch it tight to make sure it is secure.
Step 3, the lure.
Probably the second most important step is lure choice. I have tried many combos and lures but this is truly the best combo in my opinion. It’s called peanuts and cow bell! Some may have heard of it before and others are really confused at the moment. This method starts with laker trolls or gang trolls, however you want to call them, that is your attractant, your flash. Behind that, about 15-24 inches, I have a spin and glow or wobble troll, this is your lure, this is what the fish bites. My go to is a blue fire tiger in size 00 from Yakima Baits, you can get them pre rigged but I tie my own. I tie it on a 25 pound test fluorocarbon leader with a quality treble or single Mustad hook. Single hooks seem to be more effective on most days but when I lose a fish half way up, I switch it to a treble.
As far as rod choice, well the options are not limited, I use an 8 foot, medium heavy rod with a line counter reel. This rod is spooled with 25 pound Big Game line. You typically would not use a line counter reel for downrigging but for me, it helps me dial down the perfect combination to catching these giant lake trout.
Send your combo down to the bottom. Once you hit bottom, I always let out an extra 10 feet of downrigger cable. For example, I’m fishing in 80 feet of water, my downrigger counter will read 90-95 feet. This allows the ball to drag and bounce off bottom and create some disturbance, I call it the dinner bell! Make sure your rod is set in the rod holder and is bent in half with no slack line left, set your drag and watch your rod bounce with the bottom. If you see your rod bounce on a rhythmic pace it will mean that you are dialed in perfect. I keep my speed at around 1.6 to 2.0 MPH, my sweet spot is 1.7! I always drive in an S pattern to help the lures speed up and slow down to help me determine how fast these fish want it. Always pay attention to the small details once you get a fish. Take a picture of your catch, release it and repeat the process until your arms fall off!!
Get out there, have fun and catch yourself a bunch of Larry’s during those beautiful summer months!
Originally Posted here by our friends at Kawartha’s Northumberland
The second Saturday in June just can’t arrive soon enough for me! This is the kick off to the much anticipated Muskie season here in the Kawartha’s Northumberland region of Ontario.
Each season starts off differently depending on the spring weather conditions leading in to the weekend. Our spring in 2016 has been a relatively cool one and as such the water temperate has remained in the mid-60s Fahrenheit (not quite 20° Celsius). Water levels started out quite high but tapered down considerably to the point where we are experiencing mid-summer levels by early June. The week leading in to the opener yielded stable warm weather which in turn dramatically increased water temperature in a short period of time. Not something I was hoping to have occur but at least the weather was stable.
I knew going into the weekend that I would be facing some less than ideal conditions. Bluebird skies and little to no wind always equates to difficult Muskie fishing for me.
I decided to mix things up this year and kick the season off on a Lake in the Havelock area. This is water that I have not fished in many years. I was confident, however, that it would be a good place to start, in an effort to gauge the mood of the fish this year. We arrived at the launch at 6:00 A.M. and were raring to go! Our first stop yielded a spirited follow from a 36-inch fish. Showing great interest in my bait but quickly changing direction at the boat. Not uncommon here in the Kawartha’s unfortunately. I generally have a lot of trouble getting our fish to commit or engage in a figure eight maneuver boat side. Not to say that it doesn’t happen, because it certainly does, but not as commonly as it seems to on less pressured waters.
We fished another handful of spots throwing a mix of reaction type baits along with some slower offerings but to no avail. We saw one more fish in the 38-inch range that had no interest in us whatsoever. By 8:00 A.M. we had seen enough and decided to make our way back towards the Trent Severn, with a new game plan in mind.
Some would call this initial stop in Havelock a wasted trip. Not me! I knew now that the fish were sluggish and neutral. My years of targeting fish in the Kawartha’s Northumberland region told me that this meant suspending or neutral type baits with long pauses and hang time would prevail. That in combination with smaller profiles and bottom contact we were ready to get to work.
We had the boat back in the water by 9:20 A.M. The water temperature was 71°F (22°C), the wind still nonexistent, and the air temperature on the rise, and clear blue skies. The only variable still left in my mind was how much of a current did we have? Or was it just “slack water”. Which would the fish be relating to? I decided to check an area with good current flow first. Quickly noticing a number of floating suckers and a handful in pods under us on the graph, I could feel the hair on the back of my neck start to tingle. You might think this is crazy, but this is something which I often experience when targeting Muskies. It’s all part of the attraction I think. I can almost sense when I am near one. Or just about to get a bite.
Well I wasn’t wrong! I made a few upstream fan casts, 45-degree angles, casting up and working my bait back downstream. On my fourth or fifth cast it happened. A nice sized Muskie came flying up from the bottom and crushed my offering! Big head shakes and a couple good jumps landed her right in the Frabill for a rest until I could get her unpinned. She posed for a couple quick photos and gave me a good face washing as she darted back in to the water to fight another day.
Now… You might think this is crazy, but this did not sell me on the fact that the fish were relating to current. Close by were a couple slack water areas that I frequent. I needed to check them just to convince myself of the pattern I was building. I spent about an hour in these areas methodically picking them apart to no avail. So back to the current we went. And within minutes I raised a nice mid 40-inch fish that seemed to spook as she saw the boat. Another minute or two went by and I raised a low 40-inch fish… Hmmm. Pattern established! They were using the current to ambush suckers and Walleye. Laying on bottom, in waiting for a meal to make a mistake and swim by, at which point they would simply dart up and take advantage. We continued to work the area drifting further down at this point when she showed herself. She had “shoulders”. A high 40-inch fish… 48-50-inch I’m thinking, was hot in behind my bait. Gills flaring, nipping all the while until she got within figure eight range and slowly sauntered back down to the bottom.
Although only a handful of fish were landed a pattern had been established and I plan to start my next search right where we left off on Saturday.
Some would say that this was a loss. A disappointment even. Those people may not have fished Muskies because the experience allows for the greatest of highs and lowest of lows. It is such an unexplainable happening really, but also becomes very, very addictive. The adrenalin rush that charges through my body when I come in contact with a big fish…paired with the unexplainable sense of gratitude and accomplishment that follows when a fish is hooked and landed! Relationships are born during these events. A brotherhood amongst Muskie nuts. Lives are changed! Each fish creates a new experience. And a new bond with the sport, and those that target these majestic giants.
I know now where she calls home. I know where to find her. And I will be back for my day! We will meet again! And when that time comes she will find the bottom of my net. Solidifying my passion even more. Get out there. Come see what I see! Join us in the chase! The Kawartha’s Northumberland region is a Muskie fisher’s paradise! Yielding a very good population of quality fish–not only in numbers but big fish as well. Your fish of a lifetime awaits!
Baits and Tackle used on opening day to establish the pattern include:
The Kamookie Smartfish 4-inch version is a great standup multi-function rattle type bait that I was able to utilize when matching the hatch this weekend. Fan casting this bait up stream and hopping along bottom, much like the Suckers and Walleyes in the current were also doing, allowed for the first fish of the day. Downsizing your tackle for the first few weeks of the season is always a great idea. The forage starts small and grows in size as the season progresses.
The Baby Beaver is a novelty item to some. But believe me, these fish eat much bigger prey and this little bait produces very aggressive strikes! A technique I lean heavily on in the early season.
Muskies flat out love Spinnerbaits. This particular model is the perfect size for our Kawartha Lakes fish. Not only do they look awesome, they catch big fish regularly. This is a bait that I like to use early into the season through the summer months. Lures slow rolled along weed line edges will generate a tone of strikes and is an early season staple!
Double bladed bucktails have been around for quite a while. In my opinion they are starting to lose their appeal as the fish become more and more accustomed to them. For that reason I prefer the triple bladed 8” Apache for early season Muskie fishing. The Muskies have not seen or heard this before and the results speak for themselves. As we move to summer and into late summer I will increase to size 9 and triple x baits Apache baits to keep up with the ever growing forage size in the area.
Triple 8 Apache Bucktail is the perfect early season bait. Smaller profile and lots of vibration and flash to call fish in! This is a terrific Kawartha Lakes color.
Scent! Don’t leave home without it! If nothing else it is important that the fish cannot smell you! So mask your odor with something that resembles the forage base that these fish are feeding on.
Scent is not commonly used by some when Muskie fishing. This is a mistake! The ability to mask your own odor will greatly increase your odds of success. I apply a small amount of Liquid Mayhems Pike and Muskie Attractant to every bait I will be using on each given day.A
I can’t say enough about the importance of a good leader. Every rod that I have rigged will have one of these at the business end. This will save me from losing a very expensive bait and also ensure I land that fish of a lifetime without fear of breaking off. Huskie Muskie Fluorocarbon Leaders are a must!
All of the fish images displayed in this article were caught and released in the Kawartha’s Northumberland Region of Ontario. Come see for yourself!
All Fish Images portrayed in this write up were caught and promptly release in the Kawartha’s Northumberland Region of Ontario. Come see for yourself!