2016 Kawarthas Northumberland Muskie Opener:
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!