By Craig Sandell © 2010

Night fishing for Musky is probably one of the most exciting and harrowing activities untaken by Musky anglers and it is amplified even further when it is done on a body of water that has limited commercial development and a wide expanse of water like the Chippewa Flowage.

Once the season gets underway, something called a ‘night bite’ tends to develop. Night bite usually starts as the setting sun begins to tickle the tree tops and may go on until the sun rises.

You won’t find many Musky anglers out on the water once the blackness of a moonless night turns the Chippewa Flowage into a world of shadows. Only those anglers who have mastered the art of pitch black navigation will dare to venture out to confront the night and hunt for Musky.

The night hunt takes on a unique twist when the night angler is by himself. The solitary night Musky angler finds him or herself pitching their lure into the gloom over water and near structure that can only be seen in the mind’s eye. There is with each cast the excitement that comes with the potential of a night strike and the apprehension of having to fight a toothy critter without the advantage of good vision. More so than at any other time, a Musky angler fishing at night is doing so on the Musky’s terms.

So it was for me that late June evening as I left the bar at Indian Trail Resort at 12:30 am and headed for my boat for a night excursion.

I had just come in an hour earlier from an unsuccessful night time outing. I stopped in to the bar for a beer and a bump and some evening Musky talk with the other regulars at Indian Trail Resort. There weren’t but four or five folks in the bar and I nestled in among the group at the end of the bar to get the day’s action report.

There had only been one fish registered that day but there had been missed opportunities. The conversation shifted to night fishing conditions. Although the night was moonless, the sky was clear and the stars of the Milky Way painted the sky, reflecting their light off the smooth surface of the water that was like glass as a result of the windlessness of the evening. No one had seen any action this evening. We theorized that the clear sky and bright stars were not the optimal conditions for feeding Musky who seem to like it a bit gloomier. I can remember Scott Allen saying that he thought that a little cloud cover would be just what we needed to scare up a little action.

I was going to call it a day but as I stepped out of the bar, I glanced up at the night sky. The stars were no longer visible and the ‘bar talk’ echoed in my ears.

As I pulled away from the dock and headed into the pitch, I could see Scott and a couple of others from the bar heading for their boats also. Slicing through the pitch black night, I made my way to Three Sisters using the faint outlines of the tree lines as navigation aides.

It was moving on toward 1:00 am and the water was free from the buzz of other boats. I motored up on the Herman’s side of The Sisters and cut my motor about 20 yards out from shore. With the lack of wind, I decided to use my transom rather than my bow mounted trolling motor. This would allow me to set a very slow speed and make a controlled pass along the structure in front of the first two sisters. I put a Best American Globe on my rod and began to cover the area in a methodical half moon pattern.

That kind of solitude and intense focus tends to lull one into an almost hypnotic condition. I was sure that this classic Musky spot held a fish that was going to take advantage of the overcast to ease its hunger.

As I reached the end of my slow troll across the face of the first two sisters, I re-positioned the boat for a ‘double hover’. Moving the boat back over water that I had previously fished is a technique that will generally produce a fish if one is active on a spot…Three casts into the double hover, my globe stopped and I set the hook. Hearing was the only sense that was not impeded by the gloom and what I heard told me that I had a nice fish trying to free itself from the hooks of my globe.

Now, those of you who have fished at night know that the blackness seems to make everything "larger". As this fish tugged at the line, I could see my rod bowing over. I continued to fight the Musky keeping my line tight and trying to anticipate the direction of the Musky who was still consumed by the blackness of the water.

Luckily, I had remembered to don my head lamp as I started my pass along the front of the Sisters. I reached up quickly and turned on the head lamp. With the light shinning on the water, the reflection of the shoulders of a very angry Musky were finally visible. As its head turned toward me, I could see that it had both of the globe’s hooks in its mouth and I knew that all I had to do was stay calm and lead it into the net.

The practice of night fishing alone dictates that you make sure that the boat is clear of obstacles and that the tools you will need, such as the net and your compound bolt cutters, are easily reachable.

With one hand holding the rod high to maintain a tight line, I maneuvered the Musky toward the boat. My other hand had the net at the ready and once I could see that the fish was under control, I dipped the net in the water and led the musky into the net…Success!!!

What an adventure. As usually happens, once the line went slack, the lure came out of the fish’s mouth and lodged in the webbing of the net. I don’t like to remove the fish from the water until I am ready to measure and photograph it. This ensures that it can still breathe but it makes it a bit more difficult with the razor sharp hooks presenting themselves as a hazard if the Musky decides to thrash in the net while your hand is in there.

I quickly cut off the hooks using the compound bolt cutter making it safe to reach into the bags for the fish. Being alone, I placed a ruler on the floor of the boat, made sure my camera was ready and then reached into the bag and brought the Musky into the boat. I laid the Musky on the wooden ruler and measured it at 43 inches. I snapped a picture or two and then returned the fish to the water for a release.

The water was a bit warm and the fight was a bit longer than I wanted it to be, so the Musky needed some TLC while he recovered from the encounter. After a few minutes of keeping the fish upright in the water and moving it to flush water over its gills, the fish began to revive. I bid the Musky thanks for the opportunity, and as I squeezed on his tail, he moved off into the night.

By the time I got back to Indian Trail Resort, it was almost 2 am. As I tied my boat up to the dock, I noticed that the overcast that had urged me onto the water had given way to clear skies once again. It was almost as if the overcast was meant just for me.

Tight Lines