The changing color
of the trees heralds the impending end of Muskie season and the start of the long wait for
I was able to steal a long weekend on the Chippewa Flowage from the 24th to
the 28th of September. I had every expectation of seeing a Muskie or two even
though the time was short because of the time of year. As we who fish for Muskie know, the
Muskie tend to put on the feed bag late in the season just after the water turns over; but
it is always a good idea to revisit the mechanics of this phenomena. If you have read my
article on Understanding Turnover, you know that turnover is
the homogenization of the water into a single temperature up and down the water column.
When this happens, the dissolved oxygen is also evenly distributed. What this means to
fish movement is not always obvious, so it bears elaboration.
As we know from the recent study participated in by my good friends John
Dettloff and Scott Allen, Muskie, at least on the Chippewa Flowage, tend to spend most
of their time in deep water and, only occasionally move shallow. Once the water turns
over, the reason for fish to stay in deep water, assuming it is temperature and/or forage
related, disappears. Now, Muskie could be anywhere and probably are solely focused on
location based upon available forage. More so than any other time of the year, forage will
dictate the presence of Muskie.
With that in mind, and after verifying that the lake had turned over, the hunt for this
little 3 day excursion took on a new tactical approach. The location and concentration of
the forage fish became extremely important.
Combined with the turn over, was the gradual dropping of the water level on the
Chippewa Flowage. This accelerated the mild current that moves the flotsam and
jettison upon which forage fish feed through the neck down areas. It
soon became obvious that this was the key to an emerging pattern of Muskie location. Along
with John Dettloff, we consulted our maps of the water to determine the likely areas that
would be high percentage given this fall pattern.
On Saturday evening, John and I set off for one of these spots and put our attack plan
into action. With a pattern like this, one never knows where the fish are likely to reside
on a piece of structure so the method of area coverage also became very important. Our
approach was, given the structure we were fishing, to accomplish multiple drifts of the
area in overlapping patterns. We reasoned that this would allow us to cover the area
efficiently and fish it clean.
Lure selection was another variable to the Muskie equation. We looked at the recent
catches and recognized that early evening success was vested in the use of jerk baits.
John and I loaded our rods with a Bobbie and Striker, respectively, and began to
systematically execute the plan of attack.
The evening shadows announced
the setting of the sun as we made our 3rd drift of the area. As John and I
discussed the events of the day and the general meaning of life (the way most
Muskie anglers do when fishing methodically), a Muskie came up behind my Striker and
timidly embraced the rear treble hook in his mouth. To be honest, I wasnt even aware
of him until I executed the next Jerk of my lure. The Muskie swirled on the water, and
feeling the hook began to run in an attempt to free himself. I was busy fighting the fish
and only got a glimpse of the fishs head and neck area, however, John saw the whole
animal and, recognizing that it was in the 25 pound class, encouraged me to go to free
spool and thumb the line. About that time, this beast rose by the side of the boat, turned
his head away from the boat and straightened the treble hook.
Surely, I was disappointed that this fine Muskie won the fight, but the action did
confirm the soundness of the attack plan. We set up another drift and began to work the
area again. This was the 4th drift of the area and about three quarters of the
way through, Johns Bobbie was struck by a small Muskie. Recognizing that it was
undersized, John shook the rod and executed a "fish friendly" release. That was
the end of our adventure for that evening. We did another couple of drifts to no avail.
On Sunday, I got a late start on the water. It was already past sunset when
I arrived on our spot for the evening. Once again, lure selection was an important part
of the Muskie equation. Even though the water had turned over, surface lures were still
effective after sunset. I loaded my rod with a creeper and began a drifting pattern over a shallow shelf area. On our first
drift, a Muskie swirl up behind the lure, reinforcing my confidence in the attack plan.
I finished up the first drift and set up for our second drift. This drift
did not yield anything, however, still confident in the approach and in the area,
up for the third drift.
Just as transitioning from 6 feet onto a 3 foot stump shelf, my creeper abruptly
stopped plopping its way through the water as the result of an aggressive clobbering
from a Muskie. I pulled
back on the rod to set the hook and began to reel in to keep a tight line. As the fish came close to the boat, it was illuminated by
my head lamp and I could see that it was a very respectable fish. He tugged at the line in an attempt to
shake the hook, but without success. I lead him around the front of the boat
and finally positioned him toward the waiting net.
Bit-a-Bing, Bit-a Bang, Bit-a-Boom, he was in the net and the growl of success vibrated
the vocal chords of a very excited angler.
The work was accomplished to free the Muskie from the lure. Muskie in hand, it measured out at
38 inches. A picture or two and the Muskie was back in the 61 degree water and on his way.
I did a couple more drifts of the area, but the adventure was over for the evening.
I returned to Indian Trail Resort to register the fish and institute a ritual celebration of
buying the bar a round of root beer Schopps. This was, for me, my last Muskie adventure on
the Chippewa Flowage for the season. It was certainly a pleasure to share it with friends
and confirm a few new variables to the equation that is Muskie fishing. No matter how much
you fish for Muskie, there is always something more to learn.