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Fall Musky Fishing: Patterns & Pointers

October 3, 2018

By Trevor Olson

I will be the first to admit it. I used to trade in the fishing rods for my compound bow when mid-September arrived. That was before I caught musky fever.

I have been an avid bowhunter for nearly 20 years, but spending more time on the water sparked new interests. I became a sponge, gathering knowledge from experienced musky nuts – and it turns out that many things about musky fishing actually relate to bowhunting and humans. Now, I find myself excited for the fall musky hunt.

Fall Feeding Frenzy

Cold temperatures and weather changes spark a feeding frenzy. Truth is, when temperatures start to drop in the Midwest, all creatures know that it’s time to pack on some weight before the snow flies. Muskies are no different. That natural drive to gain weight for the months ahead is inevitable. Often times, big muskies will target the food sources with the highest fat content.

Think about the fish species that live in your lake. Deep clear lakes often have ciscos, shad, suckers, etc. You can bet big fish will be targeting these species, especially as it gets closer to freezing. As for smaller man-made lakes, you may have species of suckers, walleye, perch, and a variety of other panfish that muskies feed on. If you find them, muskies won’t be too far behind.

Comfort Zones

Just like us, muskies and other fish species don’t care for big temperature swings. This makes them almost easily-patterned. In the spring, you find fish in the warmest water near inlets and in the shallows. As summer kicks into gear and temperatures start to rise, you notice that all those fish you were seeing in the shallows are no longer there or not as abundant. This is because its too warm or those areas are lacking oxygen. During the summer, many fish species – including musky – travel out into deeper water where it is cooler. By late summer and into fall, when evenings are cooler and water temps start dropping below 70 degrees, my first plan of attack is the shallow weeds again.

Most lake weeds start to die after their bloom. Look for healthy green weeds and you can bet baitfish will be there. Muskies won’t be far behind. As weeds die more frequently, look for other forms of structure, such as big rocks and fallen trees.

The Right Time

If you are a bowhunter, you obviously have heard about moon phases and weather fronts causing increased whitetail activity. One thing is for certain: if you have spent some time listening to a musky angler, you have probably heard them say they went back on a fish at “moon.” Muskies are notorious followers, not always eaters. Something has these fish very curious at times, but getting the fish of 10,000 casts to actually open their mouth is the million-dollar question we all want answered. If you do see a fish, mark the spot on your electronics or in your mind. It’s likely that fish will be there awhile. Now is when the “moon” term comes into play to help get that fish to bite.

There are several moon phases that are often linked to muskies biting:

  • Moon Rise – when the moon is starting to rise on the horizon
  • Moon Overhead – when the moon is directly over us
  • Moon Set – when the moon is setting on the horizon
  • Moon Underfoot – when the moon is on the opposite side of the earth

All of these, as well as weather fronts coming in, have been directly linked to increasing your odds of catching that fish of a lifetime. Do your research ahead of time and find the times of day that are your best bet to be out on the water.

Bonus Musky Fishing Tips

What happens when you finally get that musky to bite? Have you ever caught one? Have you ever lost one? These fish have amazing power and the ability to shake a treble hook from its mouth with ease. In the chaos of catching a musky, the last thing you want to lose it!

Here are three simple (yet, sometimes overlooked) tips for musky fishing success:

  1. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the water by yourself or with someone else, keep your boat organized! Make sure there is always enough room to move around the boat; if you have to fight the fish, you want the space to do so. To keep my topwater and rubber-style musky baits organized, protected, and easily accessible, I use the Plano Big Game Tackle Box.
  2. Have your net ready and easily accessible. My go-to musky net is the Frabill Conservation Series 9530. It’s lightweight and the coated netting reduces hook tangles and protects the fish’s slime coat. It’s also plenty deep for deep-v walleye boats. If you hook a musky, rely on a good net to land the musky.
  3. Have hook cutters and pliers in a handy spot where you know you can get to it after netting your fish. This helps with a quick release so that musky can be caught again.

Time on the water is invaluable. Be observant. Take mental notes (you can even journal actual notes). Learn and use your electronics. There is no magic color or bait. There are so many things that lead to that moment of truth. The best thing you can do is try to stack the odds in your favor and keep your lucky net close!

In the chaos of catching a musky, the last thing you want to lose it!

About the Author:

Trevor Olson grew up with a love of the outdoors and appreciation for conservation, thanks to his father and grandfather. Today, he enjoys spending time on the water with his wife, family and friends. He gives back to the community by volunteering as a fishing guide for various organizations and hosts a Kids Learn to Ice Fish day near his hometown. Trevor also shares his passion for the outdoors through photography. Follow him on Instagram @trevorolson17.

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