Spring is typically associated with the spawn. You are either fishing before, during or after the spawn. Musky spawn between 50 and 60-degree water temperatures. They spawn in or near large, shallow, south facing bays. If you have a creek or river flowing into the system they will spawn there as well.
The musky is deemed the fish of 10,000 casts for a reason, there are far fewer musky than other species, they don’t feed constantly, and their habits are relatively unknown. Honestly, if it took 10,000 casts I would quit. Anglers who catch more fish than most aren’t fishing the latest and greatest triple bladed whatever.
They just put their baits around more fish. Location is the single greatest factor that will help you catch more muskies. I like to think of location in terms of seasonal progressions. Where were the fish and where are they going.
Water Temperatures 50-60 Degrees (Rising)
Bladed Baits and Shallow Cranks are deadly in the early Spring.
Some fish will spawn in random locations but these fish tend to be harder to target. Knowing when and where fish spawn makes it easy to target them this time of year. If the water is 45 degrees, fish the outside mouth of the bay or river where musky will stage up waiting for the right conditions to push shallow.
If the water is 62 degrees fish the vegetation in or near spawning areas. This is the time of year when everything wants to be shallow. Panfish are about to spawn which gives muskies plenty of feed in these larger shallow bays.
Spring Musky Baits
Early Summer Musky Fishing
Water Temperature 60-70 Degrees (Rising)
Tom Boley with a Hayward area musky
On most bodies of water, the early summer period is still a relatively shallow water bite. Musky begin leaving the shallow bays once they are done spawning. Along with the forage they begin to spread on over shallow structure adjacent to these spawning area.
Maybe the big rock point that runs out of the shallow bay. Or the weed hump just outside of the bay. Fishing 10 feet or less is a great game plan this time of year. Fish quickly as fish are typically very active in this time of year. Bucktails, jerk baits and topwaters rule this season on most lakes.
Early Summer Musky Baits
Mid-Summer Musky Fishing
Water Temperature 70-80 Degrees (Rising)
Once summer progresses fish move out to main lake structure and typically utilize deeper depths. Forage has often moved out to the basin or is located on a deeper edge of the structure close to open water. This time of year you want to focus on the drop-off or edge of the structure. If you are fishing a hump that tops out at 5’ and has weeds out to 12 feet you want to put your boat in 15 feet to cover the outside edge of the structure. This is also a time of year that fish tend to utilize open water.
They are out there because the feed is there. Whenever is come across large quantities of suspended bait in the summer I always give it go and fish the baitfish like I would structure.
Mid-Summer Musky Baits
Late Summer Musky Fishing
Water Temperature 75-65 Degrees (Dropping)
Tom with a mature Northwoods musky
This time of year is typically kicked off by the first big cool down in late August or September. This drop in water temperature spurs a shallow water movement of muskies and bait. Once the water reaches these temperatures fish return to the very tops of bars, humps and points.
I tend to fish anywhere from one to ten feet of water during this timeframe. These spots can be main lake areas or shallow shoreline structure. Fishing very fast is the name of the game. Bucktails and topwaters dominate this season as you need a presentation that can be fished fast and efficiently across shallow structure.
Late Summer Musky Lures
Early Fall Musky Fishing
Water Temperature 65-50 Degrees (Dropping)
When the temperatures start to drop the fish will start to bite
This is likely one of the more challenging times of year to locate musky as they can be in a number of different locations. Most lakes also experience turnover during this timeframe which can further complicate the puzzle. Some fish will move to late fall locations which we will get to in a second. The remainder of the fish can still be found in or around large shallow water structure. When I am fishing this time frame I like to cover multiple zones at a time.
This means I like to fish shallow structure that has a very steep edge leading to deep water. This allows my to cast to the edge of shallow water and work by bait to deep water. Most of the time we can eliminate a lot of slow tapering flats or bays this time of year as fish are about to move deep. Covering multiple zones will put your lures in front of more fish during this season.
Early Fall Musky Baits
Late Fall Musky Fishing
Water Temperature 50-40 Degrees (Dropping)
Birdseye view of an epic musky catch
The late fall period is undoubtedly my favorite time of year to fish musky. The locations become extremely predictable however there is a catch. With the cold temperatures, muskies metabolism is slowed way down. For us that means we may know where these fish are but they might not eat that often. During this late fall period, fish utilize steep and deep structure. The fastest breaking portion of a piece of structure or any deep neckdowns are good places to start the search.
We are no longer focusing on the top of the break. We are now targeting fish that are at the base of the break or somewhere on the deeper edge of the break line. It is easy to eliminate 90 percent of the lake during this season. During this timeframe, I will fish the same spot for multiple hours and wait for the fish to bite. If I am confident I am in the correct area I may spend an entire day fishing one large break line.
Pay attention to where baitfish are present. If an area or spot seems void of life there is no need to spend much time there. Lure options are really pretty simple this time of year. Deep jerk baits, crankbaits or jigs are about the only lures capable of reaching the necessary depths. In some lakes, deep water might be 15 feet. In other lakes, the break might go out to 30. Deep is relative to the lake.
Late Fall Favorites
The latest and greatest lure would have been much cooler to talk about, a cure-all bait! Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Put your bait in front of more fish and you will catch more fish. As musky angler, we often divert most of our attention to the new products and gear and forget about what truly puts more muskies in our boat!
Special Thanks to Hayward, Wisconsin Fishing Guide – Tom Boley for writing this article. Learn how to get in the boat with Tom here: Tom Boley Fishing