This page is an assortment of various tips, hints, tricks, suggestions, and any other stuff that comes to mind which might be of use to fellow muskie hunters. Novices may pick up something worthwhile and rest of you might get a kick out of my distorted view of reality. If you have additional tips worthy of mention, send me an e-mail and I'll put them in here somewhere. If you think this whole site sux go make your own. It's easy as muskie fishing.
The best way to learn how to catch muskies consistently on Lake St. Clair is to develop some good connections to information. The Michigan-Ontario Muskie Club (MOMC) or the Michigan Muskie Alliance or another Muskies, Inc. chapter would be a good start. My Fishing Reports page has my personal reports and also guest reports. Another good source of information is the Lakeside Fishing Shop Hotline. Their reports are generally updated daily during the season and they are pretty accurate. The Michigan DNR also has a hotline but it's only updated weekly. Other tackle shops and the folks at the various marinas often have decent info. You can find almost anything on my links page.
Please do NOT ask me to help set your boat up for you. Please do NOT ask me to plan a trip for you. Please do NOT ask me to take you fishing (unless you're a babe of course). Making this site was enough like work.
WHERE and WHEN
There are different areas that produce better depending on the time of the year. Early in the season (which opens the first Saturday in June by the way) Anchor Bay and the north end of the lake is good. Generally try some shallower water, especially close to deep water. The key things to look for are warm water and baitfish. As the season progresses into July good fishing can be found in the main lake areas and in a little deeper water. Cabbage weed beds will develop along the U.S. shore, fish the deeper edge of them. If you can find water temperatures in the 60 F range you'll probably be in a decent area. By August the fish are usually in water about 16' deep or more. The South Channel is a good bet as well as deep off the south Canadian shore. If you find a pack of walleye or perch boats you'll be in fat city. In September the location of the fish becomes highly weather dependant. Cold weather can get them moving in close into 12-14 feet. If it's warm, deep water will still produce. They will move back and forth and it's a good idea to check the fishing reports for updates. I like fishing October and November because the muskies are really packing on the pounds now. The Dumps, Peche Island, even as far east as the Belle River Hump can all produce a major fish for you. Fishing pressure is going from rare to nonexistent, especially once the various hunting seasons open. Unfortunately, so are nice days, so you have to be tough like The Rocketman.
Slimetime, The Dumps, November 28, 1997
Went 4 for 7 and got a 26 lb muskie
This has got to be the one topic I know most about. If you want to know about my Terminator Muskie Lures go to the Terminator Lures Page. Under most conditions I think they are the best bait you can possibly run, but then again I am rather biased. Before you even think about fishing you need to be sure your baits are up to the task. Sharpen your hooks to needle points. When your lure will not fall off a fingernail held at a 45 degree angle downward it's sharp enough. All hooks, all points, need to be this sharp. Also you need strong baits. Most muskie lures are made pretty decent. Some are better than others. Believers, Pikie Minnows, and Swim Wizz's are all popular hard plastic lures that catch fish and don't self destruct. Wood crankbaits are the No. 1 producer of big muskies on Lake St. Clair. Favorite brands are of course Terminators, Wiley's, JD Pikies (made by a great fisherman, Jimmy Dougherty), Loke's, Maisons, and Gotcha's. All except the Wiley's are locally made and not very available outside the immediate area. The Wiley's catch a lot of fish and figure highly in the catch records but they are sold in high volume so, like Believers, there are many in use at any given time. I guess quantity can overcome quality if the quantity is big enough. Whatever baits you choose, be sure they are in good shape. Wimpy hooks and splitrings, and cracked or loose parts are all accidents waiting to happen. Also, hardwood is much stronger than softwood. That's why they call it hardwood. Balsa, pine, and cedar are not hardwoods and lures made from them are not going to last.
Once you're satisfied you have tough baits you need to make sure they run right. This is basic tuning just like any other crankbait. On lures with screweyes like Terminators, Wiley's, and Gotcha's it is much better to tune them by bending, rather than turning, the nose screw. With the other baits you have no choice. If your bait is such a piece of junk that you need to think about shaving the lip or something to get it to run good then Throw It Out!
My loyal Terminator customers can check out Terminator Tuning Tips for comprehensive tuning information. If you don't run my baits you're not allowed to look at that page so if you want to look then you better order some.
Muskies' preferences for action, appearance, and size can change throughout the season, by location in the lake, from day to day, even from hour to hour. Here are some very general guidelines about all that and other stuff that might be right once in a while:
- Think of smaller baits, i.e. T2's, early in the year and in real clean water; larger baits under opposite conditions.
- Straights sometimes work better in the fall.
- Yellow bellys work better fished deep.
- Run Fire Tiger in low light conditions, especially the last hour before sunset, especially a T3 right in the wash about 10 feet back.
- Run $9 Bass, Reverse Crackle, or Pikescale in muddy water.
- Run a "Kayley's Special Frog" in real muddy water.
- White belly baits are better under high light conditions.
- Fish tight in rough water.
- The top 5 colors are: Perch, Helin Frog, Crackle Frog, Dark Frog, and Fire Tiger.
- Go real fast in August.
- Find a boat named "Predator" and stick to him like glue. That's the famous captain Steve Jones, he's probably got all kind of InFishermen camera crews on board and you might get on TV.
- Fish Crackle Frog around weeds.
- Bluefrog is best when it disappears in silty blue colored water.
- Blue Wormy and Bluefrog never go at the same time.
- Pikescale, Fag Frog, and Zit Frog all go at the same time.
- Fag Frog and Pukebait are hot in the spring in Anchor Bay.
- Illusion is good in bright sun.
- Pretty Baby is good in the rain.
- Carp is awesome and is a for-sure big fish color.
- So are baits with "mackerel" ("candy apple") type paint.
- "Wormy" colors are damn awesome too.
- Zit Frog is good in slightly silty blue/green water.
- WBS Bluefrog, size TX, is unreal after Halloween.
CATCH and RELEASE
Now that you have read all this stuff you will probably catch a bunch of muskies. Hopefully, you will also be releasing a bunch of muskies. If you haven't figured it out yet, I am a strong supporter of Catch and Release. I don't mean fanatically and without exception; just as the general rule. I don't see anything wrong with someone keeping a personal best fish and having it mounted. And most importantly, I believe that each person has the right to decide on his or her own what to do with any fish that they legally catch. It's not up to anyone else to try to force their own opinions upon another. Remember, this is a free country after all!
However, I also personally believe killing muskies for money is wrong. I do not participate in nor will I publicize any "Kill Tournaments". If you want to do it then that's your business - but you sure won't be doing it in my boat, and pics of your fish won't be on my site. Now that I have had my say here are some handy Catch and Release tips. First off, in Lake St. Clair the water gets very warm. I think the best tip for successful releasing is to get the fish into cooler water as fast as possible. A superb fisherman, Jerry Felster, told me about the torpedo. A few years ago we caught a nice one that looked like it was not going to make it. We worked on it for probably 30 minutes, doing everything possible to revive it. Even the best method of swimming it through the water by putting the boat in and out of gear wasn't working. Jerry told us the problem was that we needed to get the fish down through that 83° F surface water into the cooler stuff below. "Just torpedo it" he says. So against all advice of gently working the fish until it swims away nicely we (it took two people 'cause it was a big one of course) just pulled that sucker back out of the lake, aimed it down headfirst, and torpedos away! Hard! Damned if it didn't work. The last thing we ever saw of that muskie was a big flop of the tail when it dove out of sight. The venerable Mr. Felster's technique has worked perfectly many times since also. Sorry to say but from my experience fish cradles and swimming the fish techniques just don't cut it when the water temperature is up there. If you want a good release you need to get that fish down into the colder water! Other than the "Felster Torpedo" release, the other tip is that swimming the fish does work when the surface temperature is less steamy. When you hold the fish you want it head forward, it's mouth open, and your hands out of it's gills. How the hell do you hold it then??? Well, just behind their front fins, muskies have a little soft spot just the right size to dig your finger into. You just hold it against the boat and go forward real slow until the fish starts kicking it's tail. You'll know when it's ready to leave. And when it is ready it's a good idea to get your hand out of there damn fast. Trust me, once you have seen your thumb buried between the jaws of a 30 pound muskie (that is pretty much pissed-off at YOU by the way) you will appreciate the need for speed.
One last time, please consider Catch and Release. Take a picture and frame it nice and hang that on your wall. Or send it to me and I'll put you on the Guest Photos page for the whole world to see. If you truly want a mounted fish, beautiful replicas are available that look every bit as good as a skin mount! They cost about the same as a good skin mount but they are much more durable and your fish gets to keep growing and contributing big-fish genes to the mooskie gene pool. Here are a couple places that do a great job on replica mounts:
5289 Rice Lake Road
Duluth, Minnesota 55803
Lax Taxidermy Studio
Ron & Rick Lax Taxidermists
5455 Hwy 45
Conover, Wisconsin 54519
Here is stuff that does not really fit anywhere else:
- This lake gets really bad floating weeds. Downrods and downriggers are weed-proof presentations.
- In Canadian waters of LSC two rods are FINALLY allowed effective 01/01/2008!
- Go find my article in InFisherman Issue #79, July '88.
- Go find my article in InFisherman Volumn 23 No. 5, July/August 1998.
- Go find my article in the October '98 Muskies, Inc. magazine "Muskie"
- The smallest size bait I make caught our biggest muskie so far.
- A blunted size 6/0 hook makes a great weed catcher if you want to fish high with no weight.
- Planer board cables exert a lot of pull on the reels, mast, and mast mount. A great way to minimize stress on these parts is to wrap the cable around a cleat once the board is out.
- I have downrod rodholders mounted forward by the windshield and catch muskies regularly with
no ( 0, zip, nada, not even an inch ) line out in that position. Just the lure running on the end of a 6 foot leader.
- See my new Structure Trolling page. It's got an awesome trick that works everywhere.
- It's very beneficial to have a hardworking, experienced crew with a lot of serious "muskie attitude" to help keep you focused. Scroll all the way down to see the Rocketman's crew.