I have been an avid musky fisherman for years. Due to my family, business and guiding commitments I don't have the time to fish them as often as I did in my younger years. Now, muskies are like an old friend that I visit once a year. Every year I make it a point to clear my calendar for one musky trip of the year. To put the odds in my favor I always choose the full moon period in October. I have been going this particular weekend for the last 20+ years. I have also been going with the same crew. Steve Hauge, President of All Terrain Tackle and Tim Lindemann a VP with US Airways. Both of these guys are lifelong friends from college. We laugh every year that we never thought any of us would make enough money to afford the six dollar suckers. Back in our college days, we couldn't even afford a case of Goebel Beer; I believe it was $3.99 a case and really good back then.
Like almost everything, the longer you do something the better you will become at it. Fishing muskies for 20 years on the same weekend every year we have learned a lot by trial and error. There is always one constant and that is and always will be, FUN.
Most of the time, we fish the lakes of north western Wisconsin in Polk County; the Apple Flowage, Deer Lake and Bone Lake. We have found that the fish are very active and positively feeding post turnover. Turnover is when the lake becomes mixed, the upper part of the water column sinks and the lower waters move to the surface. We have found over the years that ultra clear water can really spook the fish. We prefer the water to have a little color. The lakes we fish all allow trolling and the bait of choice has been suckers. We will troll them along prime structure. Over the years, we have learned the more suckers you bring, the better. All suckers are not created equal; never waste time with poor swimming bait. You want a sucker that swims like mad trying to get to the weeds or to the structure. You don't want a sucker that swims like a drift sock or my favorite the ones that porpoises out of the water. Always consider the size of your suckers. I prefer using medium sized baits. A medium size sucker, approximately 10-12 inches, will catch the 32-36 inch fish while allowing the possibility of a trophy.
The key locations that we focus on are steep break lines with hard sand or rock bottoms or main lake points. Choose break lines in proximity to large weed flats. With cold water, muskies pull out of the shallow weeds and stage on the break lines. Our best depth has averaged 12-15 ft of water. We fish the suckers on quick strike rigs; we use Bait Rigs Tandem Quickset rigs. To keep the suckers at the required depth we will use a small egg sinker. Always use a sinker that allows your bait to swim freely. We have experimented with bobbers and have found that the big Styrofoam ones that you peg with a stopper can create a weak spot in the line. I know, because I lost just one fish because of it. Instead, we use Thill's Big Fish Slider, an awesome slip bobber that has very little resistance getting pulled under, or we could also use an ordinary balloon. The balloon will offer the opportunity to adjust the size of the bobber to the size of the bait.
We usually fish six poles, two bobber poles and four rods with bait under the boat. We use 7' or longer rods teamed with Abu Garcia 6500 C3, which has a live bait clicker. We've also figured out that monofilament line is the only way to go. Dacron and fishing lines like this will freeze in cold weather on the spool making resistance when a fish strikes. 20 lb Silver Thread is preferred.
With four poles in play you want to vary the depths. We don't try to hug the bottom with the baits because the decomposing weeds can become a factor. This time of year, especially with clearer water, the fish will come from a long way away to attack the bait. Back in the day, we all used to cast lures. Now we only have one guy casting lures, the purpose is to draw fish into the suckers.
Over the 20 years, we've had some good trips, 15-20 muskies in 3 days and as was the case last year, we've been skunked. This year, we hope for better luck. We'll be out there on October 22nd, right around the full moon. See you there!
Full-time guide Dave Duwe owns and operates Dave Duwe's Guide Service, featuring the lakes of Walworth County, WI. Dave has been guiding for over
20 years and is one of Southeastern Wisconsin's best multi-species anglers. Dave is an accomplished outdoor writer and seminar speaker. He is a member of the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Association and Walworth County Visitor Bureau. Sponsors include: Lund Boats(Jerry's Sport Service Inc.), Mercury Marine, Arkie Jigs, and Vexilar Marine Electronics, a pro-staff member of Minn-Kota trolling motors,Hummingbird graphs, Cannon downriggers, Lindy, Pure Fishing and All Terrain Tackle. For more information, please check out Dave's website www.fishlakegeneva.com