Many things in life are disappointing. Among them for anglers: the level of fish cooperation.
All anglers, including us expert types, have experienced disappointing results as compared to “catching” expectations. While the latest hot lure or electronics upgrade are exciting — and can make a difference — they too, disappoint.
But, like there being a cold drink waiting in the cooler after a long summer day, you can always count on the basics! Remembering and employing them every day always increases your odds. They are important anytime, but possibly most so during the summer period, when muskie catches are generally spread out. Let’s go over the basics with a summer twist.
There are two main concerns: structural targets and presentations. Structure comes first as presentations must adapt to that. Start by breaking down your lake or river and its structural options. It can be as simple (in the case of a bowl-shaped lake) as shoreline and open water; it can be complicated on many fisheries, but break it down. What is available? That includes all likely fish-holding structures, be it weeds, emergent vegetation, rocks, wood, sand, sharp breaklines or channel edges. Whatever it is, write it down.
Here’s a tip: To really get the process in your head, it’s helpful to have an old-fashioned paper map, write it in there, and possibly highlight each option with different colored markers.
The alternative structure that always exists is open-water food. You see, muskies have it pretty easy, at least once they get big enough not to be eaten. All they need to do is be comfortable; the main focus here being eating when they get hungry.
The reason we key on the classic structures mentioned is simply because they provide cover — and attract food. Oh, I forgot docks! They’re cool for bass anglers, though not so much for a muskie chaser; forget cool though and concentrate where the food is. Docks attract food and that attracts bass. Food is good; muskies like it too.
Microscopic stuff starts the food chain in open water as well. There are many forage items muskies are fond of that spend much of their time feeding on the food chain that exists in open water. Groups of these fish are “structure” for the ultimate predator. When thick, consider open-water forage like classic structure. The predator usually lives and attacks on the edge.
OK, so you’ve considered everything available for structure; it’s written down and possibly highlighted on a paper map. Now, prioritize it. That’s done through a combination of anything from a gut hunch, a vision, previous experience or a tip. Obviously, current information on where there has been success in locating, or not locating, muskies will be the most pertinent. But the reality is that the process and plan are more important than being “right.”
During the warmwater period of summer, I would generally prioritize things based on seasonal likelihoods. Vegetation is key, generally the deeper stuff at this time, and rocks may be good and so on. Muskies in open water are likely to be a little deeper at this time, and in the case of deeper waters that stratify in the summer, probably hanging around the thermocline, If known to hold heavy populations of baitfish, open water should rate higher.