Sundown Summer Muskies
By: Kyle Sorensen
As the opener has come and gone and the temperatures begin to climb, the steady muskie action we have been accustomed to over the last month or so begins to slowly dissipate (for arguments sake). While casting away at shorelines and structure throughout the day can surely produce, I hold out and save the effort and time for the magic of the evening bite. If you are a muskie fisherman, you know of the magic I speak of. The setting sun, the calling of the loons, the feeling of being the only one on the lake; the word “supernatural” doesn’t even do it justice.
I’ll be the first to admit, I just can’t stand those pesky blood suckers (aka mosquitoes) but somehow I am able to set that aside. Those rod thumping, fist clenching, “get the net” moments that happen as those little buggers are draining pints of blood, makes everything bearable. It’s the fever and I’ll be the first to admit, I caught it.
Our summerly trips to Pine Point Resort (pinepointwi.com) on Clam Lake, and other resorts in the Hayward area, result in me emptying out a lot of the Lake Winnebago fishing gear and replacing it with my big game gear. We are usually up in the Northwood’s of Wisconsin for weeks at a time between the end of June, through the beginning of October. During these trips I enjoy adventuring around the area (especially looking for elk), yet strategically waiting for the sun to touch the treetops.
During the summer months, the sunrise/set and moonrise/set time frames are areas to key in upon. I have had more success fishing these times then I can ever remember during mid-day in the summer months. The fish are more active due to their ability to stalk in lower light conditions and they release the energy they have been gathering all day. If you are fishing earlier in the day, consider it scouting. If you see boils, follows and/or silhouettes of fish, it’s time to mark that spot and target it later during primetime.
My brother and I have a ritual for the evening bite. As we are quickly garbling up our supper, we are both thinking of “the spot.” We have been fishing “the spot” for years now and the funny thing is, we really haven’t moved around too many times. Why? Because the action has been there time after time.
When I speak of “the spot” I refer to a deep channel set between a shoreline and an island on our given body of water. On each side of the channel is a flat shoreline plateau that runs out approximately 50 feet before tapering off into a main channel portion. As the good Lord made it, in almost the middle of this channel, is a hump extending to each shoreline with a nice reed bed on one side. I cannot count how many ski’s we have pulled off this hump and reed bed… at sundown.
All muskie containing waters have honey holes such as this. By looking at topographic maps, you are able to see areas of interest and “test the waters,” so to speak. The trick to this is that some spots might only show promise at a certain time of day and you must not give up on a spot.
Areas to key in upon during sunup/sundown scenarios should be reflected upon your early and late year successes. In the summer months, I have found great numbers of these fish to be in the shallows, sunning themselves along weeds or logs sometimes right in the open. They appear to be lifeless unless you are able to make out their fins slowly moving. It’s like they are just waiting… If you are able to find an area that has access to deeper water, with a nice flat and expanding shoreline area, you need to fish this and fish it hard. While a lot of fish will enjoy their day with the sun beating down on them, some will also slide into the deeper sections. As the sun sets, these fish will gradually slip back into the shallower flats to fill their bellies.
On a normal hot summer day, the elusive muskellunge is usually in its sit and wait stage. It will burn a considerable amount of energy if it is roaming or constantly going after prey. This is why when we are fishing the daytime period, we have to have the perfect placement and lure selection to warrant a strike. As the moon rises and the sun sets, the fish begin to move and will cover a lot of ground to pick up an easy meal. While fish certainly move to different areas, it has been my personal experience that many fish will more than likely stay in one general area.
I remember one outing I was casting a Top-Raider as the sun had just dipped beneath the tall pines. As I waited for the ripples of the lure to dissipate after the cast, I saw the water boil about 25 yards away. I began to slowly crank the plug as I watched a very faint ripple gaining on the lure. The ripple disappeared and, after a few more cranks of the reel… BAM! Fish on! The fish was hungry and it didn’t care about traveling the distance to go after, what it felt, was an easy meal.
I feel that the sunup and sundown portions of the day can be compared to fishing the opener at the start of the season and also the fall bite. Why? Because the sun plays a huge role in raising and lowering water temperatures… not to mention “clarity.” I’m not going to get into lunar phases/charts as that could be a topic in itself. It’s a topic that many speak of but you either believe in the theories or you don’t.
Now besides just getting fish in the boat, I like to relax while I’m on the water as well. I think the sunset time of day offers a surreal fishing experience. Traffic on the water begins to diminish, yells and screams of boaters disappear, and nature seems to come alive… what’s more to want? These scenarios are what sets the stage for an adrenaline pumping experience.
Last year on one outing, I was throwing a top water at sundown (if you couldn’t tell, it’s one of my favorite types of lures). Nature was just thriving and the only manmade noise I could hear was the chug of my lure effortlessly plugging through the water. I was sitting there thinking to myself, “Now this is fishing.” I wasn’t really paying too much attention to my lure as it approached the boat. As it gets boat side, I begin the first turn for the figure eight. Like a strike of lightning, an enormous head comes barreling out of the water and just pounds my lure! No warning, just pure power and excitement. Needless to say, I’m just thankful I kept a good grip on my rod. The fish is pictured to the RIGHT (?). The entire strike and fight was captured on my cameras and it can be found on my website (oboutdoors.com).
As you enjoy another great summer given to us, try to make the most of it by bearing the skeeters and loss of campfire time, and hit the water for some primetime ski action! This time is certainly something else. If you haven’t experienced it, you need to. Besides slamming walleyes on Lake Winnebago, this is what I look forward to each and every summer. Find the spots that appeal to you via your maps. Work these spots during the low light periods when activity is high, and no matter what, don’t overlook spots that don’t produce during the day. When the light begins to flicker, be out there to flip the switch to some amazing ski action! Until next time, “Tight Lines. Stay Dry.” -Kyle