Top 3 Tips for Catching Muskie

By: Sarah Siddons
Muskie fishing.
Wallace Kirkland/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

You've always considered yourself an angler. You catch plenty of panfish, with a bass or two thrown in for good luck. But then you think about it. Those bass were so small you had to throw them back. And you've had goldfish bigger than some of the panfish you caught. That's it, you decide. You're going to stop fooling around and catch yourself the big one, the monster, the one you can mount on the wall of your den. If you're looking for a big fish, you've found your challenge in muskie.

Known in full as muskellunge, the muskie -- or musky -- can be quite the magnificent catch, but it's not ­without hard work. However, there is a bit of legend regarding the difficult strategy for catching muskie. Folklore persists that in order to catch muskie, one must use huge lures on a heavy line while trolling quickly across the lake [source: Vance's Resort]. However, this is not the case, as long as you know what you're doing.


So if you find yourself in the Great Lakes region -- or even better, Canada -- the muskie can be your goal. It's a definite step up from that baby bluegill your goldfish could swallow.

So when to go? It depends on your goal -- one big behemoth, or a whole mass of muskie. Read on to find out when to go to catch each.


Tip 3: Best Season for Catching Muskie

If you know what you're doing and have a bit of technique, y­ou­ can catch a muskie with a lure in any season. For the rest of us, there are a few times that might increase our odds.

Larger muskies are often caught in the spring. And, a bit ironically, they are often caught with small, walleye-sized baits [source: Jensen]. However, the folklore doesn't lie when saying it takes a bit of work. You'll need to be really patient if you want to get one of those big ones.


So let's say your previous monster was a 10-inch (25 centimeter) bass. You don't need a 60-inch (152-centimeter) muskie to make you happy! If you're hoping for more action and willing to settle for a smaller muskie, try heading out between mid-summer and late fall. You might not catch a record-setter, but you're more likely to get a fish without having to wait days for it.

So you've made your decision as to whether you're tracking a monster muskellunge or a minor one. Do you have to get up before the crack of dawn, or should you make sure you pack a blanket and some night lights? Read on to find out the best time of day for catching muskie.


Tip 2: Best Time of Day for Catching Muskie

Rea­dy to head out at whatever hour the muskies will be just begging to jump into your boat? Even experienced anglers can go an entire day and be lucky to catch one muskie -- as they say, it's the fish of 10,000 casts. Because the muske­llunge can be so difficult to catch, there isn't a lot of concrete evidence as to the best time of day.

Some fishermen say the best time is whenever the weather stays the same. Whether that weather is good or bad doesn't matter, just as long as the barometric pressure remains steady. Some anglers maintain cloudy days are best, and others feel dusk is the perfect time. Some say dawn as well as dusk work well, and still others argue there's no perfect time at all.


Maybe if the muskellunge could be caught more frequently, we would have a more tangible answer -- though its difficulty is part of the fun. If any consensus can be found, it would seem that low light is the best time -- meaning that early morning and late evening, as well as overcast days, are the highest odds you can count on [source: Thomas].

Though some agree that the tiny window between sunset and moonrise is the best time to try for muskies, even they acknowledge that it's not always successful [source: Michelin]. With such a difficult catch, patience is the key.

Ready to catch some serious fish? You'll need some serious gear. But if those legends of needing heavy line and huge rods are just that -- legends -- then read on to find out what actually works.


Tip 1: Fishing Accessories for Catching Muskie

As y­ou've probably guessed by now, that little rod that worked great on bluegill and perch won't cut it with a 50-inch (127 centimeter) muskellunge.

Many musky anglers used to swear by rods that you could think of like pool cues - short and thick. Recently, however, more fishermen have been switching to longer, lighter rods. Six-and-a-half and 7-foot (2 and 2.1 meter) rods have become more popular because they allow greater flexibility and versatility, since you can get your line out farther and cover more ground with greater agility. And seriously consider the weight of your rod. You'll want to make sure it's strong enough to withstand an enormous fish, but light enough for you to handle. A few ounces may not seem like much, but after 10,000 casts to catch one fish, your arms will thank you.


Once you've selected the perfect rod, don't use just any old line. Previously, Dacron line was the most popular because it was strong and didn't stretch. However, just as anglers have been switching to longer, lighter rods, many have switched their preferences on their lines as well. The new braided super lines have become popular with many anglers because it's thinner and doesn't stretch [source: Myhre]. Though the weight of the line must be strong enough so that it doesn't break under the heavy weight of a muskie, many anglers say muskies can see the thick line and are less likely to go for your lures. Thicker lines also mean a greater water resistance, during which the water disruption can offend the fish -- not to mention make your arm tired even more quickly.

Since now you've got the basics down, polish up your wall plaque and call your local taxidermist -- you're coming home with a treasured trophy.


Lots More Information

Related­ HowStuffWorks Articles

  • CBS News. "The Case of The Muskie: A Fish Story." CBS News. October 8, 2006. (Accessed 11/19/08)
  • Jensen, Bob. "Catch Muskies Right Now!" Fishing the Midwest. (Accessed 11/19/08)
  • Michelin, Neil. "Muskies at dawn or dusk." Wawatay Online. July 24, 2008. (Accessed 11/19/08)
  • Myhre, Larry. "Techniques to catch muskies." Sioux City Journal. November 14,2007.
  • Thomas, Gary. "Muskie Mania." Illinois Periodicals Online. April 19, 2000. (Accessed 11/19/08)
  • Vance's Resort. "Muskie Techniques and Lures." (Accessed 11/19/08)