How do you catch a muskie in early spring when the water's cold and the fish sluggish?
Or in the fall when temperatures are dropping? Or in summer when the water is hot?
Those questions require three different answers, and right now the third is the relevant one. Is hot water fishing tougher? Some anglers think so, and turn to Erie walleyes or lake largemouths during these months, but though summer muskies can be tricky, remember that hot water increases their metabolism and makes them hungry more often. They're seeking food more avidly than usual, and that's good for local anglers.
Clear Fork Reservoir, Leesville and Salt Fork Lake are probably the three top spots in the state for these huge predators, and trolling is, as always, the best way to take them in any lake that holds some. But remember this, muskies can catch anything that swims, so it's difficult to troll too fast. I talked to two anglers at Leesville two years ago in August who had taken three nice fish in a single day. How fast were they trolling? "Fast, really fast."
Veterans speculate that a lure zipping by attracts them much like a dog seeing a suddenly fleeing cat. But it's still important to alternate speeds, trying slow, then medium speeds, then fast. You never know what will interest a muskie on a given day, and all bases need to be covered.
I met two anglers at the Clear Fork marina last year who had refined trolling a further notch. They had a map of the lake bottom, readily available from the ODNR, and their first step was to start trolling with one handling the motor and the other watching the fish finder. Usually, muskies like to lie just above the thermocline now, so they looked for big blips on the screen and when a number turned up at one depth or another, set their lines to run at about that depth, and followed the map contour lines to ensure they stayed at about that depth, rather than venturing into five or six feet (wasted time) occasionally or straying off into deep water.
Moving in and out as they trolled to keep the lures near bottom, but close to where the fish were holding ensured they were at proper depth all the time, instead of occasionally. It paid off for that pair.
Some people just prefer casting to trolling, and that's fine. But in late July and August, you might spend some time casting steadily and some time "ripping," which is retrieving normally, then jerking your rod tip up and reeling as fast as possible, then back to slow again. It's a strenuous business, but it produces fish. Many a muskie might follow your lure casually and without much interest, then when it races away suddenly, strike almost by instinct. Casters should keep in mind that muskies are ambush fish, and they do like weed beds. Casting along the outside edges and in corridors is always a good move.
Here's a final thought try fishing for them at night a time or two over the next weeks. Muskies are out and hunting at night, nosing among the weeds, loafing around stumps and fallen timber, and if you can find a quiet night when the lake is almost mirror smooth, work these places with a big surface lure or spinnerbait. It's a spooky business that can get plenty lively when a 30 pounder explodes like a depth charge under your popper.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] n Black bear sightings are becoming more common in Ohio with an estimate of between 40 to 100 bears living year around in the Buckeye state. Breeding usually occurs from June to mid-July. so the possibility of seeing a bear is highest during this time of year. Neighboring states have growing bear populations, and it's likely that black bears are moving into Ohio in search of new territory. Pennsylvania has a black bear population of approximately 17,000, while West Virginia has an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 black bears.
One of the best places in the country to do some birding is right here in Ohio. The August issue of Birder's World featured Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area about 30 miles east of Mansfield as a top place to see waterfowl, nesting bald eagles, warblers, and marsh birds. In other issues, the magazine has called Lake Erie's Magee Marsh a top birding place as well as Pelee Island, this last particularly during bird migrations.
Hunters, hikers, birders, and others are being asked to keep their eyes peeled for the state's endangered timbered rattlesnake. The snake is one of Ohio's last remaining wilderness species. and they're disappearing. In the early 1800s, timber rattlers were found in at least 24 Ohio counties, but as a result of habitat destruction and human persecution, they today reside in only a few southern counties. If you encounter one, don't disturb it, but do report the sighting to the Division of Wildlife.