Years ago, I waited anxiously all winter and early spring for that first musky trip of the year. Often, I would save up money for travel to southern states to scratch the itch. These days, as a married family man, I have become much more of a multi-species fisherman. However, I do admit that muskies are still my preferred target.

The Early Season Musky Itch

I don’t jones for that first musky trip like I used to, but those first few casts of the season still feel as fantastic as they ever did. I know I am not alone in that feeling. Thousands of people can’t wait for the musky seasons in WI and MN to open. Unfortunately, those high hopes are often met with tough spring musky conditions and unsuccessful trips.

Spring Musky Fishing Challenges

Unless you get one of those perfect-storm, stars-align spring days, early season musky fishing is usually going to be difficult. We all see the FOMO-causing pictures of giants caught on opening day, but please understand that this is by far the exception and not the rule, and effective people do not count on being the exception.

A giant musky fish

Understanding the Post-Spawn Period

Spring musky fishing can be difficult because it often lands directly within the post-spawn period. The reason that most spring muskies caught are on the smaller side is that most spring muskies caught are males. For those who don’t understand the size disparity between male and female muskies, the difference is cartoonish. I regularly observe some of the largest female muskies in many different waters simultaneously spawning with two of the largest males in the particular system, and more often than not, the female is substantially larger than the two males put together. During the post-spawn period, males are more active. Many are feeding. Many, still full of hormones, will simply take an aggressive shot at a lure. Females, on the other hand, are much less active until a solid warming trend occurs of a duration greater than 2-5 days, the water reaches 65 F and continues to warm from there. Depending on how the spring in question is progressing, this can happen fairly early, or it can be quite delayed. 

Importance of Location Selection

Confidence in location selection is as crucial at this time as it is in the late fall. Running, gunning, and fishing fast is seldom going to produce well during the early season. Muskies will usually be in relatively shallow water close to where they spawn, if not directly in those locations. In a warm spring, they will migrate towards summer locations faster. In a cold spring this process takes longer. Prime transitional locations in between spawning and summer areas are key. I look for good cover and forage, but even more important is the warmest water in the system. Once I find these, I work the areas meticulously and with confidence.

Changing Moods and Lure Preferences

I throw many different types of presentations of many different sizes, because muskies will show heavy preference at this time of year, they are fickle, and it is difficult to say what the daily preference will be. I bring everything from my biggest, heaviest tackle and lures all the way down to bass-weight tackle. I have seen 4” , small-profile bass lures take strike after strike from big muskies, while anything larger wouldn’t take a sniff from the exact same areas. I have also seen exactly the opposite occur in terms of lure size. There is a reason successful tournament angers of any species have so many rods in the boat. Moods of fish change by the minute and muskies are no exception. When a brief feeding window occurs, even changing out lures with snaps on leaders wastes precious seconds if not minutes. I like to have as many rods as I can handle in the boat, of every weight I think I am going to need, 100% rigged up to perfection, and ready to rock and roll with the presentations I think are going to be best on that water body. A collection of combos like that can get expensive but it becomes much more affordable when I buy 3 Piscifun reels for the price of one reel from the competition. The Piscifun Alijoz 300 and 400 are excellent and come in a variety of speeds and handle sizes to fit any preference. Any Piscifun spinning reel in the 3000 or 4000 size is also excellent if spinning tackle is preferred. These Piscifun reels have proven to me to have the same high level of performance and reliability as any model from any competitor. Therefore, the choice of purchase has easily become a no brainer. 

Lure Choices for Early Season

Due to the especially fickle nature of early-season muskies, effective lure selection can be tricky. I tend to prefer soft plastics, jerk baits, crankbaits, and minnow baits. For those that can be run at slow speeds while maintaining quality, strike-triggering action is ideal. A lure’s ability to work around shallow cover and structure (such as vegetation, rocks, and wood) without fouling or snagging is also critical. On any given early season day, I have seen muskies show definitive preference towards lure sizes ranging from 4-12”. Finding that specific size preference is difficult, and realistically, I find there is often not enough daylight to get it done, but when I do, the results are often excellent. I typically avoid blades altogether and use topwater only in specific situations, but at times, both can be productive when other lure types are not. Though, again, I tend to focus on the rule, not the exception.

Maximizing Success with Preparation

Hook sharpness is always important, but it becomes even more critical in spring when there are many days when every musky strike I take is light, short, and weird. On days like this, meticulous and constant hook point maintenance is often the difference between an amazing day and a day of total frustration.

The Rewards of Spring Musky Fishing

Spring musky fishing is a great way to brush the dust off and get some sun after a long winter. Find the warm water, have confidence in your chosen spots, fish them thoroughly, keep hooks sharp, and you will increase your chances of it actually working out.

Good Luck out there! - Adam

May 24, 2024 — Adam Glickman
Tags: Fishing Tips

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