Facts of Fishing

Pete Maina

Ontario Muskie Angler

Fishing Lures

Guide to Fall Ontario Muskie
Fishing Techniques and Tackle

Musky Fishing and the Next Bite

The Next Bite



  Spin Cast


  Minnow Baits
  Jerk Baits
  Top Waters

Soft Baits:
  Soft Plastics
  Top Waters
  Minnow Baits

Wire Baits
  In-Line Spinners
  Chatter Baits

Terminal Tackle
  Jig Heads
     Football Jigs
     Darter Head Jigs
     Tear Drop Jigs
     Drop Shot
     Split Shot
  Snaps / Swivels


Ontario Fishing Links

Fall Muskie Fishing in Ontario

Muskies are truly different critters as fish go. No doubt about it! Those of us who fish for them are different critters as well; willing to put forth seemingly endless expenditure on tools of the trade, and endless hours in anguished expectancy of “The Next Bite” ... and yet, we continue. Those long in the chase of these fish know: just when you think you’ve got the system to “consistency” figured out, these miserable fish will throw you a curve. They seem to disappear, shattering your ego and keeping you up at night, pondering their disappearance.

It is hard enough to try and keep up with a fish with such a peculiar personality, and one that is present in low densities... then add seasonal change. But these seasonal changes are a fact of life that are - just another twist to fish location. Cold weather muskies are especially fickle. Let’s take a look at what those of us afflicted enough to endure the chilling weather of the late fall for chances at a trophy muskie are dealt. What are some of the key points to fishing during the period between turnover and hard water.


A few weeks after the fall turnover process mixes the different layers of water that stratified (in many inland lake systems excepting flowing rivers) over the course of the summer months, the fish community starts to settle down into more predictable patterns again. The period during the turnover is a time of confusion and a lot of movement. While technically no turnover exists in rivers or shallow waters on windswept years – the confusion/bait fish movement period is still a reality. It takes some time, but signs of the true start of the late fall period include forage fish “bunching-up.” Groups of baitfish, packed tightly together can be noted on electronics, where a few weeks earlier fish were scattered.

The real keys to success in the late fall include location and location. The location of your boat over prime areas with feeding muskie present—is very important. Locating your presentation in muskie’s faces is even more important. This may seem a little too basic; however, these two very basic considerations should constantly be considered during the cold weather period; they should be the basis behind every move made and every chosen presentation.

While theories of rampant feeding by muskie preparing for a long, cold winter are common, the truth is, as the water cools it makes for less overall activity and shorter feeding windows. While female fish prefer to fatten-up a bit for winter to support their burden of eggs, the cooler water slows metabolisms too, and these fish generally aren’t as willing to “chase.” It is very important to get that offering close.

Thinking “deeper” is a good general rule in fall location. Try to break a lake, river or reservoir down into prime sections by simply looking for the deepest water and main basins. Deep is, of course, relative to the body of water, but start by looking at the deeper zones and the surrounding area. Generally, unless long stretches of warmth or unique forage movements occur, large areas of shallow water can be written off as low percentage, however directly adjacent to basin is a different story. As usual, structure can be key; be it deeper wood, weeds or rock. Sharp breaklines to deep water are always a prime consideration; deeper, secondary breaklines, where present, can be a major factor in fish location.

The deepest hard-bottomed areas are a key item to look for and to concentrate on. The edge between hard and soft bottom is often a magnet. All of these structure areas mentioned often attract the ultimate “structure”—the most important factor in muskie location: forage. Remember that the muskie you want to find is a “feeding” muskie. And remember that these fish really only have one job in life: eat. Nature dictates that they be as efficient as possible in going about their chores. They’re no different than your ol’ pal Rover; he may wander around for a while when he’s not hungry, but when belly gnaws – he’ll be back to the trusty food-dish.

What prime structures in deep water offer – is the likeliest place to find the concentrations of forage—which attract the muskie version of Rover. Get in tune with the structures present in the body of water you will be fishing, and with the different forage types. Learn what species are most prevalent and what their locational habits are. Don’t forget some of the not-so-commonly-mentioned items such as crawfish and bullhead; if they are present, they can be a big factor.

Because slower-moving, precise presentations are often necessary to trigger fish, it doesn’t pay to just start fishing until you know you are working an area with quantities of forage. Generally, you will be much better off to take the time out from actually fishing (in most cases trolling is legal and recommended while forage-finding), to check for food sources with your electronics before starting in; try to pinpoint a few prime areas that look good.

In a lake with very little structure, or “bowl-shaped” waters, shoreline-related breaks may be the only game in town. Deep shorelines may have fallen trees, and in a situation such as this, they are a major structural element. It stands to reason that many of the fish are relating to nothing other than open water, since that is all that is available. Check open water areas to see if there is a pattern to the level of the majority of the baitfish... wind can be a major factor on such lakes; several days (it takes time) of wind from one direction may stack baitfish on the windward side.

Some very-overlooked structural elements that can be a big factor late in the season include: long, inside turns (or troughs) of deeper water. These are often magnets for forage in the fall. Distinct, deep holes can also be dynamite, especially if prime shallower feeding shelves are adjacent. Neckdown areas with deep water should be checked. Probably the most overlooked is the long stretch of “steep” shoreline, most of which have nothing that really stands out to the naked eye (no points or turns). Sharp-breaking shorelines are natural “underwater highways” for fish. Even if nothing stands out they are worth checking; in many cases there are slight points and turns where the break starts to level out to the deep basin. Usually this can only be noted by checking via electronics; there may also be a brushpile or an extension of hard bottom out to deeper water in a certain section. Little changes like these on a steep shoreline often “stop” forage and predator fish in their travels.

Presentation Tactics

Once a prime area is located with forage – comb it. If quantities of food are present, muskie will be feeding there at some point during the day. The key is in covering all levels, concentrating on the edges of structure and forage. One of the best ways to accomplish this is through a combination of boat control, vertical presentations and casting presentations. Remembering, you need to get close. Simply figure out a way to cover all levels; watch for patterns and adjust. Where legal, using multiple lines with a combination of live and artificial bait is very effective; in areas with one-line per person – find and bring friends to give it a try.

Live bait run on quick-strike rigs can be used as a prime vertical presentation. Using whatever weighting system you find necessary for the depth you will be fishing, try to work a bait near the bottom and a bait suspended. To add a jigging action to baits, move in bursts, allowing baits to settle in a vertical position before moving again. This is generally much more effective than steady movement which results in steady depth and a very relaxed bait. You want your live bait to be visible—and struggling—fighting the ups and downs. If the bottom is relatively clean, don’t be afraid to run the live baits into the bottom or breaklines; contact may arouse baits and any hungry muskies.

In addition to, or instead of live baits, a variety of artificials can be effective. Jerks or cranks that run deeper, effectively, like Sebile’s Stick Shadd or Magic Swimmer – in the sinking models – can be great fall tools – perfect for “following” the break when working sharp edges.

A prime edge with forage should be worked parallel to the edge as well as perpendicular. Consider that predators are most likely located on the edge of the forage bulk. (If they were right in the middle and actively feeding … the “bulk” wouldn’t be there.) Whatever the lure type, contacting bottom on edges and tops of bars can be a great trigger on neutral fish; many a muskie has been taken on crankbaits “ground” across rocks; or jigs banged on the bottom. The great thing about all of these presentations when being used in addition to live bait, is that even if a muskie is not intrigued enough to strike... they have that notorious propensity to follow. Often fish that are lead to the boat via “artificial” are unable to resist the “real thing” thing when they are led to it.

Super-weighted jigs, large sonar lures and weighted spoons can work great directly vertical. When in a more active mood – those flashy baits like the Fuzzy Duzzit and Sebile’s Flatt Shad will beat out more timid presentations and live bait. They’re great for precise control, and especially effective on fish located at the base of sharp breaks … watch the electronics and be certain to keep occasional contact with the bottom.

Final Tips

Muskie are a temperamental lot. You must have the confidence to locate contact areas (forage) and fish them hard. Don’t give up on them if the one pass produces nothing; it means nothing; predators will be there when hungry. Prime areas may be used by many feeding muskie; often several at the same time during a prime feeding window. Fall is notorious for few, and often tight feeding windows.

Also consider changing your lure-type “fairly” often to check out the effectiveness of a different lure action (but changing too often wastes time). Preferences in lure speed and action are common; one day a tight-wobble crankbait is hot, and the next they may want a wide, lazy wobble. Because you are working these areas fairly slowly, there is time to show them a variety of lures.

Be prepared to be out there. More than any other time, preparation and comfort is critical. Obviously this time of year potentially means below freezing temps; add wind and it’s really cold. Add to that moisture and it’s really, really cold. Make certain you have clothes and heat available if needed. Also, this time of year is it’s especially important to use the absolute best superbraid line – at this point - not just for the handling and abrasion resistance capabilities – as the “unability” to bring water with it – into the reel and onto your hands. For those who have dealt with wet hands in the wind and cold, you know it’s a lousy combination. If your hands get numb you can’t fish; at best you’re wasting time warming them. Spiderwire’s UltraCast (I use 80 or 100lb test) is a very high pic count (essentially many more individual fibers woven tighter) that carries little water.




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