Pete Maina - Muskie Fishing

Pete Maina

Ontario Muskie Angler

Fishing Lures

Guide to Spring 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

Spring Muskie Fishing in Ontario

Spring is time for many great things … for crazies of freshwater fishing the most important of these – is muskie season opening. Time to fish for big toothy critters in open water – fun times are here again! “Spring” is a relative term with respect to latitude, but in the more traditional muskie range of the northern U.S. in the Midwest – to east – and to Canada directly north about midway up in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, this means anywhere from late May to late June. Where these traditional fisheries have always relied (and most still do) on natural reproduction to keep the fisheries going – muskies are protected from intentional angling pressure until after it’s known the fish have finished spawning – before the season opens. This (spawning) generally occurs when surface water temperatures reach the mid-to-upper 50’s, which relates to seasons opening from the end of May (in Wisconsin) to the third Saturday of June in Canada.

Muskies spawn in soft-bottom vegetated (where weeds are starting) areas. These are fairly easy to find on most waters. They are generally bays; any creek/river inlets are a definite prime zone. While more fertile waters may have lots of area suitable for spawning, some waters have very limited spawning areas; generally these are your deeper, clearer waters. Contrary to some popular advice – such waters can actually be the best targets for the “open” of muskie season in many places (more later).

These zones where muskies spawn then – and areas and structures adjacent – are the prime(r) targets for spring fishing. In areas with open season prior-to and during spawn (generally only waters [hopefully] where muskies are incapable of natural reproduction) – right in the spawning areas themselves and just-adjacent make the most sense to concentrate the majority of efforts until spawning is over. That’s the one thing that all muskies have to do – or at least try to (spawn). The rest of the season they go wherever they like. Evidence strongly suggests that muskies move on to their preferable locations (food & comfort) fairly quickly after spawning. There is no long “recoup” period where they remain in spawning areas, though some of the fish may choose to stay there for a long period of time.

In the case of traditional muskie zones, with seasons opening post-spawn, targeting lakes that offer limited spawning zones – right at the open – is likely to also offer a situation where fish are still concentrated. Some fairly large waters may have only one or two prime spawning bays, so all muskies will end up there for that short period of time that they are spawning. While they will move and spread out from there – it is a gradual process, so the spawning area itself, adjacent structure, open water and all breaklines moving away from spawning zones are higher percentage density-wise.

It is often suggested that searching for lakes that warm quickly (i.e. shallower more stained waters) and offer early weed growth are the best lakes to target – also that searching for the warmer waters on those lakes often means more active fish. These are good general rules too and certainly not bad advice, but these are generally the waters that also have spawning habitat spread throughout the lake – and therefore fish are more spread out. Looking for warmer water is a good plan, but the daily weather patterns themselves – consistently have more to do with fish activity (“catching” potential) than do the warmest surface temperature readings in the area. Certainly don’t avoid clearer waters that warm slower for that reason only.

Regardless of lake choice, check those areas. Try very shallow in spawning areas and any new weed growth in – and adjacent. Try any wood or rock cover as well. Probably the most underrated spring locational pattern is open water fishing – in all types of waters, but often, especially-so in those clearer waters with little weed growth. And, if only one or two spawning areas exist in the lake – that deep water adjacent to spawning zones offers great odds. Understand that muskie do prefer the warmer water in the area in spring for comfort. And the vast majority of the forage does too. In spring, what part of the water column is the warmest? Most fish and predators will be in that upper layer, during the day, especially on warming sunny days.

As with any time of year, it should be a patterning process. In clear water, sight fishing offers potential in the shallows, too. But try the obvious structures and edges; if fish are found look for more of the same. At this time though, I often try open water fish first – as the best place to attempt to pattern active muskies. And I don’t need to bother running lures any deeper than the visibility of the water to catch fish. Open water fishing is very hard for most to get confidence in. There’s something about fishing in deep water, with no visible structure at all – that just kills many angler’s psyche. In reality, it’s really a pretty small zone though, especially in spring, when concentrating on the top layer – and the deep water adjacent to spawning zones. Always drop a waypoint or some type of marker when a fish is contacted in open water, as predators do bunch up.

When it comes to presentations, a good general rule is that smaller lures will overall be more effective. In cooler water slower presentations are generally better; lots of pauses with erratic lures … those neutrally-buoyant can be especially effective. As waters warm, the larger stuff should work better. Gradual warming days are generally best; cold front days or hot (fast-warming) are abnormal and will generally require more in-their-face presentations and less action/speed. There are no rules though; only probabilities. Don’t leave the big baits home and certainly don’t leave the surface baits home (in case you’ve heard the theories about waiting for baby ducks to appear before trying).

Crank and jerk baits are likely my overall favorites in spring. Imitating wounded critters with lots of pausing can be very effective. New favorites include the Sebile Magic Swimmer … sometimes that straight snake-swim is very enticing too; did great on the medium size Bonga Jerk and Koolie Minnows as well. Soft plastics can be great too … anything goes, including spinners and spoons. For some reason, spoons can be especially effective for the open water situations. Not that deeper diving lures won’t work, but again, overall, run lures shallow in the water column. Topwater should not be considered out of the question whether it be a foot of water or sixty of them. If fish are located on a specific spot, but not triggered, one of the best choices to come back at ‘em with later – is a topwater.


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