Pete Maina - Muskie Fishing

Pete Maina

Ontario Muskie Angler

Fishing Lures

Guide to Ontario Summer 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

Summer Muskie Fishing in Ontario

One of the most common questions I receive about muskie fishing is “what’s your favorite season”. When I reply summer, questioners are usually surprised, and some comment that they expected it to be fall. Late fall has the reputation for being trophy time. Images of large female muskies with blood in their eyes and fresh flesh in their teeth – on feeding rampages to fatten-up and nourish growing eggs prior to ice going on – are on the minds of many as they ponder their muskie season. It has long been touted as trophy time for muskies, and overall, that part remains true. The reason it isn’t my favorite season (besides the reality that I’m not all that fond of freezing temperatures), is simply that the fish are not moving as fast and that overall feeding windows are far shorter. While a great period, overall not as exciting – to me the more-of and the faster-moving the muskies – the better.

Summer provides the most action in this respect. They’re cold blooded critters and their metabolism is at its highest during the summer period. The “Dog Days of Summer” (tough fishing) may be more over-promoted than many accounts of “Late Fall Bonanza’s”. Certainly like any season, tough fishing will be experienced, but when active, muskies are willing to move farther, faster – to grab their meals. And, I believe that on a percentage basis – they are active more often than during the cooler water periods of the season. Numbers of follows, hits, misses … associations with muskies are up overall, and fish are more apt to fight violently, perform acrobatics … appear in a flash out of nowhere. Shock. Awe.

The key is having a good plan and prioritizing your options. The only bad news about summer is that fish can be very spread out. Structurally, anything could be a likely option – from very shallow to open water – potentially suspending anywhere from fairly deep to the surface. Lots to check out; and a good exercise is to list those structural options and prioritize them, based on personal thoughts (and any prior experience) and information from other anglers on fish location. You may find you prioritized wrong, but it’s important, as it organizes your efforts in patterning where the most and most-active fish are. If you have identified options (i.e. rocks, weeds, wood, bulrushes, sharp breaks, ect.) and prioritized what you’d like to try first, second … it organizes you with a “patterning” plan. Very important stuff as compared to willy-nilly. Lures/presentations should be looked at the same way, as options, to test.

The reason the structure options should be prioritized first, is that they directly affect the lure options, depending on depth range to be covered. Here too, the types that fit well into the depth range to be fished – should be prioritized. One factor being what’s perceived might work best, but also the efficiency of the lure. And really the combination of warmer water and spinner presentations are the perfect example here. One of the most effective – and efficient baits during the summer period are in-line spinners and spinnerbaits. They create lots of vibration and flash – and they move fast in a straight line – and often speed is what triggers. Because they are basically wire and hook (only “body” being hair or living rubber) – there is little for a big toothy critter to clamp down on … they hook and hold fish better than most presentations. The ability to cover more water quickly and hooking puts them up on the list.

Muskie ReleaseIn general, depending on availability in the lake, trying three spots of each structural type (say weeds) is a pretty good test before moving on to trying another option and associated presentations. With lures, it’s sure hard to tell how long to try one, as if you switch too soon, you can’t be certain a muskie has even seen it and had an opportunity to respond. I’ve guessed that 20 to 30 minutes may be best there. The goal is to somewhat systematically try these different options, rather than just randomly hop around. It’s too easy to miss locational patterns and often simply forget to try certain options, especially those not-so-traditional. Anytime fish are encountered, similar areas structurally should be targeted.

Spinners have been mentioned as a great summertime tool. Topwater lures of all types should get high consideration during this period. Muskie will respond to topwater even in cool temperatures, but there’s no doubt they respond best during the warm water period. And these are big fish presentations, often. Predators learn from success – that the surface is an edge to be effectively used (prey can’t go farther), and many trophy fish are taken. Prop style lures can be presented similar to spinners – with straight, pretty-quick retrieves. They are most likely to trigger during steady weather and/or high activity periods. When overall activity is very tough, slowing down, with tantalizing, slow-moving styles like Creeper and Hawg Wobbler styles can be very effective; as well, walk the dog styles like Sebile’s Splasher. These are also usually the best baits to come back on a fish already spotted, later.

The other bait types can work great too – cranks, jerks and soft plastics. In general, these baits are better used with quicker and very erratic retrieves as compared with the cooler water period. Even though pauses are normally most effective in cool water, always try extended pauses here and there during retrieves as a possible pattern if nothing else is working. Like spinners, sometimes moving faster is better, and cranks can be ripped in. Simply try different actions before giving up on a bait; and pay attention to what it was you were doing (if) when you got a hit or a miss attempt; very likely a pattern there.

Always be on the lookout for any type of pattern. It’s more important during the summer than any other time of year. Pay attention to everything that happens, and try to put as many potential factors together as possible; structure, depth, lure type, retrieve (pauses?) speed have been mentioned. Watch for time of day activity as well. This is where outside info on the timeframe most anglers are fishing – and how successful they’ve been – is very important. Night fishing can be very effective this time of year, literally any time of night. At times, it’s overrated though, as some folks just assume it has to be the best time. Sometimes forage movements change things. In general, fish just do what they like, and it’s not always predictable. The pattern may be, that everyone is fishing early morning, evenings and after dark … and the fish may be most active midday. Taking it further, consider wind and current as possible factors. Wind pounding in? Calm side? Current edge? If so, check more like it.

A few other tidbits include violent structure-crashing. This can work any time of year, but I’ve experienced some great success, especially-so on calm bright days when nothing else is working, by purposefully crashing in weeds with crankbaits. The action is simply best described by “ripping”. Depending on the depth of the structure, choose a bait that would get into it, though not necessarily “under” it in the case of weeds. Then snap-rip your way through, with pauses. The “only” way to accomplish this is with superbraid, no stretch line like Spiderwire UltraCast. Hard snaps with this line will result in weeds actually being cut, allowing the bait to continue on, at least partially clean in most cases. When in this heavy cover situation, a little weed here and there hanging on a hook – really doesn’t seem to matter. This is definitely a triggered response. It’s really hard work. And the bad news when it works is – you’ll feel like you should keep doing it. Seriously, it really can work when nothing else is though. If you know the fish are in the weeds and nothing else is working … try it.

Of course many waters may not have the option, but where rocks are available, it’s a pattern to really watch for, the later in the summer it gets – for fish showing up on rocks. In cases where rocks and weeds are together, or where there may be an isolated patch of hard-bottom within a weed area, odds are that these could be the spots-on-the-spot. Such spots are very important to document any time, but what’s so neat about the summer period is that really covering water fast – often works. During peak periods when increased activity is noted – a real run and gun approach to these areas is recommended.

Finally, in general use a keep-away approach with any following fish. One thing I find so much fun about summer is that there are more follows than normal. I’ve always got the Oakley-covered eyeballs peeled – and even at the slightest hint of color change behind a lure, I’ll react by speeding up and in some cases getting more erratic. Most often, making the predator think the prey is aware of the presence – and now frantically trying to get away – is what will trigger. And, any subsurface lure that I may be able to get up to the surface (edge), that’s where I’m going. Spinners and most types of glider jerks and some cranks, can be sped up and with twitches, controlled right to the surface. Often, when the bait reaches the surface is exactly when a strike will come.

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