Late- season musky fishing

As the small lakes across Northwestern Ontario freeze over this week, most of the regular bass and walleye anglers have packed their gear away for another season.
Musky anglers are a different breed, however, many of which are known to break ice with their boats to get in those last few days of open-water fishing before another long winter sets in.
Muskies are not caught very often during the winter. I’ve only seen one come through a hole in the ice, and heard of a couple of others from friends, so that tells me they simply don’t eat a lot during those months.
It’s strange because we catch more big pike during the winter than any other time of the year but muskies just don’t seem to show up under the ice. I think the reason that late-fall musky fishing can be so good is these fish know that winter is about to set in as the water cools, so they feed heavily in order to bulk up for the winter.
The key to catching muskies during this late season timeframe is to know they are located in areas where there is plenty of food: whitefish, cisco, and even smaller walleye. Two of these species spawn in the fall and congregate in neck-down areas with some current or on windswept rocky shorelines.
Trolling large crankbaits long has been a proven technique in the fall and is effective because it allows anglers to cover a lot of water efficiently. Anyone who has fished for musky before also knows what a workout it is to cast large musky baits all day, so mixing in some trolling is a good way to get a break.
Keeping your baits in 10-25 feet of water seems to be the best routine.
In recent years, fishing with large soft plastic baits has been growing in popularity. Anglers are casting large swimbaits, especially BullDawgs, or they are jigging with Bondy Baits.
These Bondy Baits are manufactured in Windsor, Ont. by Lake St. Clair guide Jon Bondy. He fishes St. Clair and the heavy current of the Detroit River for muskies and has pioneered the technique of jigging for these big critters.
It works well in Northwestern Ontario, as well.
These baits shine when fishing around current because you can drift through a channel or neck-down area, and the current will bring your boat and your bait through the fish at a natural rate of speed.
These baits are heavy so it is easy to keep them under the boat, so you can watch them on your sonar unit and most of the muskies you catch will show up on it, as well–it’s really fun.
My pal, Mike Reid, grew up in Sioux Narrows but lives out in western Manitoba these days. He still comes back to Lake of the Woods to fish musky with some friends every year over the first week of November. Most of what I know about musky fishing, I’ve learned from him.
He tells me that contrary to what most folks think, muskies actually will group up late in the season on high percentage spots. On Monday of this week, for instance, he and a friend hooked up 16 muskies and boated six of them all in one area on Lake of the Woods (a neck-down area with some current).
Most of the fish were under the boat on Bondy Baits, which are the perfect cisco imitator. You can find them online or at Lake of the Woods Sports Headquarters in Kenora.
It looks like the open-water season is coming to an end this week for us in Northwestern Ontario. My boat is getting put away but if you can keep yours accessible, you may get to use it for over the next couple of weeks on some of the bigger, deeper bodies of water.
Most of the smaller, shallow lakes are ready to freeze, though.
If you do venture out on the water, tell someone where you’re going and be careful.