Fish New Water this Year

There’s something exciting about fishing new water for the first time. Anticipation is so high, the potential muskie locations seem endless and you can’t wait to hit the water full speed. After all, from what you’ve read online this winter and through some detective work, a new lake can be loaded with muskies. Catching them should be easy, right? Stop right there. You may have been sitting around during winter dreaming of fishing, but now it’s back to reality. No matter how many muskies are in the water, you really need to work to find and catch them.

Fortunately, if you’ve spent time finding new waters you’ve probably spent hours looking over a lake map determining potential locations. The first rule of fishing any new water is to have a quality map or navigational chart. The second rule is to study the map and highlight several potential areas to check out. Pre-selecting locations is extremely important. If you hit the water without any real ideas on where you want to fish, you’ll most likely be spending too much time deciding where to go. Furthermore, you might just make some bad decisions that could keep you from catching muskies. For instance, if you pre-select several areas you’ll have a solid plan and know the sequence of spots you want to fish. It’s much like a football team pre-determining the first several plays in their first offensive drive of the game. Now, you may have several set spots in mind, yet as the morning or day progresses, you may decide to make slight deviations and try different areas based upon encounters with fish, or something else that happens to make you try a different spot. If you don’t have a game plan you’ll quickly learn that lots of potential spots will look great within eye’s view and you’ll spend a lot of time fishing stuff that looks good close to the boat ramp. Yes, you may score with this “go-in-blind” approach, but more likely than not, the first couple spots may not produce and you won’t be sure where to go next. Indecision then can lower your confidence.

How do you find the spots on newer waters?

I determine that based upon the time of year, type of cover, forage and any local knowledge I can find, in the early season I’ll focus my efforts on muskie-spawning areas and locations I either know from research are spawning areas or I’ll go to areas adjacent to the areas. Typically, there may be several spawn sites, so you can check many areas. In addition, since not all muskies spawn at the same time, there may be some fish in the backs of bays or coves, and others at the mouth and even some in open water. I also always select the largest flats or food shelves to fish, regardless of season. Large flats are food shelves and any weed or timber cover will protect and hold forage and muskies. While on the subject of forage, the presence of shad will also help you locate the fish. It’s not uncommon to see shad balled up suspend just outside of flats or in the mouths of coves. And when the shad are spawning, you’ll often see them following lures. If the water has shad, one of my objectives is to determine where there are larger concentrations of shad are and focus there. Another consideration is the thickness of cover. Earlier in the season, thicker weeds may be productive, but they could become too thick my midsummer. Later in the summer those weed areas that were “sparse” early in the season may be lush and perfect now.

Never ignore local knowledge or a tip on a spot, even from the most unsuspecting sources. I’ve caught lots of muskies from a tip provided by a crappie angler telling me a muskie was chasing the crappies he was catching. That particular area could hold a bunch. Likewise, if someone comes out on their dock and tells you they have a “pet muskie,” you should listen. Sure, a particular fish may be utilizing the dock, but more than likely there are other muskies using other docks, so some shallow- water pattern may exist and should be explored.

Fishing new water is always exciting. This year, make it a point to try somewhere you haven’t been. It’s one of the best ways to become a better muskie hunter and gain confidence on all waters.