Three Keys to Canadian Muskies

Ontario is the dream destination for most muskie anglers. There is simply no other place where there are so many waters with a relative abundance of trophy fish. However, that doesn’t mean that a trip to even the most famous Canadian muskie waters guarantees success. Like fishing anywhere, you need a game plan for success. With most muskie anglers planning their summer trophy muskie adventures in winter, here’s three keys to consider for boating your personal best in Ontario.

First, plan your trip at the right time. We have all traveled to a fishing destination and had a lodge owner say, “You should have been here last week.” No matter how you plan, you can’t anticipate weekly weather patterns that can positively or negatively influence your trip. However, there is no question in your mind that to put the odds of catching a trophy muskie in your favor you need to fish the lake at the right time. It seems that every Canadian muskie water I’ve ever fished has a few weeks in summer and a few in fall when the majority of trophy fish are caught. That doesn’t mean you can’t catch a giant on any given week, it’s just that some periods are better than others and will increase your odds at catching a big muskie.

When searching resort websites, their social media or attending sport shows in winter, obviously you should look for photos of big muskies. But it’s equally important to write down the dates of the catches. If you are planning on fishing particular waters, write the dates down when all of the big muskies were caught over the last several years. It’s amazing how a few patterns will develop. Use those photos as a guide for when to travel up north, and if you aren’t able to go to that lake during the times those larger muskies are normally caught, consider a different lake. Don’t worry, you can find a Canadian lake and a resort that will fit your vacation schedule. A little research now during the winter can go along way. I meet anglers every year at sport shows who tell me they have a trip planned based upon their vacation schedule, but have no idea if it’s a prime time or not. I also meet anglers who have struggled for years because of their poor timing.

My second key point is to not burn too much gas when fishing a selected muskie lake. It doesn’t matter what marked map you’ve received from a friend, try not to go everywhere in the first few days. Pick a section of the lake and learn it. I would certainly recommend hiring a guide, but if one is not available, learn that section and then move to another. Even if you do fish with a guide, the next few days there look for spots in the same vicinity of where the guide may have taken you. It will surprise you how many more spots you can find that hold muskies. Equally amazing is that on most waters there are some pretty good spots closer to a resort. Focus more on fishing and learning spots than randomly traveling just to see “new” water. If you systematically learn sections of a lake, you’ll be more successful. Even the largest waters are manageable when you break them down into smaller pieces.

My final point is fish “fast” in Canada. Muskies here are often shallow, and when they are, they can be active. By fishing fast and covering several spots during the day, you’ll increase your odds of contacting active muskies. As mentioned above, you want to learn a spot, but don’t spend an hour or so on one particular location. Think about spending 15 to 20 minutes and then move on to another. If one area is holding muskies you can return and fish it again later, but try not to camp on it. Fishing fast means using bucktails such as Cowgirls and Showgirls and topwaters such as TopRaiders. These lures will trigger active muskies and those that won’t bite will follow. Once you know where they live you can return later with a different lure and try to catch them. Experience has shown that you are much better fishing 20 or more spots in a day on most Canadian waters. If the muskies are shallow, they are going to show themselves, and if they are hungry, they are going to bite. That’s why they call it “muskie hunting.” This is a different approach than I use when fishing pressured waters across the U.S., but remember, these waters up here are different as well.

If you want to catch a trophy Canadian muskie, it’s all about putting the odds in your favor and playing the percentages. If you plan your trip at the right time, focus on learning the water and fish fast, you are most likely to catch your personal best. Just remember your adventure starts now, so start doing some research this winter.