Think Fast for Early Season Muskie

For big game anglers, muskie opening weekend symbolizes the beginning of summer.

For big game anglers, muskie opening weekend often symbolizes the beginning of summer. Depending on your FMZ, the opener is usually the third Saturday of June. The further north you head the later the open begins, so be sure to check regulations before heading out. 

Thankfully due to seasonal weather patterns in both places, you can use these early season tactics across the board no matter where and when you’re kicking off the season. 

Beautiful Tiger muskie!  Photo: Alyssa Lloyd Photography

FAST AND FURIOUS 

After the spawn, muskies only thought is food. This visible aggression change is my all-time favourite mood of muskie. Much like jigging for trout, when you start burning your bait back to the boat, you cannot outrun them–– so let it rip. 

Blades are a go-to favourite for early-season muskie. They’re flashy, fast and can be used in altering retrieval patterns for the perfect water-covering bait. Effective and efficient to start seeing fish, just make sure you do a few arm days in the gym before June. 

A tip for burning blades, get yourself a baitcasting reel with a high retrieval ratio. Something at or higher than 8:1 would be ideal, especially for big double tens. You won't want to be over cranking those dumbbells back to the boat or dragging them into an eight, you need strength for when a fish eats. 

When working bucktails, make sure those arm-busting blades never stop moving, and that they move fluidly into your eight at the boat. If a fish follows you they like what they see, often stopping blades will make the fish turn right off, but I have witnessed a retrieve that nothing went right in and the fish still ate it before it made it to the boat. I credit that to the early season aggression. 

This beautifully coloured muskie appears to have been an appetizer for a larger fish. Photo: Alyssa Lloyd Photography

SEARCH SHALLOW 

Weeds are just developing into underwater forests where muskies just finished their spawn, and shortly baitfish will be moving back into their false sense of security amongst the vegetation. Muskies have no reason to leave these staging areas as their food is coming to them. 

If you’re hunting shield muskie or even southern muskie, sandy bays with cabbage will be the ultimate hot spot for early-season muskie. Of course, there will be spots on spots you shouldn’t discount, the usual neck downs and shallow rock shelves off deep shorelines, but there is an old faithful approach to start with. Especially if you’re new to the muskie waters. 

Fishing at sunset. Photo: Alyssa Lloyd Photography

Baits such as blades will excel in these shallow water conditions, and they’ll continue to serve you well throughout the summer being able to brim over the weed beds summer muskies call home. 

LONG DAYS 

During the late spring and early Sunset Country summers, muskie will have the same hype they have in the fall, activity will be high, and you’ll be tempted to start early and finish late. As you should, because this is definitely the time to capitalize on muskie catching. 

The author's early morning catch.

Pay attention to feeding windows if you can with looking up moon phases and optimize your time on the water to hopefully combat sore arms. The first and last light will be your friend as always with muskie, but don’t discount high sun, high pressure, east wind, or overall usual poor conditions. There’s this magic few weeks of muskie opener you just don’t know what or when it’s going to happen.

Evening light can be great as well.  Photo: Alyssa Lloyd Photography

ESSENTIALS 

Take advantage of the unknown, pack lots of snacks and water so you can stay out longer! 

Don’t forget to make sure you have all of your essentials you haven't had to think about all winter, including a muskie net, long-nose pliers, bump board, hook cutters, etc. Once you have all of the basics covered you’ll be back into the muskie rhythm once again.

A large muskie net is essential in Sunset Country!  Photo: Alyssa Lloyd Photography

Order the free Sunset Country Travel Guide & Fishing Map to help you find a place to go muskie fishing.

About Alyssa Lloyd

Alyssa Lloyd is a photojournalist based out of Kenora working with Ontario's Sunset Country. The outdoors has been the center of her work and personal life for as long as she can remember. As an angler, Alyssa spends most of her time time chasing multiple species on both conventional and fly gear. 

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