The late spring time frame can vary, depending on the latitude of the fishery in question, but to get a little more specific, we’re talking about the post-spawn period (about a month) and generally surface temperature ranges in the 60’s to low 70’s. It’s a great time of year (other than the bugs) for catching *Esox”.
Muskie location is pretty predictable at this time. A good basic plan to follow is simply to fish the weeds. Any waters that offer good vegetation should have some well-developed weeds and edges by this time. If that is the case, concentrate on them, always checking edges as being a high-probability contact-zone and a good place to concentrate on for boat position. Check the flats too though, and inside edges where available, for a pattern.
Early Season Musky – It’s really tough to beat smaller, twitched cranks like the 6-inch Jake lure during this period. Erratic action with minnow baits would be the number one choice to produce, with smaller in-line spinners coming in second. Choose these spinners and cranks to run at the level of the top of the weeds, occasionally making contact. Diving cranks should be tried on the deeper edges, fished in parallel fashion and at angles in and out.
In a very basic sense, this is all that needs to be done to be relatively successful during this period. Keep doing it, and it will work. Shallow to midrange wood and rocks are great places to target also. On the other end of the spectrum, though, there are several tools (lures) and patterns (locations) that are just about never tried during this period that can be absolutely deadly.
This is a wonderful time of year to cast for suspended fish. Simply put, the world is high during this period. For those that don’t understand Maina-eze, this simply means that most fish enjoy the warmer temperature ranges – which are now in the upper level of the water column. Minnows can often be seen swimming around in schools – just under the surface. Considering how the food-chain-thing works … guess where the top of the chain will be when in the mood to dine.
It’s a fun, different way to fish – that can be hard on many folks who are used to “visual” fishing (structure they can see), but because of the tendencies for high suspension, fish are fairly concentrated at this time. On smaller waters, a simple plan of “fishing it all” can be taken with the open water in the system. However, since casting doesn’t allow the water coverage trolling does, narrowing things down to “confined” open water really increases your odds at this time.
Most fish will be quite scattered from the spawning period by now and be moved in to, or getting close to summer locations. However, simply concentrating on the deep water adjacent to spawning bays is the best plan. If the area features a feeder creek near by – so much the better. Also (and this should help explain “confined”), deeper zones between a couple of shallower food shelves tend to have higher concentrations of fish. The more shallow food stations available in the areas, the higher the concentrations of suspended fish there will be. Complex structure is a good thing.
Let’s say we have a weedy bay with fairly sharp-breaking shorelines on either side, with rock and wood. Out in front and to the sides, other individual shallow flats exist. The deep water between these elements is the area to concentrate. In bigger systems, this is generally much higher percentage deep water than just heading for “anywhere.” The thing is though, even with a bunch of good shallow structure around, at this time, there may actually be a higher percentage of fish suspended over deep water than there is in the shallow zones. And, because these fish see fewer lures, they are often far more triggerable.
It is possible, of course to check this pattern while working sharp breakline areas too. Just cast both ways; cover the shallow zone and the deep water nearby. Deep diving lures can work quite well, and do, but the funny thing I found out doing this, is that often it is more effective to run shallower presentations. The same stuff you would use over the weeds. The only difference is, often bigger is better out over the deep stuff.
One of my most effective lures for this is a weighted Burt jerkbait. It only runs about 5 to 6 feet on the average, but is a big, wounded-looking target that hangs on the pause. That’s a great general range to concentrate on. Spinners work quite well too, at times, as well as the cranks. Possibly the biggest sleepers though, are top waters and spoons. Both work well in open water. Erratic styles work best though, so try a glider topwater like the Doc. Believe it or not, it’s really tough to beat a big Daredevil spoon too … but it’s got to be twitched on the retrieve.