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Musky Tips from Wisconsin DNR

The mystique of musky fishing is based on the fish’s size, its moody behavior, the explosive strikes, and the challenge of boating one. The muskellunge has a reputation as the “fish of 10,000 casts.” While it’s true that a musky, especially a big one, is one of the most difficult trophies to come by, it’s not an impossible task to experience the excitement of musky fishing.

Muskellunge waters

Depending on the type of fishing experience you’re looking for, the first step is to choose the water you want to fish. We have a wide variety of different types of musky lakes and rivers in Wisconsin. Some waters provide much faster musky fishing action than others but have lower potential to produce big fish, although they may give up a trophy on rare occasions. Typically, these are some of the smaller, shallower lakes with abundant vegetation, and some of the rivers. At the other extreme are waters that are known as trophy producers, but which have low muskellunge populations, resulting in much slower angling action. These are often large, deep, clear water lakes or large flowages, with little aquatic vegetation and good sucker or cisco populations for muskies to prey on. Most musky waters fall somewhere in between the two extremes. The classification information on these web pages should help you to choose between the different types of waters.


The best time to go fishing, of course, is any time you can get away. You can increase your chances of catching a musky, however, by fishing during the most favorable conditions and at the best times of the year. The open season for muskellunge begins the Saturday nearest Memorial Day in the “Northern Zone” and the First Saturday in May in the “Southern Zone.” The season ends on November 30th in the Northern Zone and December 31st in the Southern Zone. Some of the highest catch rates for muskies are during the summer months when the water is warm and the fish are most active. Fall fishing can also be very productive at times, and many of the largest muskies are caught during the fall. Some of the better weather conditions to fish include windy days, rainy days, calm, muggy overcast days and during changing conditions ahead of a front. On clear lakes, especially those with a large amount of day time boating traffic, night fishing can be productive.

It’s been said that muskies are where you find them! The more productive areas to fish, though, would include over and around weed beds, rock bars and dropoffs, points and shorelines with submerged wood or other cover.

Musky fishing tackle evolved rapidly during the 1980s and 1990s, along with the increased popularity of musky fishing. Traditional tackle consisted of short, stout baitcasting rods, heavy braided line, wire leaders, and baits, which included a variety of large bucktail spinners, jerkbaits, diving crankbaits, or live suckers. Today, many musky anglers prefer lighter-action rods of 6 1/2 to 7 feet or longer. New high-tech lines are very thin but extremely strong. The selection of lures has exploded in recent years.


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