Musky anglers throughout North America are usually well aware of the summer-to-fall transition that occurs in August and September, but nowhere is this change more dramatic than on the waters of the Canadian Shield.
As of this writing in May, the U.S.-Canadian border remains closed due to the Covid pandemic. However, a border opening in middle to late summer could make the August/September timeframe important for both visiting anglers and resort owners as they try to salvage at least part of the season. With that in mind, I offer here six patterns of which anglers must be aware.
1. Go Big Or Go Home?
When choosing the lures I will take for an August or Sep- tember trip, I almost always follow the “go big or go home” mantra. If in doubt, always choose the bigger lure. Giant dou- ble-bladed spinners, big topwaters, mega minnowbaits and jumbo jerkbaits usually fill my tackle box.
Yet in my last few trips, a com- bination of a big spinner followed by a smaller model has been par- ticularly effective. For example, if the angler in front of the boat is casting double-tens, having the second angler cast a smaller spin- ner, like a Mepps Musky Flashabou with double No. 7 blades, has been terrific. A double- ten remains hard to beat, but smaller blade baits have come on strongly the past few years.
2. Lovin’ The Weeds
Many muskies, particularly larger specimens, seem to like using cabbage, coontail and other aquatic plants well into late summer. Take note of which weeds the muskies are using as you try to create a pattern. Both cabbage and coontail may still be healthy and green, but one or the other may contain more aggressive fish. Continuing to fish cabbage spots when all the muskies you contact are using coontail is a waste of time.
Shallow, weedy bays can often solve the riddle of a post- frontal day after they warm up in the sun. You won’t see many fish but the ones that eat are often really big.
3. Leavin’ The Weeds
On Canadian lakes (or portions of lakes) that feature dark water, the vitality of the weeds will lessen with the lowering sun angle of late summer. This process may be hastened by algae bloom.
In this situation, you may find muskies still using limp, slimy, dark weeds through part of your week, and then the next day fail to contact any fish in the weeds. The change can appear al- most instantly. When it happens, be prepared to fish nothing but rocks the remainder of your trip.
4. Muskies Everywhere
As summer slides toward fall, muskies will be spread through- out the system and be difficult to pattern locationally. In these instances, you simply have to fish every spot you know and probably burn a lot of gas doing it.
During one late August trip, a buddy and I caught 25 muskies from 23 different spots. We caught two the first day from one island spot and did not see another fish there the rest of the week.
5. Multiple Patterns
You must be prepared to fish multiple patterns daily. Warm skies overnight may have muskies chasing bucktails and topwa- ters immediately in the morning, but a cold night will probably require big minnowbaits and jerkbaits the next morning. As the day warms, the muskies will often transition to bucktails.
If the fish are chasing bucktails but the weather cools and suddenly you realize you haven’t moved a musky in a couple hours, a switch to jerkbaits or minnowbaits will often get you back in the game.
6. September Crash
The switch from late summer to fall tends to hit hard and in a hurry — like overnight. Almost always a major cold front moves through sometime around the third week of September and sends water temperatures plummeting, sometimes all the way to turnover.
The good news is you can still catch fish during the cold front. The bad news is you must bring lots of heavy clothes. Wearing shorts and T-shirts one day, and then every piece of warm clothing you brought the next day, is common.
Musky fishing can be very good in Canada during August and September, but you must be quick to notice patterns and take advantage of them to succeed regularly.