As the weather begins to break and glimpses of spring arrive there are many great waters to consider for some early season musky action. Some of the top waters to consider include Lake Webster in Indiana, Kinkaid in Illinois, Pomme de Terre in Missouri, Cave Run or Green River in Kentucky, Melton Hill in Tennessee, or even the James and New Rivers in Virginia and North Carolina. If you really are adventurous how about the lake with the largest population of muskies per acre in North America Blue Water in New Mexico!
If you haven’t traveled south in the spring, you’ll be really surprised how good it can get. It really is amazing, because ten years ago several of those waters were totally off the radar screen. Today, thanks to some great efforts by the various State fisheries agencies and support from local musky clubs there are lots of viable musky fishing options, when the waters in the north are full of ice! However, before you get all excited, hook up the boat and head south, there are a few things you should consider to make the most of your early spring trip.
My best advice, and this is really important, is to plan your trip with a little flexibility. Possibly reserve two separate weekends for your trip and don’t make your final decision until mid-week. You need to pick s time that should have the most stable weather that is hopefully associated with a warming trend. Avoid spring cold fronts, rain and snow! Cold and miserable weather can shut down spring musky fishing. It sounds pretty simple and it is, so make it your rule to only go if the weather is good. Remember, water temperatures are on the rise at this time, but the water is still generally cold. So, you don’t want to have water temperatures dropping in the spring. Likewise, make some calls to your potential destination and find out about water levels and water clarity. High and muddy water can also make your trip a disaster. If your goal is to just get out and go fishing, testing your equipment, then don’t worry about water levels or clarity. However, if you want a legitimate shot at catching early season muskies, high and muddy water can absolutely ruin your trip. No matter where you plan to fish in the spring plan ahead and check the weather and water conditions. It might require you to add 2-3 more hours because you need to switch destinations, but in the scope of a weekend, it is time well spent.
When you get to your destination, there are two things to consider, shad and water temperature. All of the above-mentioned waters have one thing in common: the muskies primarily feed on shad. Some of the waters have bigger shad than others. So, in the waters with big shad you might be fishing 7-9” baits, while in reservoirs with smaller shad you might be fishing smaller 5-6” lures. This is where a quick stop in a local tackle shop can help. You can quickly determine if most anglers are using small or larger baits. Now, that doesn’t mean you should not experiment with different size lures, but at least it gives you a place to start.
When you review your map and hit the water, look for areas that should have warmer water. This could be the head area or upper reaches of the reservoir; it could be a big cove, or any other wind-protected areas. Spring is a time where a surface temperature gauge is important. Coves may experience 3-5 degree increases in water temperature throughout the day. So, I would not venture out too early in the morning. If you find an area that looks good, but is not holding muskies or you only get a lazy follow at 10am it could be on fire at 2 pm!
Early season is always an adventure, but it beats staying home. Be smart about planning your trip and you can be successful in spring.