Muskellunge, also known as the water wolf and the fish of ten thousand casts, is a cool-water species. The modern muskie is native to the Great Lakes, upper Mississippi, and Ohio River systems, southern Hudson Bay tributaries, and some northern Atlantic Coastal drainages. Stocking programs have extended the fish’s range. Fossil records show ancestral muskies once lived in the western United States.
It is an aggressive predator of the highest order; the top of the freshwater piscatorial food chain. It has a mouthful of teeth, which means you must use a steel leader and it is a sight-feeder, meaning night fishing for this one is a waste of time. Stout fishing gear is required to handle the water wolf.
Plugs a foot-long are common bait but you need to make sure your use very strong hooks to prevent having them straightened. Our state record weighed 43 pounds, caught by Melton Hill musky guide Steven Paul. www.TennesseeMuskyFishing.com
These fish live in pool areas that are three feet deep and have many lay downs and they spawn when water temperatures are between 49 and 59 degrees. They tend to migrate up tributaries to spawn at the ends of pools, and then move downstream, sometimes many miles from their spawning area. They reach sexual maturity at age three and live about three more years in the South. In northern waters they may live 30 years.
Their diet consists mainly of fish but will eat ducklings, frogs, muskrats, mice, salamanders, crawfish, snakes, and just about anything that gets in front of it. Muskies prefer large food items and its growth suffers if only small food items are available. A report of the netting of a 102-pound muskie was supposed to have taken place in Lake Superior in the early 1900s. It is fairly well accepted that they can not grow this large but there is no documentation.
Muskie lures are often large. This fish will eat other fish half its length. If it swallows one that is too long to swallow at once, it will wait until the head digests before swallowing the rest of it. Imagine seeing a muskie with the tail of another fish sticking out its mouth.
“I concentrate on Center Hill from winter and to the end of May,” “This is about the best fishing of the year. I fish all the creeks from Blue Hole down to Pates Ford, especially Pine Creek and Sink Creek. Muskie relate to cover like bass do and they prefer wood like bass do. You can pattern them much like you do bass.
“I concentrate on the feeders creeks, sloughs, any cuts, but primarily the larger creeks. I cast a large tandem spinnerbait and I put a live shiner or creek chub on the trailer hook. I slow-roll it around wood and brush. I also cast large rattling crankbaits, such a Bill Norman’s DD-22 and the Believer, a traditional muskie lure. It’s a 7-inch broken-back bait with rattles. Firetiger is the best color in winter.
“Muskie head upstream to spawn, that’s why it’s easier to catch them in winter. They usually spawn in March, maybe into April. The upper reaches of Rocky River, Collins River, Caney Fork River and Calfkiller River on Great Falls Lake are where they are from winter through spring. Collins River is one of my favorites.
In-line bucktail spinners, topwater baits, imitation minnows, crankbaits, spoons, and large plastic worms or eels are common artificial baits. Saltwater and striper baits are good choices too. Cisco Kid and Creek Chub Pikie Minnow are long-time favorites with muskie hunters. Spoons and spinners have been very popular and the old Bomber has been most effective.
Larger lures catch larger fish. Consider that a muskie will not waste energy chasing a small bait.
Center Hill Musky
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