Fishing Musky Under Pressure
With fall just around the corner, we can all rejoice that these hot and sticky summer temperatures are almost behind us. This transition to cooler days might bring some long awaited relief, but unfortunately brings the return of increased angling pressure. While serious anglers have endured the sweltering conditions and reaped the rewards of summer, many casual anglers have sat back and waited for the cool relief of fall. So be prepared to hold your ground because soon the docks will be once again a hive of bustling fisher folk. Fall can sometimes dampen spirits when you find that the minute you reach the water, a frustrating endeavor of jockeying for prime spots and piloting enormous wakes is in store. The short seasonal increase in pressure and last gas of boating activity can definitely lead to game fish exhibiting negative or neutral tendencies. Plugging the same area can educate even the hungriest prey so be prepared to change your approach to stand out from the crowd.
The affects of boating traffic on game fish are often overlooked or thought of as unavoidable, but have no doubt that the constant disturbance can lead to adjustments in feeding patterns and holding locations. Experienced anglers can tell you that high traffic areas can sometimes lead predatory fish to developing a serious case of lock jaw. Aquatic predators attempting to stage in constantly disturbed waters develop unpredictable feeding habits. Biologists conducting shock boat studies have noted that game fish will seek deeper waters during high traffic periods. In this instance, a case can definitely be made for seeking calmer waters, and focusing your fishing efforts on week days, avoiding peak hours if possible.
For those without the option of fishing off-peak, special attention should be paid to areas that are off channel or far from busy boating lanes. These calmer areas will allow for bait fish to comfortably congregate in the shallows and in turn attract a variety of game fish. If all the elements of selecting a target location on a body of water are equal (wind direction, weather patterns, water temperature, etc.), focus your efforts on areas that are the furthest reach from the launch and offer heavy shielding from boat wake. If putting the distance between yourself and the negative influence of boating traffic is not an option, turn your attention to deeper break-lines and mid lake shelves. These off shore areas can often be the only option if the food chain has been disturbed.
Another problem you might be up against during this heightened pressure is the amount of baits in the water. More people mean the fish are being exposed to more lures. While smaller, younger fish can sometimes be fooled with typical presentations, larger older predators and trophy class like Melton Hill Musky have spent all summer earning their PHD in what not to eat. These fish may follow but never quite take the bait as they have been conditioned to avoid common presentations, such as spinners and other basic minnow baits. So when you find yourself angling on pressured waters, it can become imperative to stand out from the pack.
Most recreational anglers spend very little time on the water per year, allotting almost zero days to dialing in or creating new retrieves. With this being the case, more often than not, you may be fishing behind anglers using only simple vanilla tactics. By adding jerks, twitches, and pauses to your playbook, your lure immediately becomes a standout and seductive choice. Also, when fishing pressure is high, don’t be afraid to switch to a larger more uncommon lure that can generate defensive or reactive strikes. Big swim baits and jigs can be just the ticket as they stand out from the constant onslaught of small cranks and spinners and create a wide disturbance in the water. For local fisheries, a good choice would be a large paddle-tail soft plastic or grub, but large segmented swim baits are also a good option. These large rubber and plastic offerings can open the door to an unlimited number of retrieves as they can reach many depths and aren’t limited to forward presentations; experimentation is the key. Glide baits are another top option as they are often overlooked due to their intricate retrievals. Take some time to learn how to use these baits and tactics, while avoiding the heaviest trafficked areas and you can rest assured that your fall months will not be wasted. Even the most pressured days will soon deliver.
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