The real secret to catching more fish is knowledge! The more you know, the more fish you’ll catch. These Muskie ice fishing tips and techniques are proven winners.
It’s time to take a closer look at one of the most sought after fish in North America, the Muskie. What’s not to like about them? They’re as good to eat as they are fun to catch. With their golden scales and their diamond like eyes, they’re even fun to look at, for a fish anyway .
Muskie are naturally pretty aggressive fish which is one of the reasons they’re so fun to catch. But mid winter slows down just about every species, including Muskie, so it’s important to learn how to trigger them to bite after the slow down.
If you want to catch more fish the two most important keys are location and presentation. You could have the most appealing bait in the world but if there aren’t any fish around it’s going to be a looong day. And, not catching a thing while everyone else around you is catching fish can be really frustrating. What you present to the fish is just as important as finding them.
The information found here is best used along with some investigative work done by you. Finding out what the Department of Natural Resources says about a lake and talking to local anglers, especially at the bait shop, can save you a ton of time finding the fish and knowing what they’re biting on.
Muskie can be ice fished at any hour of the day or night but changing light conditions in the morning and evening usually triggers more activity and feeding. You’ll catch more Muskie in the 90 minutes surrounding sunup and sundown then at any other time.
Muskie Ice Fishing Location
Whether it’s summer or winter, Muskie are generally found within a couple feet of the bottom. And not just any bottom, normally Muskie hang close to some sort of lake structure like points, breaks, rock piles and humps.
Muskie also like fast access to deep water so check out the steep breaks around points and bars.
During early ice Muskie can be found in the same places they were just before ice up. Look for them in shallow water near points and shoreline bars. Other structure, like inside turns and rock piles, are always an added bonus.
As winter progresses Muskie move out toward mid-lake humps. It’s interesting how this move resembles mid summer fishing. One reason for this move is the water is just a bit warmer in deeper water which is more comfortable for them and keeps them more active.
As spring nears Muskie begin moving shallower again into pre spawn areas. Besides shoreline points and breaks, look for them near river mouths.
Before we switch gears and talk about presentation, remember locating the fish is half the battle. Don’t just drill one hole in 10 ft of water next to a point. Instead drill several holes in varying depths and find the fish.
Using modern electronics can also help you find fish faster. Depth, fish and structure can all be seen using a flasher (Vexilar or Marcum).
Muskie Ice Fishing Presentation
OK, you’ve found the Muskie, now let’s look at some effective techniques to get them on the ice!
The most effective ice fishing presentation is jigging. Jigging is basically raising your rod tip about a foot, then dropping it back down to its starting position. Since Muskie are close to the bottom, insure you’re jigging within a couple feet of the bottom.
Don’t be afraid to touch bottom. Often this will stir up the bottom and attract fish. Don’t overdue it though. You’ll catch more fish by keeping your lure slightly above them rather than on the bottom of the lake .
Jigging attracts fish but unless they’re very active, a Muskie won’t take your bait/lure until it stops. So a very effective method is to raise and drop the tip, wait 3-10 seconds and repeat the raise/drop. Vary the amount of time you let you jig remain still.
Another jigging technique made popular by the pro ice fisherman Dave Genz is pounding the jig. Pounding a jig is basically jiggling your rod tip up and down just an inch or two very quickly.
Last year my brother-in-law bought me a Buzz Stick rod/reel combo for Christmas. You press a button and the rod tip jiggles. It’s amazing how far ice fishing has come in the past few years!!
Now that you’ve got the hang of jigging, lets look at the lure/bait you’re using. There are two main types of lures jigged while ice fishing for Muskies. Flash spoons and swimming lures.
Swimming lures include the Jigging Rapala and Nils Master Jigging Shad.
Rapala Jigging Rapala
Nils Master Jigging Shad
Swimming lures are great for more aggressive Muskie. Usually I put a minnow head on one of the treble hook barbs and start by fishing with one of these.
Northland Tackle and Lindy make lead head swimming jigs which can also be very effective.
Flash spoons, or vertical spoons, like the Swedish Pimple and Acme Kastmaster, are a couple of my favorites. They are easily identified by their vertical fishing position and a treble hook on the bottom. Spoons are great for moderately active fish. Put a minnow head on one of the hooks and you’ve got a dangerous combination.
In most places while ice fishing you’re allowed more than one rod. I usually set up either a tip up or a deadstick in either deeper or shallower water. Normally that set up just has a lead head jig and a sucker minnow on it while ice fishing for Muskie.
Hopefully you’ve found something new to try in these Muskie ice fishing tips and techniques that will help you ice more fish.
What most people consider luck is usually a combination of preparation and practice so get out there and enjoy the practice!