Cold fronts suck. I know it’s not literary genius but that pretty much sums it up. A fish that spends 75% of its’ time on the bottom inactive and not in hunting or eating mode now has even less energy and enthusiasm.
July has been what July is supposed to be on the Ottawa River; hot musky fishing. The first 10 days of this month the fish were on fire. Big ones, small ones, rising barometer, falling barometer, sun, rain, it didn’t matter. They just ate like they are supposed to do post spawn.
Then the fishing went from really good to just normal good. We caught fish but we had to work harder and think more. It was business as usual and we could still catch them on lots of different baits.
Then came the massive high pressure system last week and the world changed. The really big fish went into hibernation and we didn’t see one for nearly three days. Fish that could normally be caught by astute boat side work came in lethargically with no real interest in eating. You can tell how sombre the moods really are when muskies ‘escort’ your bait back to the boat by swimming beside it. All the follows become deeper and harder to see as well. It is frustrating.
Fortunately I had the wisdom of musky guru Wally Robins to lean back on. For a guy who was here to celebrate his 75th birthday with me, Wally sets the standard for hard work and that is another element needed to overcome when the muskies are blue.
Here is a list of things to consider and do when musky fishing gets tough:
Slow down – match the mood of the fish by fishing slower most of the time. Blade retrieves should generally be slower. Blades are also less effective in cold fronts but there is always a fish that will eat blade if presented the right way. Jerk baits like Suicks and glide baits can be worked with longer pauses in and around the weeds.
Go bright – The brightest shiniest trinkets in your tackle box are right for blue skies and sunshine.
Soft plastics rule – The biggest fish of the week and the only 50+ ate a dawg being worked on the bottom slowly. Nothing looks more lifelike than some of the new soft plastic baits. Swim baits too like Shadzilla will move muskies that won’t get up for any other bait.
Day Two is the toughest – These massive cold fronts seem to bring the high barometer for three days at a time. The first day is when you will have the most active fish and that won’t be anything to write home about. Day two is supposed to be the worst according to experts who hunt many different species. Day three brings some relief as some fish get urges but again, it is scripted as tough.
Get shallow – The big fish you don’t see are on the bottom. You can be pretty sure that the next one you see during or after a cold front will have extra lamprey marks and scars on it. That’s because she has been laying in the weeds.
Go deeper – Conventional wisdom says that deep fish are less effected by high pressure. For casters like myself it seems that the weed edges and transition areas where we hunt are not in play in the short term and the answer lies going shallow or heading out a little deeper off your regular spots and concentrating on the bottom. Can you say Bondy Bait?
Early morning is more effective than at most times – get on them early. Cold nights mean shallow bays get cool and that is probably not the best place to be early in the day.
Low current and eddies – lazy muskies love eddies and slack water more than ever now.
Drink lots of water and pray a lot.
Thanks for sharing the boat through the tough times Wally. Maybe that was 65…. Not sure but it was really old whatever it was.
Thanks Steve for bringing bass wisdom and patience to cold front musky fishing.
When you stop learning and adapting you’re done. Quest on musky addicts, quest on.
ps There are no pictures of Wally Robins with muskies from this week because he won’t pose with anything less than a 45. He’s that good!
John M. Anderson
We produce BIG fish!!
be good, do good, live well
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