Cold Water Muskie Fishing with Dwayne Hickey
Cold Water Muskie
As January nears, water temps can dip into the upper 30's and low 40's on most southern muskie reservoirs and rivers. Muskies don't stop feeding, and the angler who prepares for cold water fishing can enjoy some hot action, and some of the heaviest fish of the year. It's all a mind game really. Let me explain. On cold days, it can be hard to talk yourself into even going out of the house, much less chasing muskies.
Preparation is everything when fishing on cold days. If you don't layer up, you can expect a miserable day on the water! Rain gear, waders and gloves are a must on cold days. Mental toughness is important when considering venturing out on cold days, especially when your chasing the fish of 10,000 casts. Prepare and execute your plan.
Remember, even though you may ponder how the heck a muskie would even want to eat your lure in nearly freezing water temps, keep in mind they must feed! Fish adapt well to cold water. So, it becomes a mind game that us anglers must overcome. Here are some musky fishing tips that will help the odds when it comes to hooking up with cold water giants.
First, don't over complicate when it comes to lures. Leave the bucktails, top water, and fast lures at the house! Let 'em rest until spring. I normally take just a few lures to target cold water muskies. Slow, slow presentations are the key. Lures that "hang" in the strike zone are my number one choice. Second, have a smaller go to lure, such as a rapala suspending jerk bait. These work well when worked slow and methodically. Glide baits are my first choice for awesome strikes in cold water. The best gliders will suspend under the surface when worked the right way. Here's a couple of gliders (see photo) I highly recommend.
An 8 inch Hellhound. The easiest working glider there is to use. I've caught more muskies on this glider than any other glider. It slow sinks with a slight wobble on the fall. I keep 4 or 5 ready for action.
Phantom hot tail gliders are another good choice for cold water muskies. The soft, curly tail adds to the action of this lure. I keep two sizes of this lure in my tackle box, a six inch and a eight inch. They have a great gliding action and will trigger strikes.
But, when water temps bottom out in the high 30's, one lure stands out for me. The Manta Hang Ten is hard to beat when it comes to vicious strikes from hungry muskie! It's a big heavy lure to cast, but can produce when nothing else will. A manta hang 10 will stay in the strike zone longer than most lures, giving the fish the opportunity to not waste energy chasing there prey. You can track the manta under the surface and let it "Hang" above a muskie laying on the bottom. It's my "go to" lure in the coldest water conditions. A word of warning concerning the strike: often the muskie comes from underneath, straight up on the lure. I've had big muskies actually come out of the water on the strike in frigid water temps!
The key is the pause. I sometimes let my lure set for 5 seconds before the next sweep! There's nothing quite like a huge muskie coming out of the depths, crashing a manta, or any other glider in cold water! Deadhead tackle also has outstanding gliders, such as the Sidewinder and Widow Maker, and both lures have excellent hang time.
Other lures to consider when fishing cold water are rubber lures such as a Bulldog, or even better, a big Hellbender. Work these lures with a slow, pumping action and be ready for a hit at boat side. I highly recommend the Hellbender by Figureight Musky Gear.
It pays to keep a couple Suicks ready for action on cold winter days, as well. At times, musky will crash this dive/rise lure better than the side to side action of a glide bait. I've always got a few Shallow Invaders in my winter arsenal also. The magnum Invader is a horse to toss hour after hour, but make no mistake, it's a big fish lure. Invaders work well in cold water conditions. You can crank them down a couple of feet and begin twitching the lure. These serve up awesome big lure action and are definitely a must have lure for cold, southern muskie waters.
Cold Water Fishing Methods
I want to share with you my method of fishing high river water with plenty of current. The water is cold, the current is ripping and the river is well above normal pool. These conditions will almost always push the muskies tight to the bank. A muskie will set up where the water is slack. Cold water decreases metabolism in fish, causing them to use the least amount of energy possible to feed. That's when Gliders shine! The key is keeping your lure in the strike zone (slack water) as long as possible. The best way I've found to work these hot areas of slack water is to attack from downstream, almost parallel to the bank. I work big gliders as slow as possible in the slack water. In these situations short, precise casting works best. And by all means, make multiple casts in these little honey holes. Return to these spots later using suicks or twitch baits.
Brave the cold, take a thermos of coffee and a good attitude. Find and fish the areas with the least current and fish your lures slowly. If your working the right areas you can expect a hungry muskie to explode on your lure with a burst of energy. You will forget all about cold fingers and toes, as the blood rushes through your body! That's the adrenaline rush!
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