Waneta Lake 6/2
Got out here for a full day with Mark I. targeting muskies. I do not generally guide or target muskies. Mark has become a good friend of mine and I make certain exceptions. I offered Tiger Musky trips for a long time on Otisco Lake. We generally had good success with them over the years but musky fishing requires a certain stubborn steelhead-like mentality. You need to make every cast count and be focused from the start to the finish. I had two Tiger Musky trips in particular that soured me to guiding muskies. The first was when I guided two afternoon half days in a row with the same guys – both by the way really good people whom I like. Our first trip resulted in two average Tigers for one of the guys – which to me was great for an afternoon half day that didn’t feature particularly good conditions. I told the guys that they had done well but of course the person that didn’t score was hoping to catch one on day 2. On day 2 the conditions were worse – no wind, sun and a lot of weed shards floating around. It was tough presenting lures. The disappointment was palpable after 4 to 5 hours with no fish.
The second trip was with a different client and it also featured tough conditions. It was sunny and flat. The witching hour with muskies (and pike/pickerel) on a calm sunny day is often around first light and last light. There are exceptions and once in a while we catch a fish right in the middle of a bright sunny flat day – but those times to me are exceptions, especially in clear water. My client was getting bored and losing focus after two hours with no action. By the time the conditions were good, his mind wasn’t in the game anymore. I don’t mind doing some “cheerleading” and trying to keep people in the game – that’s a part of being a guide, but to have to do that on a regular basis would be very draining and no fun for me. So again – I will make certain exceptions for musky guiding, but it is not generally on the table, especially for people I haven’t spent a day on the water with and gotten a feel for.
I am happy that there’s a State Launch on Otisco Lake and that definitely makes going over there more enjoyable. The launch is great, away from the road and a pleasure to launch and retrieve boat out of. Plus it doesn’t cost $10 a pop or $80 a year!
Mark and I generally do our musky trips late in the season over here at Waneta Lake. He prefers to fly-fish but is open to using some gear when we are working lower percentage areas or the wind is up or if he just wants to give his arm a break. The lake level was good (much better than the late fall of course) and we had pretty good conditions for muskies. Neither one of us has a lot of experience with pure-strain fish in June, but we are piecing that part of the puzzle together. We worked a lot of areas for the full day without any sign of fish. Not a hit (apart from a perch) and not a follow (apart from what was probably a bass.) Nothing to show. Many anglers would have been ready to call it a day but I know Mark well and we are both optimists when it comes to fishing. We talked to a guy (whom I’ve seen out before) who is a hardcore musky guy and he had a 40″er up to the boat that got off before he could net it. That was the only activity he had seen.
Mark kept at it with the flies but switched to gear periodically. For the last hour of the day he used gear. I told him we’d work one more area and then wrap things up – we had already worked the lake for around 8 hours, including the stretch we were fishing. Well lo and behold his lure got crushed in our “overtime” period. The battle was spectacular with 3 jumps! The fish literally jumped over my big musky net as I tried to net it. Unreal!!! Mark caught the whole battle on his go-pro as well, which was awesome. The fish was 41″+ and thick. It took the lure deep and had bled a little but wasn’t hooked badly. I was able to get the lure out quickly without any visible damage to the fish. No more blood and the fish released well. The alternative would be to kill the fish and fillet it. I’m sure musky tastes fine like a pike but if you kill it, it obviously has a zero survival rate. I think Mark’s fish did well.
Don’t even attempt musky fishing without a large musky net. By keeping the fish in the water we didn’t stress it inordinately. The average non-musky angler who decides to go fishing for them and isn’t prepared, will hook a fish, try like hell to get it into the too-small net, then take it into the boat after which it jumps out of the net, goes crazy and bloodies itself all over the boat deck. I have been that guy before with those fish as well as big browns, rainbows and salmon – and I get it, you didn’t expect that to happen! It’s a thrill catching a big pike or musky but it really helps to be prepared. Have a hook-out tool. Have some protective gloves. Be ready!