Night fishing for Musky is probably one of the most exciting and harrowing
activities untaken by Musky anglers and it is amplified even further when it
is done on a body of water that has limited commercial development and a wide
expanse of water like the Chippewa Flowage.
Once the season gets underway, something called a ‘night
bite’ tends to develop. Night bite usually starts
as the setting sun begins to tickle the tree tops and may go on until the sun
You won’t find many Musky anglers out on the water once the blackness of
a moonless night turns the Chippewa Flowage into a world of shadows. Only
those anglers who have mastered the art of pitch black navigation will dare to
venture out to confront the night and hunt for Musky.
The night hunt takes on a unique twist when the night angler is by himself.
The solitary night Musky angler finds him or herself pitching their lure into
the gloom over water and near structure that can only be seen in the mind’s
eye. There is with each cast the excitement that comes with the potential of a
night strike and the apprehension of having to fight a toothy critter without
the advantage of good vision. More so than at any other time, a Musky angler
fishing at night is doing so on the Musky’s terms.
So it was for me that late June evening as I left the bar at Indian Trail
Resort at 12:30 am and headed for my boat for a night excursion.
I had just
come in an hour earlier from an unsuccessful night time outing. I stopped in
to the bar for a beer and a bump and some evening Musky talk with the other
regulars at Indian Trail Resort. There weren’t but four or five folks in the
bar and I nestled in among the group at the end of the bar to get the day’s
There had only been one fish registered that day but there had been missed
opportunities. The conversation shifted to night fishing conditions. Although
the night was moonless, the sky was clear and the stars of the Milky Way
painted the sky, reflecting their light off the smooth surface of the water
that was like glass as a result of the windlessness of the evening. No one
had seen any action this evening. We theorized that the clear sky and bright
stars were not the optimal conditions for feeding Musky who seem to like it a
bit gloomier. I can remember Scott Allen saying that he thought that a little
cloud cover would be just what we needed to scare up a little action.
I was going to call it a day but as I stepped out of the bar, I glanced up
at the night sky. The stars were no longer visible and the ‘bar talk’
echoed in my ears.
As I pulled away from the dock and headed into the pitch, I could see Scott
and a couple of others from the bar heading for their boats also. Slicing
through the pitch black night, I made my way to Three Sisters using the faint
outlines of the tree lines as navigation aides.
It was moving on
toward 1:00 am and the water was free from the buzz of other boats. I motored
up on the Herman’s side of The Sisters and cut my motor about 20 yards out
from shore. With the lack of wind, I decided to use my transom rather than my
bow mounted trolling motor. This would allow me to set a very slow speed and
make a controlled pass along the structure in front of the first two sisters.
I put a Best American Globe on my rod and
began to cover the area in a methodical half moon pattern.
That kind of solitude and intense focus tends to lull one into an almost
hypnotic condition. I was sure that this classic Musky spot held a fish that
was going to take advantage of the overcast to ease its hunger.
As I reached the end of my slow troll across the face of the first two
sisters, I re-positioned the boat for a ‘double hover’. Moving the
boat back over water that I had previously fished is a technique that will
generally produce a fish if one is active on a spot…Three casts into the
double hover, my globe stopped and I set the hook. Hearing was the only sense
that was not impeded by the gloom and what I heard told me that I had a nice
fish trying to free itself from the hooks of my globe.
Now, those of you who have fished at night know that the blackness seems to
make everything "larger". As this fish tugged at the line, I could
see my rod bowing over. I continued to fight the Musky keeping my line tight
and trying to anticipate the direction of the Musky who was still consumed by
the blackness of the water.
Luckily, I had remembered to don my head lamp as I started my pass along the
front of the Sisters. I reached up quickly and turned on the head lamp. With
the light shinning on the water, the reflection of the shoulders of a very
angry Musky were finally visible. As its head turned toward me, I could see
that it had both of the globe’s hooks in its mouth and I knew that all I had
to do was stay calm and lead it into the net.
The practice of night fishing alone dictates that you make sure that the
boat is clear of obstacles and that the tools you will need, such as the net
and your compound bolt cutters, are easily reachable.
With one hand holding the rod high to maintain a tight line, I maneuvered
the Musky toward the boat. My other hand had the net at the ready and once I
could see that the fish was under control, I dipped the net in the water and
led the musky into the net…Success!!!
What an adventure. As
usually happens, once the line went slack, the lure came out of the fish’s
mouth and lodged in the webbing of the net. I don’t like to remove the fish
from the water until I am ready to measure and photograph it. This ensures
that it can still breathe but it makes it a bit more difficult with the razor
sharp hooks presenting themselves as a hazard if the Musky decides to thrash
in the net while your hand is in there.
I quickly cut off the hooks using the compound bolt cutter making it safe
to reach into the bags for the fish. Being alone, I placed a ruler on the
floor of the boat, made sure my camera was ready and then reached into the bag
and brought the Musky into the boat. I laid the Musky on the wooden ruler and
measured it at 43 inches. I snapped a picture or two and then returned the fish
to the water for a release.
The water was a bit warm and the fight was a bit longer than I wanted it to
be, so the Musky needed some TLC while he recovered from the encounter. After
a few minutes of keeping the fish upright in the water and moving it to flush
water over its gills, the fish began to revive. I bid the Musky thanks for the
opportunity, and as I squeezed on his tail, he moved off into the night.
By the time I got back to Indian Trail Resort, it was almost 2 am. As I
tied my boat up to the dock, I noticed that the overcast that had urged me
onto the water had given way to clear skies once again. It was almost as if
the overcast was meant just for me.