Want a shot at some early season muskies? Go south! There are lots of great waters in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana,Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. The great thing about these waters, besides having open water and supporting lots of muskies, is that the fish are generally active in early spring. The fact that these fish tend to feed primarily on sh
ad makes them more active, and fishing many traditional musky lures will produce action! However, it is not the lure choice that is difficult for most northern musky anglers that venture to these southern waters — it’s where to find the fish! Many of these reservoirs are huge and the individual coves or creek arms are larger than many northern waters. Also, consider the fact that many of the reservoirs don’t have any weed growth, and those that do have very little at this time of year. So where do you begin? Here are four areas to check out, at least one of which is sure to hold muskies in any reservoir.
When looking at a map of the reservoir, one of the first areas to investigate is the headwaters of the reservoir where the river(s) enter the system. It is not uncommon for there to be a resident musky population in these rivers and creeks, but there’s often the added bonus of a migration of some muskies upriver. Combine this with the headwaters often having the warmest water, and you have a recipe for success! Fishing the headwaters is often quite visual as you are casting to timber or even shoreline cover. Subtle points and small pockets is all it takes to hold muskies at this time. Just be aware that local storm events can turn some creeks and smaller rivers into mud overnight, which can significantly ruin your fishing. I do find that when the fish are in these creek arms that casting smaller musky lures seems to be most productive.
Another key area I have found muskies in early season in many reservoirs is along the rip-rap near the dam. For some reason the muskies still use the rip-rap even though this is the opposite end of the reservoir and often the water is the coldest in these areas. It must be a predator/prey thing as there usually are bass and walleye also using the rip-rap. The muskies aren’t feeding on the bass or walleye , they are feeding on the shad and/or crayfish in these areas. It is not uncommon to be catching muskies along the same rip-rap section while someone else is catching bass. Believe me, if the muskies were actively feeding on the bass, the bass anglers wouldn’t be catching them at the same time. Trolling 5-inch depthRaiders and shad-imitating crankbaits is a great way to cover large rip-rap areas. However, casting crankbaits and glider jerkbaits is also effective.
While near the dam area another interesting phenomenon I have seen in many different reservoirs is that often the first major creek arm adjacent to the dam will hold a good population of muskies at any time. The muskies that live near the main lake in summer do not all migrate upriver to the headwaters to spawn. Instead, they will move into the first major creek arm. These creek arms can be huge areas to fish, but focus on the larger concentration of shad in these creek arms, as well as the warmest water within this first major creek arm. Once again, glider jerkbaits, minnowbaits such as Shallow Invaders and ShallowRaiders, and smaller Bulldawgs are most in early season.
Last, but certainly not least on the list of early season areas to explore are the marinas. Unfortunately in some States fishing around the marina is not legal. However, in most places you can join the bass and crappie anglers and fish in these areas. As I have said before, I have never fished a reservoir that didn’t have muskies near a marina. These marina areas offer lots of shade and other man-made cover for the shad and are usually located adjacent to deep water areas of a cove. In fact, the marina may serve as a conduit from the deep water to the shallow water in the back of the cove. So it certainly makes sense why these areas can be so good and hold muskies. If you launch your boat in the back of a cove, often times adjacent to a marina, make a habit of fishing your way out and around the marina to the main lake and you often won’t be disappointed.
I don’t know about you, but after a long winter and talking muskies with everyone at sportshows, I can’t wait to hit the water. The warm days of March, April and May are a prime time to get a jump on your season. Don’t let the size of a reservoir intimidate you this season. You know how to catch them, just keep the location principles simple and go hunt them down.