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May Muskie Tips

 

Muskie Population Densities
"Why Spring Muskie Fishing is Different"

I recently spent the better part of an hour on a long distance phone call. It was with an old acquaintance from my Clear Fork days, Mr. Richard Day of the ODNR. Many of you may not know it, but Dick is more familiar with many of your catches than you would ever imagine. You see he is the guy who receives and reads your Ohio Muskie scale samples and is directly involved in recovering Muskie eggs in the Spring at Ohio's Clear Fork Lake.

In putting together this month's article, I needed to put some data behind what I have already suspected for a number of years. As you well know by this point if you have been following my Spring Tips segments, that I have traditionally specialized in Spring Muskie fishing. I have been criticized from time to time, in a sense, because I've been told "the shallows only hold those little fish, big fish won't hold shallow", they say. Now I don't completely disagree with this opinion but with one main exception, that it does not apply to Spring Muskie fishing. Spring fish are shallow water residents. Comfort, food and spawning always without fail make the shallows a sure bet for finding Springtime Muskies. But I have always been annoyed at deep water enthusiasts that criticize the shallow water techniques we use for Spring fishing. And if you become an early season Muskie fanatic, get ready because some old veteran Summer fisherman will scoff at your new found success too.

I have taken 274 Muskies out of Ohio waters since 1978 and one Canadian fish. I have repeatedly seen a pattern in Spring fishing that invariably stays consistent each season. That pattern is that the majority of Muskies caught in the Spring shallows will be under 30" in length. Notice I said the majority, not all. On the surface, many will assess this as only smaller fish inhabit the shallow water of Spring, but nothing could be further from the truth. At my home lake here in East Central Ohio, Salt Fork Reservoir, I could safely say that 90% of every Muskie fisherman I have observed this Spring here at Salt Fork, is fishing deep water with deep diving baits the same way they would during July. The general reasoning I've been told, is that the BIG fish are still out in the deep. Well friend, if you believe that, then I've got some swamp land in Florida I'll sell you cheap!

As you will notice in our "Season Tally" section, between myself and my two regular fishing partners, we have boated 25 Ohio Muskies so far this season. Of those 25, 4 were in excess of 40" and three qualified as Ohio Huskie Muskies, the largest of which was 46 3/4" and 29 pounds. Our total season percentage of Muskies over 30" is running at about 25%. You can clearly see the overwhelming majority of fish caught were smaller but likewise you cannot deny the presence of the big fish either. There is my friends, contrary to what some traditional Summer Muskie men will tell you, a logical reason for these lop sided Spring catches.

In Talking at length with Dick Day of the ODNR and basically informally comparing notes (my catch experience plus his statistical info) we came up with the following population density assessment for a typical Ohio Muskie lake. This was NOT a study but a general assessment based upon our best estimation, drawing from catch experience statistical proof.

* 60% of the TOTAL Muskie population is made up of Muskies under 30".

* 30% of the total Muskie population is made up of Muskies 30" to 40".

* 10% or less of ALL resident Muskies are in the 40" and larger range.

Now ponder the above information for a moment. In the Spring where Muskies of ALL ages and sizes are crammed into the shallows along with Crappie, Large Mouth Bass, White Bass, Carp, Shad and a whole host of typical bait fish. Consider the above population densities and the FACT that juvenile Muskies in their growing prime, represent the most aggressive segment of the entire Muskie family. The bottom line fellow Muskie Men, is that if you fish consistently shallow for Spring Muskies, the majority of your fish will be smaller.

BUT NOT BECAUSE OF YOUR TECHNIQUE BUT BECAUSE MOST OF THE MUSKIE POPULATION AT LARGE IS MADE UP OF SMALLER FISH!

Yes you will have to muddle through the little guys to get to the big ones but believe me, it makes for a very enjoyable Spring season. You gain a great deal of experience at this time of year also in playing and handling Muskies for release. So to those of you who are taking advantage of your new found Spring game plan, stick to that game plan. Your next Muskie could be that life long trophy you've been looking for and don't be surprised if it doesn't come out of 5' of water!

Good fishing and see you on the lake!

Danny Wade

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