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New Tackle Regulation Affects Muskie Anglers

Muskie Tips & Tricks


New Tackle Regulation Affects Muskie Anglers

....Live suckers shine for fall muskies, but new regulations will change their legal use.


By Adam M. Glickman

The first three weeks of August brought a much needed break from the scorching weather of July. Water temperatures began to drop rapidly across MN and WI as soon as the nights cooled. Unusually high water temperatures reduce rapidly once severely hot weather breaks. Nature has balance and limiting factors, and therefore unusually high summer water temperatures have the potential to reduce much more rapidly than do normal summer water temperatures. It takes a lot of steady hot weather to maintain water in WI and MN well above 80 F. Once the heat breaks, the water quickly goes back to normal.
The result of the cool down was much better fishing for me and those I fish with, and I don’t think we were alone in that. On August 12th, we found water as cool as 72 F in a west metro lake. On August 19th, we found water as cool as 66 F in a northern WI river. Both water bodies had active muskies. The trick to finding the best muskie action this time of year (especially after a long hot summer) is finding which water bodies are cooling to the low 70’s F and below. The muskies will be getting very active after lying low during the heat. The hotter the water body became, the better the cool down bite will be.
September may be on the cool side or on the hot side, it is one of those crap shoot months and as such is hard to predict. Regardless, it will bring good action. Adapting to whatever comes will be the key to success. The best way to figure out how to adapt is by adapting to water temperature. Water temperature will dictate movements, location, and effective tactics.
New regulations are continually affecting the means and methods by which we fish. This is especially the case for those who fish muskies in MN using live bait. Sucker fishing for muskies in MN is about to come into full swing, and regulations new for 2012 have changed the methods by which this can legally be done. Recently, I had a telephone conversation regarding these changes with CAPT James Dunn the NW Region ENF Manager with the MN-DNR Enforcement Division. In subsequent email correspondence, Captain Dunn officially answered some questions I designed to shed some light on this subject. The following are said questions and answers:

Question: Could you please confirm that a legal quick strike rig for use in live bait fishing for muskies shall measure no more than 9" from front to rear hook, a length which is measured as the rig is spread to its maximum distance on a flat surface and not as it lies in use on the baitfish.

Answer: Here is the precise rule language: 6262.0100 Subp. 6. Angling tackle.
A. An angler may have up to three single or multiple hooks on a line used as a single tackle configuration attached to the end of a fishing line. The total configuration from the first hook to the last hook must be nine inches or less. Live, artificial, preserved, or dead bait is allowed. This configuration is not considered an artificial bait or fly.
B. An angler may have one additional single or multiple hook on a line as part of an artificial bait as long as it is within three inches of the artificial bait.
C. Except for a single artificial bait or three artificial flies, an angling rig with more than one hook is not allowed on designated trout streams and lakes.
To be considered a single tackle configuration the hooks are on a line attached to the end of a fishing line. If the hooks are not arranged so as to be on the same line the terminal tackle would not meet the definition of a single tackle configuration. Hooks on separate “droppers” would not meet the definition of a single tackle configuration.

Question: Are the use of "droppers" on a quick strike rig illegal?

Answer: In evaluation of what is legal terminal tackle it is important to utilize the description as provided in rule for legal angling tackle. To be considered a single tackle configuration the hooks are on a line attached to the end of a fishing line. If the hooks are not arranged so as to be on a line the terminal tackle would not meet the definition of a single tackle configuration. Hooks on separate “droppers” would not meet the definition of a single tackle configuration.

Question: Could those using "droppers" be fined for such a violation?

Answer: The use of unlawful angling tackle could result in a summons, which could result in a fine and court costs.
That concludes the email correspondence portion of this article. Basically, what I think this means is that all of the hooks on a quick strike rig must be arranged on one single leader. Rigs that have a single hook, rubber band, or other device that affixes to the nose of the sucker and branch from there with more than one leader or "dropper" with other hooks at the ends are no longer legal. It is possible they never were, regardless of attaching a blade as has been done for years in MN in attempt to create a legal rig. That topic is for another article though. Unfortunately, most rigs that have been designed to effectively and safely use suckers for muskies fall into the multiple "dropper" category and therefore are unlawful to use. Since this style of rig is the most common, it is also the style most available to MN consumers.
These new regulations will mean a lot to manufacturers, retailers, and consumers of muskie quick strike rigs. I think the total ramifications are yet unclear, and only time will tell how this whole thing will play out. My purpose for this topic is simply to inform everyone of what these new regulations actually mean, as their exact meaning and even existence were unknown to most.

Adam fishes the Professional Muskie Angler Circuit (Pro-MAC), is a multi-species guide, and runs a multimedia website. Visit him at www.honestmusky.com

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Muskie Tips & Tricks

By Ted Takasaki and Scott Richardson
It’s just fine with muskie expert Trent Lehner that many anglers chasing big fish concentrate on big waters like Mille Lacs, Lake Vermillion, or Leech Lake. Certainly, Mille Lacs and Vermillion have been giving up monster muskies for years. Still, ask Lehner where he likes to fish and he’ll rattle off names like Little Boy, Wabedo and Mantrap. Those are the kinds of smaller, lesser-known, less-pressured waters he likes to focus on, and he gives nothing up in the size department when he does.
Over the July 4th weekend a few years ago, Lehner boated a 55-inch fish from a 1,400-acre lake about an hour north of Brainerd. He’d been chasing that fish for four years.
It was his second 55-inch muskie in a year.
“Those fish (in smaller lakes) are a little bit smarter,” says Lehner, “but if you keep reading about muskie fishing, learn new things, it pays off in the long run if you put in the effort. I’m having my best year yet by staying on small lakes.”
Convincing people to share the names of small lakes that produce big muskies isn’t easy. Nor should it be. Trophy muskies are a fragile resource that must be protected. But Lehner gives us a hint. The process, for him, starts by paying attention to postings on the Internet, reading muskie magazines, map books, and Department of Natural Resources profiles of every lake he can. He mainly focuses on the results of fishing surveys.
“How many fish were caught in the DNR survey nets?” he asks. “If it has great numbers, you’ll catch lots of fish, and eventually you’ll catch a big fish.”
Next, Lehner targets the lakes at peak times, like full and new moon phases. That’s when the big fish are more likely to give away their location. He’ll return at off-peak times, too, to see if the muskie will follow his lure and confirm that’s where she lives.
Knowing her address is at least half the challenge.
“If you raise it,” says Lehner, “then you know that fish is a home body.”
The specific areas where Lehner targets his efforts will depend upon the habitat of the lake. The choice boils down to weeds or rocks. With weeds, it’s a matter of identifying edges and casting parallel along them. A GPS helps by drawing the outline of the breakline (dropoff) on the screen. By looking at the display, you can see points and inside turns that hold fish. Look for places where two kinds of weeds meet, signaling a change in bottom content that can enrich the food chain at that point.
If big muskies still play hide and seek, Lehner moves inside the edges and fishes over the top edge of the weeds. Again, he looks for places where a different type of weed may rise higher in the water column than the surrounding bed.
Here’s another key to watch for: muskies in weeds will sometimes be very aggressive in eating a lure. But sometimes they’ll just swim after it and close their mouth over it. To an angler on the other end, the sensation can feel like nothing more than when a lure gets fouled in a weed.
“Set the hook on everything,” advises Lehner.
With rocks, it’s not enough just to have gravel. Lehner looks for places that feature boulders where muskies hide in between the cracks that separate them to ambush prey. He casts so his lure finds the crack, he lets it fall and then he reels it right back over any waiting fish’s head.
“They are just waiting,” he says, “for something to pass by.”
He likes to keep the boat in about 13 to 15 feet of water and cast to about 7 feet. When he feels his lure contacted a rock, out comes the hook sharpening file. Hunting muskies over 50 inches is no time to lose a fish from a dull hook.
Lehner starts the year using smaller bucktails, but quickly moves to larger bucktails and spinnerbaits like the M&G. Rad dogs go deep. M&Gs are for shallower areas, he said.
Bulldogs are a terrific go-to bait when nothing else seems to work, he said. Let them fall to the weed tops and jerk them back to the boat. “They can’t resist it,” Lehner said.
He tries to gauge the mood of a big fish that follows. Slow, lethargic fish are left alone for another day or a time when conditions improve, such as the approach of a rainstorm or a change in wind direction and strength. Some people swear by low-light conditions, but Lehner isn’t one of them. His 55-inch fish have come in bright sunlight.
One final tip that can help turn followers into biters. When a “hot” fish turns off his jerkbait, Lehner tosses back an M&G. “They’ll just crush it,” he said.
Note: Takasaki is teaming up with Anderson Trucking Service to offer fishing tips to the company’s drivers, along with the chance to win all-expenses-paid fishing trips with the Hall of Fame angler. Ted’s Tips are found at www.drive4ats.com, along with information on joining this industry leader, founded in 1955. Interested drivers can also call 1-855-JOIN-ATS.

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