What Is the Best Time of Day to Catch Muskie?


Muskies are known as “the fish of 10,000 casts” for a reason and those tricky, finnicky freshwater monsters can be difficult to catch even in the best of times. Even if your Figure 8 is on point. Because of that you want to make sure you are focusing your time an energy on the water fishing for muskies during the days when they are most likely to be biting.

The best time of day to catch muskies are around dawn and the extreme early morning, as well as dusk into the evening/early night. This is because muskies love cooler water and are sluggish in warm water. The one exception is winter, when fishing in early afternoon is the best time to try to ice fish for muskies.

Catching more muskies isn’t just about getting those casts in during the dawn/dusk periods when they are most active, but it’s also about setting yourself up with the right lures, spots, and fishing tactics to get those tricky fish worked up to strike.

dawn boat fishing in the morning mist
With muskies often the early bird really does get the worm.

When Should You Fish for Big Muskies?

Use the following strategies with smart use of your time on the water, and you will be able to start catching more (and bigger) muskies.

Keep in mind that local areas may have slightly different times.

Generally speaking:

Water temperature is a GREATER factor than exact time of day. The time of day matters based on season and the average water temperature as a result.

Muskies like cooler water, which is why they’re often found in thick reeds and foliage while near shore, much like their cousins the northern pike, as well as in deeper shelves and rock outcroppings.

You find a deep water ledge around 20 feet down where the walleyes love to swim and you’ll find your best spot for possibly getting a muskie to bite during the middle of summer.

Because of this, the middle of the day is virtually always the worst time to fish for muskies, with the notable exception of winter.

Best Times to Fish for Muskies in Spring

The time in spring will make a huge difference as to when muskies are the most active and the most likely to bite. Just after ice break muskies tend to be more sluggish and still getting back into the full flow of things again. Because of this, right after ice break tends to be a poor time for muskie season.

As a few days pass after ice break the action tends to pick up.

In the spring muskies will be towards the shallows. This is because like most bigger ambush predator fish, they like cover and they’re going to head to where the food is.

And for muskies there are a LOT of fish that qualify as food in those shallows.

Those early morning hours past dawn are when muskies tend to be most active throughout the majority of spring in most places, especially as you get a week or two away from ice break.

This doesn’t mean they’re not still the fish of 10,000 casts but by being picky about when you spend most of your time casting for them you will get better results.

The other time in spring is during dusk. This is assuming normal spring weather where the water had some time to warm up but then is cooling down again.

Muskies come out to feed again at dusk and are active going into the very early evening.

If you’re in the middle of a cold snap, it might become one of the rare times where casting out in early afternoon might be just as effective. Or you may find muskies just sluggish as a whole at that point.

Best time to fish for muskies in spring: Pre-dawn, dawn, and hour past dawn in the mornings, as well as the hour preceding and leading into dusk at night.

Best Times to Fish for Muskies in Summer

Muskies don’t like heat. Because of this summer is pretty much universally considered one of the worst months for muskie fishing in most locations.

In summer if you can’t fish at night then you prefer days that are cloudy or rainy, and many anglers swear the best muskie fishing takes place when you’ve had several cool, cloudy, rainy or “sprinkling” days in a row. This can lower the water temperature of a lake several degrees and make it far more comfortable for large muskies, who will take that opportunity to feed.

Muskies don’t like heat at all. Did we mention that?

That also opens up an opportunity: night fishing.

Many of the muskie fishing guides I’ve talked to swear by night fishing in the summer. It’s the only time the water temperature can drop dramatically and although big fish generally prefer to feed during the light changes, big muskie and to some extent big pike are willing to feed at night.

You always need to take the proper precautions and have equipment for safe night fishing, but this is a great time to fish for muskies at night.

Best time to fish for muskies in summer: Night, although in some upper northern climates there are still moments right in the pre-dawn/dawn or dusk that can provide moments of success.

Consider Skipping Summer Muskie Fishing

Depending on your location, there are many places where the Department of Fish & Game (or your state’s equivalent) who would suggest skipping summer muskie fishing, or at least doing so during especially hot days during mid-day times.

Why?

Muskies have a reputation for fighting like the devil when you have them on the hook, and they are famous for fighting themselves to death.

This has led to many, many instances where an angler intended to practice good catch and release but the fish has died by the time it gets to the boat or dies of exhaustion when released back into the very warm water – which only further shocks its system.

Night fishing takes care of a lot of these potential issues, if that is a viable option for you.

Best Times to Fish For Muskies in Fall

It’s widely understood that fall is the time for trophy muskie fishing! The hot summer months are passing away, the water is cooling to a more comfortable level, and muskies kick into high frenzy feeding to put on as much fat as they can to get through the winter.

Musky fishing in the fall is very dependent on water temperature in an area, and you’re watching for when the water temps hit the low to mid fifties. Before that time you’ll find mornings, evenings, and nights should all be a good time for fishing for muskies.

Once it gets a bit colder as you’re barreling towards winter, at that point you finally get to catch muskies going out during the afternoon. Because at that point the water is starting to get too cold in the early mornings or later evenings to be ideal for peak muskie fishing.

That said, because the autumn season is as close to a feeding frenzy as it gets, you are consistently going to get better results in the fall compared to many other seasons, as well.

Best time to fish for muskies in autumn: In early fall you want to fish during mornings, evenings, and nights. As it gets colder and water temperatures drop to the 50’s start fishing the late mornings/early afternoons instead.

Best Times to Ice Fish for Muskies in Winter

While muskies tend to like water cold, there is a such thing as too cold. After the heavy feeding in fall, muskies tend to gear down for winter. There are strong groups of anglers who love ice fishing for pickerel or ice fishing for northern pike, but it’s harder to get muskies to react to more traditional ice fishing techniques so because of that fishing for musky in winter can be rough.

But afternoons give you the best chance in this case.

Best time to fish for muskies in winter: Afternoon to mid-afternoon

Best Times to Fish for Muskies – Concluded

As you can see, the time of day matters when it comes to fishing for muskies. This doesn’t mean that hooking a musky during the middle of a hot summer day is impossible, however it is definitely going to be a lot harder than if you go hunting for big muskies when they’re actually active and ready to feed.

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Pike Fishing Fanatic

If there's pike fishing to be fond in the area, I'm all about it! Dad's had us fishing since we were five and that's a major part of our outdoor adventures to this day! While I don't get out as much as my days in Canada or Alaska, I still grab the rod for some good northern fishing when the opportunity arises!

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