Catching musky is never easy. Any experienced angler can tell you why these fish are called “The fish of 10,000 casts.” Even in the best of conditions landing a musky is going to be a challenge. So where can you go to catch musky? What gives you the best chance of success?
Muskies can be caught from Southern Ontario Canada easy to New Hampshire and south as far as Tennessee. There are many Midwest lakes that are stocked with muskies, but deep cold water is ideal for musky fishing wherever you may be fishing for them.
How Do We Determine Where You Can Catch Muskie?
The muskie’s natural habitat tends to be more northern waters with a winter season, although not nearly as much as their northern pike cousin. Found mostly in the far southern regions of Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec in Canada, and as far south as northern Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia in the U.S., muskies can be found in many areas.
However, they are also a very picky fish that may be found in only very specific areas of a state. They also tend to prefer cold or deep water to warm water so even in warmers southern states where they’re found, they tend to be a bit smaller (for a muskie) and only found in certain areas in small numbers.
Look at Deeper Water
While northern pike tend to prefer grassy shores or reedy areas where they can wait in ambush (assuming it isn’t too warm) musky are not like that most of the time.
Musky love deeper, colder water. This is part of the reason they absolutely thrive around the Great Lakes. They like cold water and they like deeper areas.
This is the most likely place to find large muskie throughout the year.
Know Spawning Times
For many fish spawning and post spawn are crazy active times. The musky actually is the OPPOSITE. Spawning is very straining for musky, and so during spawn and immediately post spawn musky are going to be way less active.
Less likely to bite, less likely to feed, less likely to be reeled in. Knowing local spawn times will help you avoid those dead zones and go bass, trout, or catfish fishing until the local musky are back to being their ornery selves again.
Keep a Journal on Local Waters
While it’s common knowledge that each body of water is a little bit different, and fish in those areas have their own patterns, this is dialed up to 11 when it comes to musky.
If you are going to be fishing one area or one body of water for a long time, then you need to keep a journal. Time fished, lures used, success/failures, weather, temperature, location, moon.
Yes, the cycle of the moon has changed things immensely at certain bodies of water.
Hone Your Craft
Musky fishing is challenging in the best of times. Make sure you are using the best bait for musky. Not just what is generally accepted as a good option but also talking with long-time anglers to see what works in that specific area.
Predatory fish like musky and pike can get very picky based on what food sources are available in an area and that can affect your strategy when it comes to
Best Locations to Fish for Musky
While that habitat map up above gives you a good idea of where they can be found, there’s no denying that certain areas are famous for their muskie fishing.
These are the spots where you not only have a better chance of catching a musky because of healthier populations, but these are also spots that have been carefully managed so you have a shot at some truly giant musky.
Georgian Bay, Lake Huron
Every serious musky angler has heard the stories of the absolute monsters that have been pulled out of Georgian Bay. Not to mention the ones still there for the taking.
This is widely regarded as one of the best spots for trophy muskie fishing in the world and delivers the natural habitat, healthy musky populations, and good management that these fish need to continue to thrive long into the future.
Eagle Lake, Ontario
Look, there are many amazing musky spots through Ontario. Especially when you look at lakes that are actively stocked with musky and then managed.
But Eagle Lake sticks out even among those as a really impressive option that is known for some really incredible spotted musky fishing. You will fins a lot of long and lean bodied musky here, but a “lean” 30 lb musky will give you all the fight you can handle (and often more).
Lake Vermilion, Minnesota
This is a lake that was stocked with musky and while no one is quite sure why, musky just grow bigger here at a faster rate. There are a couple of places like this and Lake Vermilion is the poster child for it.
This is a lake where the musky grow big and the stocking efforts here can’t be seen as anything but a smashing success.
Bay of Green Bay
If you’re musky fishing in Wisconsin then the Bay of Green Bay is going to be the best destination. You will have to work a bit harder here as the musky population had to be protected for a long time, so the fishing is great because of a long-term dedicated to helping the once overfished population recover.
You will need to spend some more time working to find the big muskie here, but the populations have recovered nicely and offer anglers something you rarely see with musky: big muskies who sometimes run in packs.
Meaning if you land one trophy musky, you may hit several in one trip. Now that’s a deal!
Allegheny River, PA
You will want an experienced local guide to show you the ins and outs of these tricky fishing waters. Especially if you have never fished for musky in this river before.
Fishing south of the reservoir, there are some impressive muskie that can be found in the river, connected tributaries, and connected reservoirs. However, with a good guide who knows the waters well this can lead you to some surprisingly excellent musky fishing.
Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota
Not to be mistaken with Lac de Mille Lacs Ontario, where my family spent many summers chasing big northern pike and walleye every summer, when it comes to actual musky fishing it’s hard to find any non-Great Lakes location that gets as much praise as Mille Lacs Lake.
The muskie populations here are big, aggressive, and anglers have plenty of opportunities to bring in those trophy musky that they are chasing.
Natural Habitat Vs. Stocked
There are places not marked on the map where you might be able to find musky. The reasons for this is that the musky’s popularity with freshwater anglers makes them a great fish for stocking in close ecosystems. They offer the size and fight of a northern pike, but because they don’t breed nearly as much they aren’t going to overrun a local area of water the same way.
Most places you find in Iowa or Missouri, for example, where you might find a musky is because they have been stocked by a private owner of a small lake or the state’s DNR.
When you find tiger musky in a completely surprising spot (hello Pineview Reservoir, Utah) you know they are stocked. But that doesn’t mean the fishing isn’t great.
If they can thrive in that body of water then you have a chance to catch plenty of musky there!
Where to Find Muskies in the Lake
Each lake is going to be different depending on a variety of factors like water clarity, temperature, and overall location of favorite baitfish. Same applies to a river, reservoir, or any body of water.
However, by understanding what musky generally prefer you should be able to pinpoint the areas on any body of water that are the most likely to provide you with fishing success.
When you’re fishing the elusive musky you want to see a few things:
- Clear water
- Cold water
- Structures like deep weed systems in cold water or rock shelves in deep water
- Deeper water that meets these conditions yet offers shelter and baitfish
If you keep an eye out for these things you are going to be on top of the areas where muskies are most likely to be found.
No Guarantees with Muskies
They are called the fish of 10,000 casts for a reason. You can do everything right, have been fishing a musky heavy area for years and know it like the back of your hand, but you never have a guarantee of getting a hit even if you do everything right.
However, by following the information in this guide you will be giving yourself the best chance of learning where you can catch muskie and thus giving you a chance to bring in that trophy sized muskellunge that has been evading you!