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In MN, some of the musky lakes that produced big fish action at an above average rate a few years ago have slowed down considerably.  I have heard several theories as to why this is, but I think it has more to do with angling pressure than anything else.  The popularity of MN musky lakes has hit fever pitch, and angling pressure is beginning to boil over.

I have heard theories centered around forage fluctuations and the effect these fluctuations have on the muskies’ willingness to strike artificial lures.  An example would be that a boom in the yellow perch population has caused muskies to relocate and loose interest in artificial lures.  This to me is absurd for three reasons.  First, MN muskies are notorious for using shallow structural edges the majority of the time.  Certainly they will drop deeper or suspend from time to time, but this would not account for an entire season of decreased action.  Second, these lakes are so full of a variety of forage that muskies are never dependent on one specie, at least not for long enough to throw off an entire season’s action.  Third, no matter how much forage is present in a lake, muskies will still strike well made presentations during feeding windows.  I fish musky lakes that are full of panfish and carp near my home.  These lakes have thousands of adult carp, of which the females produce between one and two million eggs every year.  In the face of all those panfish and juvenile carp, I still get good action under the right conditions.

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Weather is another scapegoat for a bad season, and while extremes of weather and unstable weather can turn muskies off for several weeks at a time in extreme cases, the muskies will come back on when conditions improve, and often in a big way.  I have never had weather ruin an entire season, and I always have a good bounce back when conditions improve.

Lack of action is also rarely a sign of depletions in size structure and density of a particular musky population.  In the past, before wide spread catch and release ethic, this was a common problem.  Today, natural die offs will rarely occur.  Also, several poor years of natural reproduction in waters that rely solely on natural reproduction to sustain a musky population can cause problems, but most MN muskie lakes are intensively stocked to prevent this.  So populations are almost always healthy.

What has caused the reduction in action is most likely that the fish are becoming pressured and educated.  The MN musky programs are very young.  Fast growing Leech Lake strain muskies were stocked in large fertile lakes that were full of all of the appropriate forage for every stage of musky growth.  This plan was well researched and employed and it worked.  The lakes quickly became full of big muskies, that for their size had seen relatively few presentations (due only in part to their young age).  The many lakes that had no muskies prior to stocking also received little pressure until the fish reached a size that would attract any significant angling pressure.  Therefore, muskies reached adulthood and beyond in these lakes with little exposure to musky lures.  So compared to the rest of North American musky water, the lakes had a larger amount of big fish and the individual big musky was much less educated.  These combined factors made for the comparatively excellent action that was experienced for a while.  Now, in the face of all the pressure that that action attracted, the muskies have gotten smarter and tougher to catch.  They are still there and bigger than ever, they are just tougher to catch.  MN still has better all around big fish potential than anywhere in the nation and possibly North America.

The new hot lure syndrome is indicative of over pressured fish.  One hot lure is used to death and the bite on it cools off, until the new band wagon comes rolling through town and things pick up again until the muskies are wise to that one as well.  The night bite phenomenon is also a huge indicator of the over abundance of pressure.  Those huge fish would still bite during the day if they weren’t so heavily pressured.  The big muskies will also grow wise to slow rolling double tens under the cover of darkness, and a new approach will become necessary.  In late fall, I can fish a weedline with live bait that has been pounded all day with artificial lures and take big fish strikes.  It is just a matter of showing them something they haven’t seen or looks better or both.

It is natural for musky fishermen to hope that their own pursuits are not causing the slower action.  Also, many don’t like to think that muskies are really that smart and adaptable.  However, in the face of all evidence, I think these are the only reasonable conclusions.

 

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One thought on “Pressure Cooker

  1. Dave Frank says:

    Adam,
    I have seen your video on YouTube on how to sharpen hooks with a Dremel tool. I’ve been practicing and I think I’m getting the hang of it. I do pretty well with a file and stone, but when hooks are really dull or hard to get to because of the angle, the Dremel will shine.
    I live in west-central Illinois. I can’t get your TV show here. Are the past episodes available on YouTube?
    thanks,
    Dave Frank

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