Opening Day - Northwoods Musky Story

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Sam Ubl
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Opening Day - Northwoods Musky Story

Unread postby Sam Ubl » Wed Mar 17, 2010 1:55 am

As I eased out from the Squirrel Lake launch site near Minocqua, Wisconsin, I was immediately captivated by the beauty of this new morning. The air was cooler than it had been the past several days there in the Northwood’s, and a light fog was slowly dissipating from a warm glassy surface.

While the sky seemed clear above me, a front that had been creeping it’s way from the west had closed the distance over night, and I anticipated its arrival by late morning. It was opening day of musky season in the northern half of the state and I wasn’t about to let the incoming weather ruin my day. I decided right then and there I would use it to my advantage.

I cut the engine with enough momentum to glide me closer to a reed bed I had seen some commotion and lowered the trolling motor. I knew the crappies were hanging around this type of cover after listening in on a conversation between two locals in the bar the night before – bingo.

As I closed the distance to within casting range of the reeds, I again noticed a disruption on the surface and was impressed to see two low-forty inch fish swimming side by side just ahead of me before darting back in for another meal.
Water clarity is considerably clearer on this southern end of the lake and a
smorgasbord of lure options flipped through my mind like a slot machine. I narrowed my choices down to a couple of options: 1) A 6” Purple Phantom colored Storm Kickin’ Minnow, 2) A Pearl Shallow Regular Bulldawg, 3) a Crappie colored glider, or 4) a White/Silver Blue Fox Tandem Hook bucktail.

There were a couple reasons for my color options. First, I was presuming crappie
were the reason for the commotion these early season muskies were stirring around in those reeds and I wanted to imitate them. Secondly, taking the water clarity and while short-lived, clear skies into consideration, I knew that bright colors would be seen the easiest – A scientific theory known as the “Purkinje Shift”. Why not utilize this opportunity to imitate a baitfish with its natural white/silver colors while the brilliance of such a color can most effective?

The Purkinje shift, for those of you not familiar with it, defines the light transfer of objects through the retina in different light conditions. The petal of a red rose, for example, contrast greatly in bright conditions, where the red is brilliant compared to the green stem and leaves. In dull conditions, however, the green leaves steal the attention of the naked eye, while the red rose petals now appear dim and indistinguishable. This is an effect that not only humans can experience, but some vertebra as well, including fish.

Often times, when I fish musky under overcast skies or in the fading daylight and into the dark, I will choose colors that coincide with the effects of the Purkinje Shift. For instance, if I’m throwing blades, I like to have bright colors and shiny silver under blue-bird skies. However, in the waning moments of daylight, I often switch to copper, gold or brass. Regarding skirt colors of bucktails or paintjobs on hard baits, including soft rubbers and top water, I will switch to grays, blacks, browns and other naturalistic colors like dirty yellows when darkness is upon me.

Musky and Northern Pike both have eyes set on top of their heads, thus from below the surface and looking up at the sky, any color will template a silhouette, so why not increase its contours for easier underwater visibility? Much the same, you could test this theory by holding your hand up to the sky. When it’s overcast, mentally record the defined outline of your hands silhouette, and compare your
results to that of a sunny day. Notice the difference?

In the circumstance I found myself in there by the reed bed that opening morning on Squirrel Lake, I began with a search-bait, the white bucktail, to coincide with my run-and-gun approach and see who was home. By my third cast I had already enticed one active follow, replicated by yet another, which I deemed to be the same mid-forties fish. I left that spot for the next, logging a waypoint into my GPS to remind me later that I had some unfinished business to attend to.

As is often the case, a severe shift in barometric pressure can create active windows of opportunity for not only musky, but other species as well. I figured that unless I found my niche` somewhere else doing something different, I would take advantage of my early action and target the fish I had seen earlier, but I might take a different approach the next time around.

I saw several more fish throughout the next couple of hours, so I knew I was getting their attention - my color must have been okay, but what was the draw back?

It’s easy to stay with a lure you’ve been moving fish with because there’s
always the thought in the back of your mind that maybe one of these window shoppers will eat, but musky fishing can sometimes make a gambler out of the most cautious of us all. It was time to make a switch.

I had been so caught up in all the activity that I was ignoring the overhanging clouds that had quietly rolled in. Soft thunder rolled, pairing quite nicely with the chilling call of a solo loon who had been following me and becoming more of a friend than a loner. The waning fog had lifted by now and a new breeze created a light chop across much of the lake. The pressure was dropping significantly now and I new this would be the time to not only seize an opportunity, but create one.

I dwelled on my next lure choice as I made my way back to where I started the morning. I had all day, but the weather was becoming more and more unpredictable and I pondered its potential.

The fish were chasing today, but why weren’t they eating? Perhaps I needed to slow it down a notch and pick a lure that would hang in their strike zone longer. I pulled out a 6” completely black Suick with yellow eyes. I quietly slid into position once I neared the reed bed and started casting to see if the big girl was still home. I made my first pass without a follow, so I made the pass again, this time from a different angle. The thunder was growing louder now and a chill
ran down my spine as the loon I had befriended earlier called out as if to wish me luck.

It was almost instantaneously after the loon had sounded off when I saw her again. She was coming in hot, gills flared and ready to eat with that big mouth slightly opened, but at the last second before I went into my turn, she flashed off. I drew circles boat-side, but it seemed hopeless until out of no where, she came out from beneath the boat and simply crushed the Suick. 47" later, success. . . Finally.

It’s stories like these that make all the difference in the world after several years of recording outings. Every year I did into my logs and review notes from previous years for the current climate and conditions to prepare my mind before going on the hunt.

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