By the Time you’re reading this article it has already started happening. The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer and the Muskies are enjoying the cooling water in the shallows.

Late August and September is the time of year that originally got me hooked on chasing these elusive fish. What started as a lot of bites happening at the end of long casts from the outside of the weed edge, turned into an all out learning curve of where and why muskies go shallow this time of year.

The Why part is a theory of mine, based on the fact that Muskies are cool water fish, meaning they thrive in water temps less than 72º. As the days get shorter in August, we will generally experience our first cold front of the fall. This first cold front cools the water from the top down, making everything 6 ft. and less, the most comfortable water on the lake if you’re a Muskie. When this happens, it is easy for me to think that every muskie on the lake is in 6 ft. of water or less. Regardless of the lake that you fish, there will always be a noticeable migration of baitfish into the shallows also, that is a key piece to this puzzle. On Metro Lakes like Minnetonka, the lake shiners are everywhere jumping out of the way of your bucktail. On northern lakes the clouds of young of the year perch are easy to see on your side imaging , and also around the boat on a calm day.

The Where is pretty simple…anywhere shallow. This may sound vague, so I’ll do my best to simplify my approach to find muskies in shallow water. In the Metro, we have a lot of milfoil, that hides most of the shallow rocks present in our lakes. This may seem like a nuisance, but it can really narrow the search area down this time of year. Inside almost every weed flat is an edge, where the weeds meet the shoreline, this “inside edge” is where muskies live in September.

On Northern Lakes, sand is the number one attractor of Muskies when the water cools. Finding sand can take a little more time on the water but once you find these areas you find the Muskies.

Generally any bay or more importantly the space between 2 rocky points (cups) have sand somewhere. Reeds are another great indicator of sand. Regardless of where you are fishing, it is important to remember that Muskies are ambush predators, and will almost always be hiding waiting to ambush. The hiding spots for a shallow fish can be anything, the inside weed edge, a dock, reeds, big boulders, or even a raft. The key is to work these areas targeting those points of interest with your casts.

Now that you have found the areas where shallow Muskies live, the trick like always is to catch them.

The lures fall under 2 categories, Challenging or Irresistible.

Challenging is my favorite Muskie lure of all time, the Bucktail. Day in and day out a bucktail will be your best fish catcher when the fish are shallow. Tis the season for speed. like, as fast as you can reel! The reason this is effective is because the strike zone of a fish when sitting in shallow water is from floor to ceiling, and when the water cools the fish feel as good as we do when the dog days of summer are over, making them way more likely to accept the challenge of catching a burnt bucktail.

My all time favorite for speed is a Musky Mayhem Showgirl, or a Cowgirl Jr., other top producers are the single bladed Ghosttails, or a Blue Fox Super Vibrax.

Irresistible to a muskie this time of year is a topwater. When the surface temp is in the upper 70s to low 80s it seems the Muskies view it as a danger zone. When that surface temp cools, anything that moves on the surface is a potential food source for a fish. My go-to topwater the last few years have been a Big Mamma Lures – Psycho Sis’tr and a close 2nd is the  Lake X Lures – Cannonball Jr.  Both of these baits are prop style baits that run well at slow/quiet speeds when calm, and faster/ louder speeds in waves .

 

A couple more keys to shallow water success include a very solid figure 8. I like to anticipate the fish following every time my lure approaches the boat. It is very important to execute the first turn of the figure 8 with a very quite upper body. I like to slowly bend my back as my bucktail approaches, and to only move my hands until the Lure and fish have turned to the right. once the focus of that fish has shifted aw ay from me, I extend down and really speed it up, until stalling it on the high outside turn. You never get as many chances around on the figure 8 in shallow water, so I will give the fish an immediate chance to eat the bait on the first or second turn, knowing I will probably not get a chance to go around more than 2 or 3 times. The other most important thing is stealth, I like to approach shallow areas quietly shutting off the big motor further away than normal when going into a spot. I like to run my trolling motor at a constant slower speed versus intermittent high speed bursts. Library voices when its calm , and no headlamps shinning into the area after dark.

When I first started muskie fishing I always heard Late Fall was the time to catch big muskies. Upon further research, early Fall has been my most productive time on the water for 50 inch plus fish.

John Hoyer,

instagram: @johnhoyerfish

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john@hoyerfishing.com

About The Author

John Hoyer

Hi, my name is John Hoyer and I have been passionate about fishing since I could hold a fishing pole. Whether it’s trolling for walleyes on the great lakes, burning bucktails on Vermilion for muskies, skipping a senko under a dock for largemouth, deep cranking for smallmouth on Mille Lacs, going to the end of the ice belt in search of a 2 lb bluegill, or drilling hundreds of holes a day on Devils Lake in search of perch, I have always been excited about the challenge that is patterning fish. I’m a contender in the Cabela’s NWT, a part-time multi-species Guide from Lake Vermilion to Mille Lacs Lake to the Minneapolis Metro Area waters and I’m always anticipating the next big bite, whether it be on soft water or on top of ice. Fishing is my passion and I love competing, as well as educating and helping other anglers catch the fish of their dreams. My adventures on the water are usually well documented and I love sharing these epic fishing experiences with others.