It doesn’t matter what season it is, David Hebeda loves fishing for muskies. But David Hebeda knows his approach to catching these large, freshwater North American fish must change with the seasons in order to be an effective angler.
After years of catching muskies and studying their behavior, David Hebeda understands how their movement and location at any given season is never the same throughout the year. But just like any other fish, muskies follow seasonal patterns that make them easier to track and fish for.
To help you learn the varying behavior of muskies throughout each season, here’s a quick guide from David Hebeda.
Early Spring: This time of year is referred to by many anglers as “Ice-Out” season because it is when the ice from winter first starts to melt and the muskies transition out of their winter behavior. The surface water temperature isn’t quite high enough for muskies to come up and feed in the shallow flats, but they do begin to move toward where they’re going to spawn.
Prespawn: As the water warms up with the season, muskies move to warmer and shallower water. Female muskies feed heavily during this time to give their bodies enough nutrients and energy for their spawn.
Spawn: Once the water reaches the optimal temperature for spawning, which is typically between 55-65 degrees for muskies, it will be very difficult to catch one of these fish. However, no two musky are alike and even if you think you’re fishing during a time when most are spawning there still could be plenty that are still in prespawn, which is a great time for fishing.
Post Spawn: After the spawn, female muskies are usually very lethargic as they recover. Sometimes hitting them right in the nose with your bait isn’t even enough during this time. However, males remain aggressive during this period.
Summer: Water can get too hot for Muskie fishing in the summer. The general rule of thumb is that you don’t fish for muskies when the water temperature surpasses 80 degrees. Muskie won’t typically feed in the middle of hot summer days. During summer Muskie fishing it is wise to go very early or very late in the day.
Early Fall: Once the weather starts to cool down, muskies move from their summer spots to shallow water again. Weed flats and edges of lakes are the best place to find these fish during this time of year.
Turnover: Turnover is the time of year when lakes “flip” their water. As the weather gets colder, the bottom layer of water in the lake becomes warmer than the top layer that had been heated up during the summer. The bottom layer rises as the top layer sinks, which stirs up all kinds of sediment and weeds. Muskie fishing can be tough during this time.
Late Fall: Just when fishing season is winding down for most species, late fall makes for the best time to go fishing for muskies. As Muskie get ready for winter months their metabolisms slow down and they get bigger and fatter. This doesn’t make them eat more or attack bait more aggressively, but it does make for some bigger catches.