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Fishing Articles

Flowage Musky Fishing
by John H. Myhre

Whenever avid musky hunters gather and talk turns to famous musky lakes, often names like the Chippewa flowage, Moose lake, and several other flowages come up. Actually in northern Wisconsin many of our most popular musky lakes are flowages. The popularity and fame of these flowages is due to several things, but mostly it is the great musky fishing they provide. Abundant forage and excellent reproduction along with lots of structure and fish holding cover make many flowages top notch musky fisheries. Besides these qualities most of them also have dark or stained water. This further helps to make them consistent producers under a wide range of light and weather conditions. The best part is that these musky factories are not exclusive to the state of Wisconsin.

The term "flowage" is more commonly used there but really it is just another name for a low land reservoir. These man made reservoirs exist in many states throughout the country. Yes, there really are "flowages" in states other than Wisconsin and some of them can provide great musky fishing. However, just finding and catching muskies from flowages can often be somewhat different. What you have learned about catching muskies from rivers or clear natural lakes may not always be the best way to catch them from a flowage. Learning how to catch muskies anywhere is not always easy. Unless you are extremely lucky, knowledge is the key to consistently catching muskies.

Until only a few years ago this was knowledge that was most often gained only through years of experience on the water. However, over just the last decade musky fishing has seen many changes. Just one of which is this knowledge and how we obtain it. We have seen a tremendous exchange of information and knowledge through television, radio, seminars, and magazines. This has made the learning process a lot easier for many newcomers to the sport of musky fishing.

Nevertheless, experience still remains the best teacher. The more of it we can draw upon the faster and easier it is for us to learn. For this article I decided to draw not only upon my own experience but also that of a few fellow guides from the Hayward Wisconsin area. This accumulation of tips comes from decades of experience guiding and musky fishing on the waters of the famous Chippewa flowage and other flowage water by some top guides.

Flowage musky location; In the spring musky guide Dave Dorazio says he spends most of his time fishing up in the north end of the Chippewa flowage. The north end tends to warm the fastest because of more sunlight exposure and prevailing warm southerly winds. The warmer water promotes the seasons first weed growth, and this is one of the key things Dave looks for. Don't overlook the fact that shallow snaggy bays and stump fields will often attract muskies before the weeds come up though. If the area has both shallow wood and new weed growth that is even better. Dave feels that even though there are fish in other areas of the lake, most often the percentages of finding active muskies in that warmer water is greater.

As the water warms and spring gives way to summer, muskies start to move out of these areas. Now main lake and shoreline connected bars that are near deeper water start producing musky action. By now most musky hunters are aware of the importance of deep water or the river channel in relation to summer musky location. For Dave Dorazio not only is deep water of importance but also "big water". He feels that a spot will often be more productive when it is located near a big area of deep water as opposed to near a small deep hole.

While some of the larger main lake bars are often good musky spots, they also usually draw considerably more fishing pressure. Veteran fishing guide Tony Bralick feels that often the more pressure these spots get the harder it is to catch a musky from them. On flowages where pressure is high he suggests that you look for smaller spots that are located away from these popular spots. Small shoreline connected bars can often be found by simply studying the shoreline for protruding areas. If a bar is located near deep water and has either stumps or weed cover it probably has the potential to attract a musky.

Night fishing is yet another way you can up your odds when fishing pressure is high. Although night fishing is getting more popular these days there still are far less anglers and boat traffic on most lakes after dark. Dave Dorazio feels that even with its increasing popularity night fishing is still one of the best ways to get a chance at catching a big musky. According to him the same places you look for muskies during the day are often productive night spots as well. However, he says you will often find the muskies shallower than during the day. While the edges of the bars tend to concentrate them during the day they will often move right up on top after dark. The best hours for night fishing? Both Dave and one of the original flowage musky guides, Bruce Tasker, feel that anytime between evening until around midnight are often the most productive hours during the hot summer months.

In the mid summer when the water temperatures reach their highest many musky hunters start to think deeper water. While deeper might sometimes be better, Dave Dorazio advises that on flowages you should not overlook going shallower. During the hottest days muskies will often get right up in the really thick "slop" where you might not expect to find them. Every summer Dave catches some nice fish by fishing over the top of this "slop" with bucktails or top water lures. He says that even though fishing in the slop is tough, its usually well worth the trouble. Virtually all these guides said one of the biggest mistakes they often see musky hunters make is fishing too deep during the summer period.

With the arrival of fall and cooler water temperatures you will see the muskies move deeper in most flowages. Areas with deep stumps, wood, or man made fish cribs along the old river channels start to produce action. Musky guide Bruce Shumway offers this tip. In many flowages you can find large, expansive deep water stump flats located just off the edge of river channels. While these areas are often fished by walleye anglers they are largely ignored by musky hunters.

Although these flats may not always be high percentage spots, they do produce some really big musky. Most flowage guides agree that deep water areas are usually your best bet in the late fall. However, that is not to say that the fish will always be deep. In the fall both Tony Bralick and Dave Dorazio recommend that you look for shorelines that have a real steep drop off into the river channel or deep water. If that shoreline has structure, like a small bar, and cover it will most likely attract muskies. Don't overlook finding the muskies very shallow along that steep shoreline at times. Sometimes even as shallow as 2 or 3 feet.

We all know that the Chippewa flowage as well as several other flowages are rich in musky fishing history and lore. But how does todays musky fishing on these flowages compare to that of years ago? Fishing guide Bruce Tasker has been chasing and catching muskies on the Big Chip almost as long as the lake has been in existence. Over the years he has seen many changes in musky fishing, some good and some maybe not so good. One of the most positive and far reaching changes was the advent of todays catch and release ethic. He says that due to the growing popularity of catch and release there are more muskies in the 40 to 50 inch size being caught now than ever before.

The next time you hear the word "flowage" think musky, they are synonymous no matter where you fish. Above all when hunting muskies on any flowage keep an open mind, because flowage muskies don't always play by the rules.

John H. Myhre is a professional outdoor communicator and Wisconsin licensed guide from the Hayward, Wisconsin area. John own's Sportsmen's Lodge on Moose Lake. He can be reached at 715-462-9402 or you can e-mail him at info@wiscnorthlandoutdoors.com.

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