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.
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
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
Flowage musky location; In the spring musky
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.