A Season on the Chippewa Flowage part II


This article has been modified to fit this web page; view the full article at Keyes Outdoors Online Magazine January 2014 issue

A Season on the Chippewa Flowage part II


Late Summer

As the long days of summer begin to transition into fall, water temperatures will begin to decline. These declining water temps will start to draw open water summer muskies back to shallower structure. Muskies in late summer will be located on the same mid-lake structure as early summer. When retuning to mid-lake structure muskies can typically be found in two locations. One location is suspended just off of structure on the primary break. Muskies tend to suspend themselves parallel to the top of the structure and vertical from the base of the break. This location is also where the largest muskies tend to set up. The second location is the outer edge of the weed line. Targeting structure with steep breaking edges allows me to position my boat over the base of the break for suspended muskies (see image 1). At the same time I can also target muskies on the outside weed edge. Targeting both locations opens up options for patterning muskies quickly. When holding the boat where the muskies suspend themselves you can expect a lot of strikes in the figure 8. I try to make sure everyone in my boat is doing two full figure 8’s on EVERY cast. An extra figure 8 will give suspended fish extra time to find the lures. Lure selection in late summer is fairly basic. I like to use double bladed bucktails, large twitch baits, and large jerk baits when targeting these locations. When fishing these conditions during the day the size and speed of your lure is very important. Using large lures in these conditions will help your lure get noticed from a greater distance. I find that speed and erratic lures trigger many more strikes than slow and steady lures this time of year. Due to the seemingly endless amount of structure on the Chippewa Flowage covering water in search for active muskies is a must. The wind can help to quickly pattern active muskies. Wind will help eliminate less productive areas by forcing schooling bait fish to the up wind side of the structure. Active muskies will use steep breaks and weeds on the windblown side to ambush prey.

Night time is a different story when targeting late summer muskies. My boat positioning will be very similar to my daytime position; however lure choice and presentations will be different. My most productive lures from sunset throughout the night are large double bladed bucktails and surface baits. Just before sunset, when the sun hits the top of the trees, I will target specific fish that have been located during the day. If there were no active or large fish contacted that day. I will fish spots that have held fish this time of the year in the past. Now it’s time to slow down. Instead of covering a lot of water quickly, I want to cover productive areas thoroughly. Just as during the day many of your strikes in the evening will happen at the side of the boat.

Early Fall

Early fall is a time of change on the Chippewa Flowage. Leaves will begin to change colors and night time temps will fall into the 40’s and 50’s. These cool nights will for the first time in a couple months drop water temperatures below 70. With rapidly cooling water temps muskies will move into very shallow water. I will not make much adjustments in the locations I fish from late summer to early fall. I will however change the way I fish them. Muskies that were located in late summer patterns will tend to slide up to the inside weed edges and the shallowest portions of the structure (see image 2). In early fall it is not uncommon to find muskies in less than 2 feet of water. With muskies located in such shallow water surface baits and bucktails of all sizes are very effective. It seems in the early fall fish patterns change as frequently as the weather. As patterns change anglers must be willing to change with them. Lure size, speed, and action must be experimented until fish respond. Once active fish are located duplicate the pattern until the pattern dries up. It is not uncommon in early fall for patterns to last days or even a week or more.

Late Fall/Early Winter

Once water temperatures begin falling into the 50’s baitfish such as Crappie will be migrating into winter locations. I once again start targeting funnels along these migration routes just as I did in the late spring. I will however target these funnels slightly different than I did in the late spring. In the fall I target steep breaks and tapering points within the funnel (see image 3). Muskies will be feeding on large forage in the fall. Casting large lures in the fall can be an effective way to boat a late season musky. Lures such as Pounders, 12” Custom X, and Bondy Baits have been my most consistent producers. A slow, methodical retrieve will usually be all it takes to trigger fish. However as effective as casting can be, this is late fall and suckers should be used as well. All suckers in my boat are rigged on quick set rigs. I use a modified version of the Clip-N-Go rig made by Shumway Tackle Co. The Clip-N-Go rig is very easy to use and it has the highest hookup percentage of the rigs I’ve used. While casting I will have two suckers on down lines dragging them under the boat. One will be placed at the depth the majority of the bait fish are located on my depth finder. I will also have someone jigging a Bondy Bait at this same depth as this sucker. The action of the Bondy Bait will draw in muskies. If the muskies don’t take the Bondy the sucker is there to offer up options. The other sucker I will place only a few feet under the surface. This sucker is there in case a following musky decides not to take the artificial. When a sucker gets picked up by a musky it is important to act quickly to avoid the musky swallowing the sucker. The key to getting a high percentage of hookups is to get directly above the musky as quickly as possible. Once on top of the fish you need to determine the direction the fish is heading. Position the boat to where the musky is heading away from you and set the hook hard. The number one mistake I see with clients is they tend to pull hard on the hook set. The key to a good set is to create a snap on the hook set. You want to reel down to just above water level then drop your rod to create a little slack in the line and snap a hard hook set straight up into the air.

 The Future

As previously discussed the Chippewa Flowage can at times be a very difficult lake to fish. With catch rates below the state average many anglers have wondered what the future holds for this historic body of water. In February of 2013 there were discussions between myself and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. We discussed the status and future of the Chippewa Flowage and what could be done to help reach the goals laid out in the 2007 Chippewa Flowage Management Report. After a few meetings and a lot of phone conversations the WDNR decided the stocking program that had been in place for the Chippewa Flowage needed to be adjusted. I asked our local Fisheries Biologist Max Wolter to explain the new plans for the Chippewa Flowage.

“2013 was an exciting year for the Chippewa Flowage for a variety of reasons. The WDNR stocked 3,000 large fingerling muskies which is the largest musky stocking in the Chippewa Flowage in the last 12 years. And stocking rates are expected to increase in coming years based on some new analyses of musky recruitment. “

“One big piece of the musky management puzzle is growth rate and we’ve started a very exciting and ambitious project to address that information need. PIT Tags (passive integrated transponder) have become a very popular tool to track growth of muskies. We currently have 3,400 tags at large in the Chippewa Flowage including about 400 in adults and 3,000 in large fingerlings that were stocked this fall (many of which were purchased by the Chippewa Flowage resorts and property owners). We’ve already started to get information back from some of the adult fish and the results are very encouraging. We currently get tag recapture data from DNR fisheries surveys as well as from local guides and fishermen that have been equipped with hand held tag readers. Involving anglers is a good way to increase the volume of data we can collect and is also a great way to involve the public in a resource management. Expect to hear a lot about this project in the future.”

“One other big change for the Chippewa Flowage this year is the return of the winter drawdown. Folks familiar with the Flowage know that drawdown s have always been a big part of the management of the water body and were sometimes in the order of >12’. But over the last decade winter drawdowns were very small. This year the Flowage will be drawn down 8’ and unlike in the past this drawdown is specifically designed to benefit fish, including muskies. The water has been drawn down early to re-oxygenate spawning area for muskies and walleye but water levels are going to be kept steady late in the winter to avoid winterkills to the greatest extent possible. It’s our hope that the drawdown will give us a boost in walleye and musky recruitment as well as controlling invasive weed species.”


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