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Late Fall Muskie Trolling Locations

  • Rick Wedel
    Posts: 5

    Hello. I’m an avid muskie troller in the fall on Sabaskong Bay, LOTW. I read an article in Muskie Insider by Jeremy Logan, on late fall trolling locations. He says “Main break contours that lead into the main basin areas are like highways the musky use to travel from one area to another looking for food. When these highways intersect with steep drop-offs along rock banks, extended underwater points, and shoals, that’s where the musky can corral their prey to pick them off.” So if I get this right, if the main basin is 25 feet deep, there will be a contour line where the bottom starts to rise. Often there is a shelf around an island or along a shoreline, and there will another break line where the rising bottom contacts the outside edge of the shelf. This is often in 10 to 15 feet of water. Is the advice to troll the deep break line where the bottom starts to rise, and then maybe stop and cast big baits at locations where the deep break line runs into a wall or point? I’ve been trolling up on the ledges in 10 to 15 feet of water, sometimes over the break line where it drops down to main basin bottom and sometimes right up on the shelf. I wonder if I’m missing opportunities by not trolling right on the deep main break contour a little further out and with a deeper running bait?

    International Falls a few miles from Rainy Lake
    Posts: 13199

    Welcome to IDO Rick.

    There is a member here who fishes Sabaskong bay a lot. I would expect him to chime in here as soon as he see’s this.

    Michael C. Winther
    Reedsburg, WI
    Posts: 1200

    In the southern/stained water areas of LotW the fish tend to hold shallower, so we don’t focus on the deep break where rock rises out of the mud (usually around 25′ give or take). In the northern/clear water areas of the lake they troll very differently as the fish hold much deeper.

    For us down south in mid-late October, we typically troll in a way that tries to cover the near-shore breakline. This means putting the boat in 8-10′ of water with the inside line running in 6-8′, center 8-10′, and outside line in 10-12′ of water. In all cases we want the lure regularly striking rock high spots but not grinding. That tells us pretty quickly where they’re holding, and we start moving lines to match. And yes, identifying shelves in the 10′ range has been very productive for us, and we prefer areas around larger basins as these hold more baitfish and thus more muskies.

    And…this fall was quite unusual, due to the late warm water followed by a very fast cool down. It kept the fish very scattered in October ranging from out suspended all the way in tight to shore. Our contacts were more random than predictable this year as we didn’t encounter any meaningful whitefish concentrations. A friend who trolls into November had better results once the ciscoes moved in. (Whitefish spawn earlier than the ciscoes.)

    We got this one this fall from a 10′ shelf on the upwind side of an island.

    1. baldy.jpg

    Rick Wedel
    Posts: 5

    Thanks Michael. Sounds like I’m doing the right thing. I spent the third week of October trolling the 10 foot ledges along shorelines and islands, bumping bottom at points and humps. The water temperature was 56 deg, which is right when lake turnover happens. I guess water temperatures trump full moon, which is why I picked that week to go fishing. I got one the first day on a big boulder field in 5 feet of water, and another one the last day in a neck down current area coming out of a big bay in 15 feet of water. I also tried deeper areas, especially in neck down current areas. It was a very slow October compared to the last ten years, due to the weird water temperatures I guess. I see from Justin’s posts that they got some big ones after the snow storm last week. It’s hard to have confidence in a system when the fish are not where you think they should be, so thanks for the advice. Next year!

    Michael C. Winther
    Reedsburg, WI
    Posts: 1200

    Yeah, we were there during the last week of October, and had water temps in the mid-to-low 50s. Slightly warmer and cooler in the areas where we’d expect them to be. One very surprising indicator this year was that there were no First Nations nets out anywhere that we roamed, and we cover a lot of ground. Those guys know what/when to put in the work, and they weren’t doing it when we were up there this year. We saw them placing one small test net on the last day in an unusual location compared to their normal patterns.

    For what it’s worth, with so much current moving back and forth and the relatively shallow depths in this part of the lake, I doubt that LotW stratifies much in the summer such that it would then result in a fall turnover. The negative issue as I see it is more when the temps stall out in the mid-50s as it stops the baitfish from schooling up and moving shallow which helps concentrate the muskies too. Our best results have been when the water temps are dropping from the 50s into the 40s and steadily losing about 1 degree per day; my hypothesis is that this creates urgency for the whitefish and gets them staging and/or spawning.

    In 2018 the water temps were cold and steadily dropping (45 to 39 during the week) and the fishing was exceptional. 2019 had extremely high water with massive current and we struggled to find them or access them anywhere except on the bottom (40′ down) in the high-flow neck down areas. 2020 was no fishing with the border closed. This year was warm with the fish scattered, our 2 boats worked hard to average one fish/day. The real lesson is probably the need to be adaptable, but I prefer to just have irrational hope for perfect conditions…next year!

    Posts: 814

    Try everything, including your bottom of the break. Process of elimination and you never know. Also, anywhere you have an intersection of break lines, bottom compositions, and/or structure is usually a good place to give extra attention.

    I would probably focus more on the shallow to mid-range depths/structure, though, in late fall. Especially during peak times/conditions. Take that FWIW

    Edit: of course, always take into consideration and look for suspended bait and fish, especially off the deep edge of sharp drops and structure

    Rogers, MN
    Posts: 1020

    This year was nothing short of off in Ocyober on Sabaskong. Don’t us that as your sample. We were there the last week of October. Should have been game time, but we were 10 days early with the late warm weather and water Temps.

    That being said, your statements of fishing the breaks entering into basin areas great approaches. We also key finding bait fish in areas with current. Those produce pretty consistently for us as well. We’ve always got one crank that’s banging bottomr and one on the outside. If you’ve got a third guy, running one in the prop wash also produces up there.

    Make it a tradition. And move your trip back a week.

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