There are a lot of prime musky waters in North America, with many being located in northwest Ontario. Practically every resort owner sings the praises of his own body of water, and naturally, they all contain “world record” fish. Aside from all the bull, where are the best waters and who can an angler trust?
I have fished northwest Ontario for well over 20 years and have caught numerous, 30 to 40 pound, muskies in these prime waters. I haven’t fished all the best lakes, but have a pretty good understanding of activity in these waters.
This lake, nearly 70,000 acres, offers a visiting musky angler practically every fishing scenario he could possibly encounter at a lake. Muskies can be found deep in the clear west arm, or often in the darker waters of the eastern section, of the lake. This activity extends from roughly Stanton Island, down into Osbourne and Niven Bay.
Eagle Lake has been “somewhat” reborn in recent years. In time past, knowledgeable musky hunters avoided Eagle Lake. They claimed over pressured fish would only follow the lure and never hit. This was the rule. Getting a solid strike was the exception.
Steve Herbeck, who is one heck of a fisherman and calls Eagle Lake home, must be credited with the recent upsurge in musky catches on Eagle Lake. He bought Andy Myer’s Lodge a few years ago. As a result, big muskies came out to Eagle Lake on a regular basis. In fact, nine fish over 40 pounds were pulled from her waters (and released) during the falls of 1994 – 1996. Also, Herbeck and clients caught numerous 30’s throughout the year.
Herbeck favors reefs, flats and islands near spawning grounds or extensive food shelves during the musky opener, which starts in mid-June and extends through July. “A multi-dimensional island, weeded island clusters or rocks and slots extending from one of these areas is about as good as it gets”, claims Herbeck. Productive lures are minnow lures or twitch baits. Examples are the Slammer and Crane Bait or Jake, particularly in perch or walleye patterns, along with bucktails and top waters.
Herbeck says weeds can still be productive through much of August. However, mid-lake table top reefs, main lake islands and shelve points (major points near deep water) come on strong, especially for larger muskies. Crankbaits along with large, soft rubber lures should be added to your arsenal during this time.
“As the first cool nights occur in late August, muskies start leaving the weeds. Rock walls and bluff banks close to these bays will be hot”, says Herbeck. “Once you get into mid-September, the weed bite will generally be over except for isolated action around a few still green areas of vegetation. Most of the musky activity will be rock related from mid-September on, with narrows, walls, points and reefs being key structures. Don’t be afraid to try reefs that top off 12 to 20 feet down.”
Herbeck says once the water temperature falls into the 50’s during fall, he has an angler toss a crankbait, such as a DepthRaider or Trophy Diver. Another angler works a large, soft rubber lure, like a Bull Dawg or Big Joe, while he works a big lively sucker on a quick strike rig.
Although I’ve fished the western end of Eagle for years and have caught muskies up to 40 pounds, I’ve recently become a real fan of the darker, “easier to fish” waters of the east end. In 1996, during a trip to Eagle Lake Ontario, only 5 out of the 40 angler’s on the trip fished for muskies. Yet, we caught six fish nearly 30 pounds in addition to a few smaller fish. I had never fished this end of the Eagle Lake. However, I had three plus several 15 to 18 pounders in my boat.
During this time period (late July, early August), I fished fast, covering a lot of water by using a run and gun approach. My main pattern was darker water, concentrating on anything different; such as edges into the wind, points, inside turns, funnels or changed weed thickness. Productive bucktails were Lindy’s Musky Roller, Meeps Musky Killer Tandem and the 700 series Buchertail. I had a few fish (including a 31 pounder) going on bladed and plopper-type top waters, which could be worked fast. We are going again, this summer, with even more good musky fishermen on the trip.