Larry Lucas, Omaha, Nebraska, observed that on a trip to Minnesota right after the muskie opener in June, he saw many anglers already trolling on the three lakes he fished. "Isn't it too early?" he asks. We asked In-Fisherman contributor and muskie guide, Dan Craven, Walker, Minnesota, to comment.
Craven: More muskie fishermen are trolling early in the season. And, in most cases, they're catching fish. Open-water (suspended) muskies are "there" before a distinct thermocline sets up. Indeed, some tracking studies suggest that sometimes muskies spend the majority of their time suspended, until weedbeds develop. The majority of active fish tend to ride high in the water column (upper 15 feet) yet fish located at greater depths (down to 25 feet) can also be caught at times. Medium to large-sized crankbaits like the 8- and 10-inch Mania Tackle Jakes are preferred baits.
Shallow-water trolling can work, too. In this case, anglers run shallow-running crankbaits and spinnerbaits over long stretches of emerging weedbeds. Baits are "skimmed" just above the plants. Fine-tuning lure depth to reduce fouled baits is a key to success.
If you're not connecting by casting into shallower water, move out to open water for a run or two. Look for baitfish. Muskies usually aren't along drop-off edges, but pushed way out away from those edges. On the other hand, if you're faced with large flats with newly emerging weedgrowth and don't know where to begin, trolling might provide a better clue where to concentrate efforts.