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PAUL NELSON FISHING: Time to target some muskies

Paul Nelson

Surface water temperatures continue to rise, with most local lakes in the mid-70s. The most accurate time to measure water temperatures is first thing in the morning, before the sun has had a chance to warm the water.

One of the best times of the year to catch both numbers of muskies and big muskies occurs during the second or third week in July, right after the first heavy algae bloom of the summer.

Muskies use several of their senses when they feed, with their superior eyesight including good night vision and their ability to feel vibrations on their smooth skin both aiding their ability to "hear" potential targets coming before they can actually see them.

When feeding in clear water, muskies rely mostly on sight when they feed. Once their sight is limited by something like an algae bloom, muskies will rely more on vibrations to "hear" their prey coming and then use sight right at the end when they close in on their prey.

Anglers gain a bit of an advantage when muskies adjust to the loss of visibility in the water. This makes muskies more likely to make mistakes, because hearing is not as accurate than seeing for fish.

Spring means clear water and lots of follows for muskie anglers. When the water "greens up", the muskie follows are greatly reduced and the first clue anglers often have that a muskie is behind their lure is when they get a strike.

Muskies and pike each hit a lure differently. Pike strike at the lure like they are dashing out of the bushes, grabbing the lure and then quickly turning and running the other way. The hardest strikes on a lure often come from big pike, not a muskie.

Muskies often overtake their prey from behind with a burst of speed or do the long chase and intercept the prey by cutting off their prey at an angle. Muskie strikes can be often be a soft tap on the lure as the muskie knocks the lure forward when they hit it from behind.

Good muskie anglers figure out fast that the little tap or bump on the lure like you bumped into a weed, can be the bite you have been waiting for while casting for hours.

Anglers can also feel when the fish is right behind the lure because lure starts to come through the water easier from the fish drafting right behind the lure. These are things anglers should be able to feel on a good rod if they realize what is happening.

Some lakes infested by zebra mussels will not have algae blooms like they used to have because the extra fertility in the water is being siphoned out by millions of zebra mussels, one liter at a time.

We are entering a time in our history when we need to distinguish between stained lakes, clear lakes and infested lakes, with each having their own set of characteristics that change the way anglers need to fish in order to be successful.

Walleyes and muskies are two of the more "light sensitive" species in the lakes. When the days get long and hot with clear skies and little wind, it doesn't take long for the muskies and walleyes to start feeding after dark.

Anglers would have more success if they learned to play the odds and waited to see what the conditions are before deciding where to fish and what species to target.

Go to a stained lake or a lake with an algae bloom when the conditions are calm and clear. Save the clear lakes and infested lakes for cloudy days with wind or learn to stay up late and fish after dark.

Perch, northern pike and bass are all much better target species than walleyes and muskies when the conditions are calm and clear.

Remember, the new pike limit has a protected slot of 22 to 26 inches, with anglers allowed to keep ten pike, but only two can be longer than 26 inches, the rest have to be under 22 inches.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Guided fishing trips for 2018 can be booked at panelsonbemidji@gmail.com.

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