Selecting a particular body of water to fish muskies is sometimes a tough decision simply because there are so many legendary choices. Furthermore, a number of “sleepers” — undiscovered or overlooked hotspots — still exist, even in today’s busy, fast-paced world. However, there are some sure bets that are definitely worth your time.
The Vilas and Oneida County Lakes in north-central Wisconsin are among the best for both numbers of muskies, and trophy-caliber fish in the 30-pound to 40-pound range. A routine artificial stocking program funded largely by scores of local muskie clubs around the state insures annual growth of the populations here. The actual population of muskies in most of the well-known lakes is second to none — some are as high as 10 fish per acre. Top lakes include Little Arbor Vitae, Palmer, Tenderfoot, The Eagle Chain, Ballard, Irving, Little Trout, The Minocqua Chain and Squirrel.
There are many excellent lakes and rivers to catch muskies in the United States and Canada — so there is no excuse for not having the opportunity to go after a monster!
In the opposite corner of Wisconsin rests Sawyer County and its legendary waters. Nearly all the state’s world-class muskies have come from this area, including the largest of all time: Louis Spray’s 69-pound, 11-ouncer from the Chippewa Flowage. “The Big Chip,” as it is often called, still ranks as a great piece of muskie water. It continues to produce good numbers, with occasional trophies in the 30-pound to 40-pound range. Nearby Lac Court Oreilles coughed up several record-class fish years ago, including a 67-pounder that is still on display at a nearby Hayward tavern. Lac Court Oreilles still can be counted on to provide at least one 40-pounder each season. Local favorites include Lost Land and Teal Lakes, and don’t overlook Deer and Bone Lakes in neighboring Polk County.
More Northland Favorites
Leech Lake, in Northern Minnesota, has given up a number of trophy fish over the years, and it still produces an occasional 30-pounder or 40-pounder. The Little Boy chain north of Brainerd could be the state’s best kept muskie secret, but a few professionals might vote in favor of Minnesota’s underfished muskie rivers. The mighty Mississippi near Grand Rapids is prime trophy water, while the Big and Little Fork Rivers have stronger overall numbers.
Lake of the Woods, on the Minnesota/Canada border, has to be one of the top all-around muskie waters in the world, both for numbers and trophies. Its near-1-million surface acres of potential muskie haunts blanket a large portion of southwestern Ontario. Some of the nation’s top muskie professionals spend the majority of their time on this particular lake alone. Lake of the Woods has always been a trophy muskie factory. The actual number of 30-pound to 40-pound fish that come out of this water each season is almost staggering. Yet, it appears to be getting even better.
The Canadian province of Ontario is blessed with unequalled trophy-caliber muskie waters. Most of them are located in the southern region. We’ve already mentioned Lake of the Woods. Other great ones in the western end of the province include Eagle Lake, Wabigoon, Rowan, Dryberry, Pipestone and Lac Suel. However, the eastern side has some of its own legendary waters like Georgian Bay, French, Moon, Miora and St. Lawrence rivers.
What Goes Around …
Several decades ago, the state of Michigan?s Lake St. Clair was considered a prime muskie contender, and it?s starting to provide great fishing again. After a long drought, muskies are coming back strong in numbers, and their size is increasing. And, some smaller inland waters south of St. Clair also have gained recent notoriety.
Man-made reservoirs throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania have provided occasional hot streaks of big-muskie activity. Pymatuning Reservoir in Pennsylvania was sizzling hot in the mid-1970s pumping out short, but super healthy, 35-pound to 45-pound muskies. West Branch Reservoir in Ohio recently was the catch site of an enormous 55-pound ‘lunge. Some other notable names worth checking out are Milton Reservoir and Piedmont Reservoir in Ohio, Allegheny and Susquehanna Rivers in Pennsylvania.
New York’s reputation for muskies is second to none, due to the legendary St. Lawrence River. More 50-pound and 60-pound-plus fish have come from this single body of water than all others combined. What few anglers realize, however, is that all of these fish were caught when the St. Lawrence Seaway was being constructed. The St. Lawrence River continues to produce big muskies, but now they’re topping out in the 40-pound range. Locals claim the fishing is much better now than it has been in two decades.
Other spots worth considering in New York state include the Niagara River and the Finger Lakes area. Both produce some quality muskie fishing. Also, the Rudeau River and its flowages have a recently-developed hot, local reputation.
Southern muskie states are starting to gain nationwide notoriety. Dale Hollow Reservoir in Tennessee has a sustaining muskie population that occasionally pumps out a 40-pounder. West Virginia has a number of small rivers, creeks and mountain lakes that contain fishable muskie populations. The state of Kentucky, however, is getting the most play as a southern hotspot. Cave Run Reservoir is acclaimed by some of the nation’s top muskie pros as water worth fishing. It has a strong population of muskies, and it annually produces trophies in the 30-pound class. Locals claim Green River Reservoir’s muskie population is larger than Cave Run’s.