Is there a best season of the year to go muskie fishing? It’s an arguable point, but in my opinion the top time is right now. Why?

Because muskies are cold blooded, which means their metabolism varies with water temperature. That water is hot right now, but cooling, so not only are muskies feeding heavily to maintain body functions and grow, but they’ve an extra incentive to put on fat for the coming winter. In short, some big fish are out there prowling and hungry, and right now is a great time to catch a truly large and hard fighting lunker.

There are a number of lakes that hold nice muskellunge, but according to the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club, a top lake in past years has been our own Clear Fork Reservoir. Many years Clear Fork has produced more Huskie Muskies, Honorable Mentions, and fish under 30 inches than its close competitor, Leesville Lake. What’s even more important is that nearly all of those fish were returned to the water, and are waiting again to slash into your bait.

Tactics for catching the local whoppers hasn’t varied much over the past 20 years. I do my Clear Fork fishing with a sturdy seven foot Black Beauty rod, an open faced reel filled with 20 pound test line, and lures that range from Bagley Monster Shads, usually in blue and silver, to WiggleWarts, HotnTots, and various stick baits. And while I far prefer to cast for my fish, I’ll be the first to admit that trolling produces more strikes, this for a simple reason: your offerings are in the water and at proper depth all of the time.

Casters have their lure high, low, or out of the water too often, which cuts their odds. Lots of local anglers fish alone, which is fine, but those who troll have better luck working with a partner. That allows four rods, and the smart ones will have two well back and just above or below the thermocline, another lure wiggling closer, and the fourth not far behind the prop wash. They’ll change lures every half hour or so too, and vary depths a little to cover all bases. With luck, sooner or later a rod will buck and a minature torpedo take off or hit the air currents. That’s when it’s all worth while.

Since I often fish alone, I like to mix and match my fishing tactics. I’ll troll with two rods as long as I can stand it, following “the route.” The route starts at the first island east of the marina, crosses over to pass down the north side, crosses over again not far from the dam and up the south side to the first island. Since most fish are in deeper water this time of year, some anglers skip the first island and concentrate their trolling between the last island and the dam.

When I can’t stand trolling anymore, I like to stop at the spring, which lies along the north shore about two thirds of the way between a bay leading to the Boy Scout Camp and the dam, and cast until my blood starts circulating again. The water is cooler here, and nice muskies often stack up in the invigorating water.

I like to stop at an underwater island even closer to the dam too, and cast for a while. That island has turned up many a good fish. Here’s a final thought: consider doing some fishing at night. A friend of mine likes to fish Leesville Lake, and spends his day loafing in the campground and taking long naps. Come dark he’s out there trolling and casting, often using splashy top water baits for the latter. “I’ve caught as high as nine fish over a long weekend at night.” he said.

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One Comment to “Muskie Fishing Tactics for Ohio Lakes: Success at Clear Fork Reservoir”

  1. Joe Stafford says:

    Thanks for the great tips. I grew up pike fishing in Michigan’s beautiful north country. I have been wanting to do something similar around here. Recently I have gotten back into fishing and have been spending some time at Clearfork. The challenge of catching a Muskie or two is alluring to say the least.

    If you get tired of fishing alone send me an email. I would love to learn more.
    Thanks again,