“Have you ever seen the teeth on a Muskie?” was a comment that was made to me when I first decided I was going to try targeting Muskie from my kayak by a fellow that I was buying some used Muskie gear from. That was back when I first started fishing from a kayak when the sport was just getting noticed here in Southern Ontario, Canada. Targeting Muskie in a kayak was unheard of back then and there were very few people doing it.
At that time I had a Hobie Adventure which I didn’t originally purchase for the intent of fishing, though when I did start fishing from it about a year after purchasing it, I quickly realized what a great craft it was to fish from. As a novice angler, I really had no idea how to rig a kayak for targeting any species, especially Muskie. Almost six years later, and having owned and rigged several Hobie Mirage Kayaks, I have been successful catching muskie utilizing several tactics, each method with different aspects of rigging that will help you catch what is known as “the fish of 10,000 casts”.
It isn’t complicated and outside of trolling, catching Muskie from a kayak can be done with very little rigging.
A strong setup for trolling is important with rod holders that will bare the impact of a Muskie hit. I personally like the Scotty Powerlock as a good all around rod holder, which will hold both baitcasters and spinning reels. There are several mounts that can be used, a Scotty Flush Mount, or Combination Side Deck Mount and even the combination of a Scotty Gear Head or Side/Deck Mount attached to a YakAttack wide track, which are all good strong installations for mounting rod holders to your kayak.
A sonar/GPS is also a valuable accessory to have when trolling as it will help you to maintain a consistent speed that you may be trying to troll at. Once you have fished an area and have either caught or marked fish, a GPS can mark your spots for future reference. When Muskie are suspended in the water column there is no mistake when they show up on your sonar what kind of fish is near your kayak.
We will jig for Muskie on the Detroit River at certain times of the year in water deeper than 15 feet. The main accessories that will aid in jigging will be your Mirage Drive for keeping your line vertical in the current.
A sonar/GPS that will mark suspended fish, record hot spots, monitor bait fish, and water temperature.
While casting for muskie, an anchor attached to an anchor trolley, can be a great tool to help you hold onto a productive spot that you know is good muskie water. My anchor also has a large red float attached, in order to be seen by the power boats fishing the same area at certain popular times of the year, when muskie are concentrated in a small area of a lake or river. You will be fishing in tight quarters and it is possible for these powerboats to come very close to you.
A Sonar/GPS is nice to have when casting, though it isn’t as important as when you are trolling or jigging a river, since you are usually in shallower water.
When it comes to rigging my kayaks, I rarely use any do it yourself type accessories. Lake St. Clair which is one of the best muskie lakes in North America for volume and size, is a flat shallow lake with little structure. Side Imaging where you can pickup data up to 240 feet on both sides of your kayak, is a valuable tool for this type of lake and because the transducer needs 180 degrees clearance from any obstacles below the water line you have to mount it outside of your kayak. With the aid of Side Imaging, it will show you a larger path of the area you are trolling or searching to cast or jig for Muskie. It reveals contours, cover, structure, and baitfish, that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to interpret as well with traditional sonar, and important to finding muskie. A few years ago I tried using Side Imaging on my Hobie Adventure, mounting the transducer on the rudder. It affected my steering and would also collect a lot of loose vegetation and weeds from the water, which unless I could shake it off by lifting the rudder there wasn’t an easy way for clearing it without getting out of my kayak. This past season I thought of giving Side Imaging another try on my Pro Angler 14, and though I have never seen an example of mounting the transducer from the bow, I designed and manufactured my own fixture that would hold the transducer bellow the water line directly in front of the bow with the ability to lift it out of the water in case it became full of weeds. A regular sonar transducer was installed in the Hobie transducer compartment using a Y-cable to attach both transducers to my Humminbird 999 unit. The bigger screen also made it much easier to interpret the side imaging results. My setup worked satisfactory and I hope to make some improvements with possibly adding a small motor to lift and drop the transducer automatically.
Advantage of Hands Free Fishing For Muskie
The Mirage Drive which gives you hands free fishing, makes a big difference when targeting Muskie. Trolling two rods with large baits will cause a lot of extra drag and if you add some wind and waves, it will be difficult to maintain a minimum of two mph. With the strong thrust of the Mirage Drive, you will be able to maintain speeds needed to troll for muskie.
The Bondy Bait which has made jigging popular in the Mid-West has been the go to bait for deep water jigging in the current of the Detroit River. Maintaining a vertical line in current and wind is made easy with the combination of the Mirage Drive and being able to steer with one hand corrections, while continuing your up and down jigging motion.
Targeting Muskie without a Mirage Drive and hands free fishing, will limit you to casting.
You Have Never Fished For Muskie?
The “fish of 10,000 casts” is a myth, at least here on Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River where specifically in November anglers travel from most of the mid-west states and Southern Ontario to target a trophy muskie. This is also the best time for catching one from a kayak as they will be at the mouth of creeks and rivers chasing shad.
There isn’t really anything special you need for your kayak other than what was mentioned earlier in this article, more important is that you have the correct gear to safely land, unhook, and release a fish as most anglers targeting muskie practice catch and release. The essentials include:
- a reel that can hold at least one hundred yards with a minimum of 65 lb braid. My reels are spooled with 80 lb as I find it keeps your line from digging into your spool, especially when throwing anywhere from six ounce to one pound baits.
- A rod at least seven feet long, heavy action, and one rated for throwing large baits if your casting. You could probably use the same rod for jigging. For trolling you will need a softer rod, as it needs to absorb the hit from a muskie. I have witnessed anglers that have used a stiff casting or jigging rod, have their rod holder explode on impact of a muskie hit.
- You should have a large muskie net that will allow you to keep the fish in the water while you unhook.
- Carrying a good pair of side cutters to cut your hooks if you cannot get them out of the muskie’s mouth.
- A pair of jaw spreaders will aid you to keep the mouth full of teeth open while you put your hand inside if it is deep hooked.
- A first aid kit might be a good idea, as sometimes you may get caught by the large hooks or the muskie’s mouth.
My first time targeting muskie, I hooked up and landed one 15 minutes into my day. It was 48 inches and still my biggest to date. Beginners luck, and there were three of us fishing out of kayaks plus several more casting from shore and a couple in power boats in a small popular muskie hotspot. We didn’t see another fish landed that day, and it took me a couple years before I caught my second muskie. Partly because I mostly target muskie in the fall, though I have a friend who just took up kayak fishing in 2014 and targeted muskie most of the year landing 32.
Most experienced muskie anglers will help out a beginner, showing you proper equipment, areas to fish, proper landing, and handling, with the interest in maintaining a good muskie fishery. Look for a local or regional muskie club for information or contacts that can help you land that first muskie from your kayak.