Gathering for a late morning breakfast, I could sense a final urgency from my son Joe Jr., much like hunting on the final day of the season with an unfilled buck tag. For some odd reason, my son has had this uncanny luck for bagging big bucks and big fish on the final day of his trips. In fact, it has happened so often on deer hunts, that he has developed quite a reputation among his deer camp peers. Some of the guys in deer camp have even nicknamed him “The 4th Quarter Kid”. The same “last minute luck” has happened for him on the fishing side, as well. He now almost expects to hit his home run in the final inning on every trip, and good old mother nature was going to help him make it happen yet one more time.
Just as we were finishing up breakfast on the deck, a distant thunder rumbled in the southwest. “Dad, did you hear that? Musky music! We’ve got a thunderstorm coming. Let’s hit the water!” No time to even clean up the dishes. We feverishly gathered our gear, hooked up the boat, and trailered off to a nearby lake. Tension was already building in both of us we ambled down the road. The air already felt like “musky”!
We weren’t even half way across the lake when a drizzle began, and the rumble of thunder grew louder. My only fear at this point was that the storm would get too violent, too quick, driving us off the water before we could even make a single cast. Thankfully, this didn’t occur, and within a minute or so, we were making our first pass of the day over a promising milfoil flat. As always, I started probing the weed edge a deep diver, while Joe worked overtop the flat with a bucktail.
However, thick milfoil weeds, typical of late August, were topping out so high that many of Joe’s casts were coming in fouled. Frustrated by this lack of efficiency during a key time, he put the bucktail rod down and grabbed another rigged with a bullfrog TopRaider. Almost on cue, lightning flashed and a stronger boom of thunder roared followed by a hard pounding rain. I was about to suggest we pull into shore, when Joe fired a long cast and asked, “Dad, have you ever caught a musky on a topwater plug in heavy rain?”
I had to admit to him that I had not, but I had taken several big ones on subsurface baits during such conditions. He confidently rebutted, “well then maybe I’ll be the first one to do so”, as he launched his second cast. At that point, I suggested a more aggressive retrieve in order to create more ruckus on the water’s rain pelted surface. With those instructions Joe fired an extra long bomb cast that sailed the bait well over top the thickest portion of the weedy flat. As soon as the bait hit the water, he burned the real handles of his trusty big baitcaster.
Admittedly, I too was fixed on the distant TopRaider, watching the water spray 12 to 18 inches up off the back of the churning chartreuse tail piece, and marveled at how it was faintly audible over the downpour. I was about to make a comment as such, when the water literally blew up around his bait doubling his rod over in a heavy arch. “Wow. Did you see that?” He yelled. “I’ve got him, dad. He’s a big one!”
A terrific battle ensued with two classic tarpon-like jumps and several boat towing, drag stripping runs. Luckily, the big fish was well hooked, and before long I had safely slipped the net under my son’s very first 50 incher. The Fourth Quarter Kid had done it yet one more time. After a brief but jubilant celebration, and a few quick photos, Joe released his big one to fight another day.Before the rain ended, we boated two more muskies.
This was just one of many clear cut examples of where localized weather activity triggered a brief, but intense feeding spree. It happens all over our continent to hundreds of anglers, each and every year. In fact, weather patterns such as the one Joe and I experienced, are what has built the legend of a musky being a “bad weather brute”. It is certainly no secret that this kind of weather turns on muskies.
Never underestimate the power of a weather change, no matter how slight it is. A trip that is dominated by light winds, bright skies, and poor fishing, can suddenly crank into high gear for a few moments as soon as a few clouds appear and a gust of wind picks up. Generally, the more severe and abrupt the weather change, the more intense the feeding spree is likely to be. Summer dog day weather lasting for days on end that culminates in a thunderstorm can have a tremendous impact on musky activity. Yet, it is not unique to this condition alone.
Some of my greatest days on the water in the fall, particularly in October and November, have come on that first dark day with a snowfall preceded by three days or more of bright balmy weather. In fact, that first snow fall of autumn is usually always a big musky day, and here’s one of the best examples of this.
It was a first Friday of October a few years back when my son was still in high school. Of course, a fall Friday night is high school football night all across our country, and my son was part of this tradition just like I was, as well as his grandfather. The Bucher’s like their football. Anyway, it had been a beautiful Indian summer weather pattern prior for at least six days with sunny skies, and balmy temperatures in the high 60’s. Friday morning was still sunny, but a predicted weather change was underway. Temperatures were supposed to “plummet” according to the weather forecast. Winds were to switch to the northwest by mid afternoon, and some parts of the U.P. (Upper Peninsula of Michigan) were even suppose to get some noticeable snow accumulation. I was all set to go to Joe’s football game at 7 p.m. that night, but I did get a serious case of musky bug as this weather turned foul by late afternoon.
As the first hint of snow appeared, I couldn’t stand it any longer,. hooked up the boat and roared out to a nearby lake, promising my wife to be back in time for the football game. As I headed across the lake towards the first spot it began to snow heavily. By the time I started casting, you could barely see the shoreline. I had no sooner started my drift, casting a black bucktail with a chartreuse blade overtop a weedy mid lake bar, when I noticed a large shadow behind my lure. As the bucktail neared the boat, I carefully submerged the rod tip and began a large deep figure eight. As the lure rounded the first turn, a thick bodied behemoth of at least 35 pounds hammered it hard. White caps whipped up the water surface drifting me over the big open proper of the lake while I battled the fish on a short line, toe-to-toe. When it was over, I landed a super fat, 49 incher. It was only then that I realized there was no one along to take photos or video, nor verify that I had actually caught this fish. With that in mind, I quickly released it, rinsed off my hands, started the motor and headed back upwind to the same spot for one more try.
Between the lengthy battle and the intensity of the snow storm, at least 30 minutes had past as I now shut the motor off repaired my lure and began another drift. As soon as my sonar indicated I was approaching the same weedy mid lake structure, I repeated the same casting procedure in almost the same spot. Just like a dream, another big fish followed the same lure, the same way. I submerged the rod tip again and began executing a similar figure eight routine. After about three turns, I did not see the fish anymore and ran the lure shallow on a final stroke of the figure eight. Like a rocket, this big fish, roared up and snatched the bucktail! A similar battle followed, and a successful landing. I quickly measured this one at 48 inches, and released it. This was almost a carbon copy of the experience just a few moments earlier.
I had just boated two thirty pound class muskies in only a few casts off the same spot! I have never even come close to duplicating this feat in Wisconsin since. It was a classic case of being in the right spot at the right time. The “right spot” is something you learn with research and time on the water. The “right time”, is whenever there’s a serious weather change occurring after a period of mild, stable weather. When it is a sudden snow storm in the fall, look out. It’s likely to be really smokin’ hot.
As soon as you are aware that a weather change is occurring, get to your best spot as soon as you can. The more stable the weather has been beforehand, the more predictably intense a musky feeding spree is likely to be. Remember, it doesn’t always have to be major change to create some musky movement. Slight changes will generally trigger slight increases in musky activity. However, abrupt changes can trigger an all out attack! Don’t miss out by delaying your approach. As soon as you know or recognize a weather change occurring, hit the water. No matter how good or how bad a trip has been up to this point, it can all change with one cast on the right spot at the right time.
Hall of Fame angler Joe Bucher is the Editor Emeritus for Musky Hunter Magazine and one the most highly recognized multi-species fishing and hunting authorities in the outdoor business trade. Joe is the host of Fishing with Joe Bucher TV show which has been on the air for over 20 years. For more information on Joe please visit his website at www.joebucher.com