Time is right to land pikes, muskies
The Madison lakes went through fall turnover last week, setting the stage for the year’s hottest fishing action as waters continue to cool.
Even the notorious green hue caused by algae growth has faded into a lighter shade of pale—even on Waubesa and Kegonsa at the south end of this natural chain.
Cooling waters will cause submergent weed growth to recede, giving baitfish fewer places to hide from toothy critters like pike and muskies. The most important thing to understand in fishing is the predator/prey relationship.
Locate esox food in the chain of life and gators are just a link away. Right now this means finding panfish, which are in the weeds eating smaller baitfish and invertebrates.
Alpha predators such as pike and muskie are on the prowl right now. The best way to hook up is by throwing search bait such as small bucktail or large, shallow-running crankbait.
My favorite weapon on the Madison chain is the venerable Mepps giant-killer bucktail with purple hair and a silver prism blade. A powerful rod and reel are necessary to keep the fish from diving into the weeds once they have felt the hook. A medium-heavy, 7-foot rod with a fast tip and baitcast reel spooled with 30-pound braided line will do the trick. Of course, a leader these fish can’t gnaw through is a plus. A nine-inch, 80-pound test fluorocarbon leader will do the trick.
Lake Mendota has the deepest, clearest water on the Madison chain. It also holds the biggest fish, with a number of humps, bars and inside weed edges under the almost 10,000 acres of water here.
If you’re hunting a big fish on the Madison chain, Mendota is the place to go. Trophy pike and muskies both live here. These fish didn’t get big by being stupid. Even the most seductive hair, wood or shiny blade may not fool them, especially as waters continue to cool along with fish metabolism.
A beautiful sucker only costs about as much as a cup of Starbuck’s coffee. Combat with a 50-inch muskie won’t last much longer than a grande latte. But the stimulant triggered by a dance with scales and fins is adrenaline, not caffeine.
Going after big muskies without suckers in the fall is like hunting deer with Remington Sluggers rather than more expensive—and much more effective—ammo like Lightfield or Hornady slugs.
As ice begins to cover back bays, lures are exactly that: lures. They pique the interest of big fish, which follow the lure back to your boat where a helpless sucker is tethered like sweet Polly Purebred on the railroad tracks.
Suckers have a geometric value progression as bait as waters cool. For the next couple of weeks, you have an honest shot at success with the Mepps and stickbaits such as Grandma and Jake.
Toothers on Lake Waubesa tend to run smaller but are much more willing. The big weedbed on the lake’s north end near the railroad trestle is a great place to look. Weeds on the far south end near Goodland Park are an even better option.
Don’t overlook the point out from Rockford Heights near Babcock Park or water out from the Bible Camp slide.
Waubesa can be probed effectively in a day, even an afternoon. Running and gunning is the key to success, don’t camp over an area for long if it isn’t producing. On the other hand, it doesn’t make sense to leave fish to go find fish.
The ultimate truth applies: “You can’t catch any fish with your line out of the water.”
Storm windows and leaf raking can wait.
Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at email@example.com.