J-Man’s 2015 Muskie Trolling Report: Lake of the Woods; Sabaskong Bay & Area

Here we goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!

Muskies Landed: 69
Days Fished: 20

Muskies Lost During Fight: 6 (Down from last year’s 10.)
Fish That Hit and Fell Off Right Away or Didn’t Hook Up: 21

We assume all fish that hit, but don’t hook-up and all fish that fall off during the fight are muskies because pike NEVER fall off!!

Pike Landed: 53 (5 more than 2014. Only measured a few: 41”, 40”, 39”)

Total Strikes: 149 confirmed (175 in 2014)
% of Muskies Landed of Total Strikes: 69/149 = 46.3%
% of Muskies Landed minus Confirmed Pike: 69/96 = 71.9% (slightly higher than 2014)

Miles Travelled & Trolled Based on GPS: 1346 (67.3 miles per day)
Fuel Burned: 1207.95 Litres (319.5 gallons)

Previous Years Totals

2014: 90 fish in 22 days
2013: 87 fish in 20 days
2012: 53 fish in 20 days
2011: 48 fish in 16 full days & 6 half days
2010: 57 fish in 14 full days & 5 half days
2009: 71 fish in 22 days

Thoughts on Numbers
It is hard to imagine being unsatisfied with the above numbers, but after hitting 87 and 90 the previous 2 seasons, it feels like we left a lot out there this year.   Overall, nearly 3.5 fish per day on average is nothing to be ashamed of certainly, but the fact that the temps were warm and conditions were good late into the season makes it seems like we failed in some ways. More on that later.

Size Distribution
Again, the fishery is showing to be very healthy. We didn’t lose anything we thought was huge, save for one strike for Mitch that had some massive headshakes but fell right off. Fish again were thick and often felt bigger than they ended up being when they got to the boat.

Sub 30”: 0
30” – < 35”: 9
35” – < 40”: 22
40” – < 45”: 27
45” – < 48”: 6 (45”, 45”, 45.5”, 45.5”, 46”, 47”)
48” – < 50”: 2 (48”, 48.75”)
50”+: 3 (50”, 50.5”, 52.25”)

In the interest of full disclosure, please note I am not measuring each and every fish anymore. We will often dump them at boatside without netting or measuring in the interest of less time out of water or less time with our baits out of water when things are happening. We feel like we have enough experience to gauge whether a fish is within a 5” range. Anything that looks big enough to go 45” was put on the board for a quick verification of its size. Some smaller fish were measured as well, but not each and every fish.

Percentage of Fish 45+
2015: 11 of 69 = 15.94%
2014: 17 of 90 = 18.9%
2013: 15 of 87 = 17.2%
2012: 8 of 53 = 15.1%
2011: 10 of 48 = 20.8%
2010: 13 of 57 = 22.8%
2009: 8 of 71 = 11.3%

Thoughts on Size
Would have expected 1 or 2 more over 45” for the totals, but not surprised considering how things played out towards to end of my season on the water. We would always like more fish and certainly more 50’s in the bag, but have to be content overall. The big fish were VERY big this year.   Bruisers that all make you shake your head in awe.

Lures/Colours
10” Jakes: 24
9.5” Kraves: 9
9” Grandmas: 7
13” Grandmas:1

Supernatural Big Baits
12” Headlocks: 4
10” Headlocks: 9
Protoype model from Supernatural: 3

Wick Onez “Kingpinz”: 9
Blue Water Baits: 2 (Cisco)
DK Fifty Finder: 1

Thoughts on Baits
Fish seemed to want smaller baits for the first couple of weeks, but there was some bigger baits catching fish in other boats.  The numbers on Jakes, Grandmas and Kraves were up early before the bigger baits started to produce better later. I can’t really explain this other than saying the fish want what they want when they want it.  Here are how the biggies played out:

12” Headlocks – 45”
10” Headlocks – 50.5”, 48.75”, 45.5”, 45.5”
Krave – 50”, 45”
Wick Onez Kingpinz – 52.25”, 48”, 47”
Blue Water Baits Cisco – 46”

My theory on colour not being overly important when it comes to Supernatural Big Baits seemed to prove out this year. We had a pile of new baits in different colours to try and our goal was to get them all bit. We came awfully close to doing just that and even stuck a nice 42” on the “Woody” pattern 12” Headlock. This was a bait with no paint whatsoever. All it has is the clear coat and it got chomped not long after we put it in the water this year. The action of these baits it the key and though there seems to be a lot of imitators out there, there is one Supernatural! With almost half of the big fish coming on Supernatural big Baits, if you don’t have a few of these in your trolling line-up, you are doing yourself a disservice.

jman50-5-06nov2015
50.5″ – 10″ Headlock

 

 

Black/silver was a hot pattern this fall. After a couple of fish on that colour for a buddy’s boat, we went on a heck of a run with the sliver shiner pattern. The jailbird colour was productive again in different bait styles. Tennessee Shad and superman were also both reliable again. Wick Onez

Kingpinz were productive again this year. With more colours to play with, the fish ate several offerings. The KP also showed big fish will chomp them with the 47, 48 and 52.25 on the board.

mitch52-25-release.JPG
52.25″ = Kingpinz

The Jake is still a reliable bait. There was a stretch of 2 days that produced 18 fish and only 1 of them was on a larger profile bait. The 10” jake landed 16 of those fish, but none of those fish were bigger than low 40s. The

Krave was steady from start to finish.   The jailbird pattern was hot again; landing the first ever 50” on a Krave in the Pooh boat.

jman50release2crop
50″ – Krave

 

 

Blue Water Baits looked incredible in the water and held up to the beating nicely. With the fish a little less apt to go after larger profiles baits, it didn’t surprise me to see the 9” Cisco be the one to bag a couple of real nice fish. I fully expect the 9” and 12” Herrings to get chomped when conditions are right, but that just didn’t present itself this year. All these baits held up to the beatings on the rocks well and I would not hesitate to throw them in the water again in the future.

jman46-bwb-24oct2015.JPG
46″ – Blue Water baits 9″ Cisco

Another cool new bait for me was the Fifty Finder from DK Lures.   Managed a nice 41” on one of them and liked the action for a little something different. I beat these up pretty good as well and they took it all in stride. The aluminum lipped model as the one I used and I would go that way over the lexan again.

IMG_8700.JPG
41″ – DK Fifty Finder

 

 

Lastly, the Undertow from True Glide had incredible action and also held up well to some rock crushing. I believe this bait suffered the most from the fish not eating larger profile baits as much this past fall. I am looking forward to next October and November when fish act normal again to see what this bait can do.   Awesome bait from Joe Peterson.

Rod Position Related to Structure
Outside Rod: 27
Inside Rod: 21
Middle Rod: 21

One of the more even splits I can remember. Middle rod may have had higher numbers if there had been a 3rd line in the water during the 2 day stretch with 18 fish with just 2 rods going.  The biggies played out like this:

Inside: 1 (47”)
Middle: 6 (50.5”, 50”, 48.75”, 46”, 45.5”, 45”)
Outside: 4 (52.25”, 48”, 45.5”, 45”)

Depth/Structure
Pretty much the status quo again for me. We spent most of our time focused on the 10 foot range to allow us to hit tips and underwater points in shallow depths as we cruised along.   Saddles were much less productive this year, but this seems completely related to lack of baitfish in areas that have been full of bait in the past.   A crew that got gas from us moved out a bit deeper and had some great success, so that is something I will have to think about the in the future. I made passes in 12 and 15 feet, which is easy to do with the Humminbird depth highlighting option, but did not notice any more action for my boat. When there isn’t bait or fish biting in 10 feet, there is no harm in moving out a little deeper, but it just didn’t bring any more fish into the Pooh boat for us this year.

Highlights
Lots of highlights again this year. Three days come to mind for good reasons. A 3 fish day with Eric and Brad that yielded a 42”, 50 and 48.75” was a lot of fun. We may have had a few more, but we had our explore mode on and covered over 80 miles on the water that day trying out of the way places hoping to stumble into a pot of gold.   The fish all came from usual, reliable areas. Go figure.

Two days with Mitch that produced 18 fish (10 and 8.) Mitch handed me a whipping of epic proportions to the tune of 15-3. The final fish of that 2 day trip was a 52.25” personal best for Mitch. After netting his first “50” last fall, it was a huge thrill to push that up from 51.75”.

A 5 fish day with Deano and Brady that produced (in order): 45”, 47”, 48”, low 40s (not measured) and 50.5” might have been the best day overall for 2015. Multiple personal bests and best single days for my fishing partners: Lee O (42.5, 45), Mitch (52.25, 8 fish in one day), Todd and Amy with pb northerns were fun to be part of as well, Season best for J-Man.

No skunks again!  Well sorta!  On the 1st outing of the year, we managed to get skunked during our day of practice and getting kinks out of new gear.  But when we got serious, we managed to land at least 1 muskie each day on the water.

Not So Cool Stuff
With a series of unfortunate events coming together at the same time, Pooh was disabled a long way from home.   The short version is a cable from my bow mounted transducer bracket managed to get itself in a position to trip the tilt/trim switch at the bow of the boat that controls the big motor caused the 90 HP motor to start coming up and kept coming. Not realizing what was going on, the engine ended up stuck on the rear deck of the boat with the gear shifter broken off. I was distraught at the thought of Pooh’s season being over and figuring out a way to salvage the last few days of the trip with Dean and Brady. Luckily for us, Dean was back home for 1 day to watch high school volleyball and was able to bring up a back-up boat so that part of the problem was solved. On the ride in, I realized the cable cause this problem so felt a little better about the fact that it was a freak deal and wouldn’t happen again so once Pooh got fixed, life would be back to normal. In 2016.   After a long 3 hour ride in on the 9.9 HP kicker, we loaded the boat and were able to get cousin Dougie to take a look. A couple hours later, Pooh had a bionic gear shifter as a result of Dougie’s manufacturing skills and we were back on the water.

Rain! Lost track of how many all-day rains we had, but it was 4-5.   Fishing in the rain is no fun, but when the fish bite, it is tolerable. Rain really puts a damper on filming and photos, so many of the great fish caught from those days will not be seen on Video Mondays. BUMMER!!   Warm weather! Yes, this was not cool. The bait fish did not come in before I had to pull the pin on the season. Water temps were going to be prime after we packed up and left the resort. What a crazy weather year after 3-4 falls in a row where the temps were low enough that getting into November at all was dicey.

Equipment/Gear
Upgraded GoPros should make for sharper images on Video Mondays in the new year. I purchased Hero 3+ to upgrade from my original Hero 960s.   With an extended battery from Wasabi, I was able to go through a full day of constant filming on the bow camera with only 1 battery change. I’d highly recommend this option if you like to keep your cameras rolling.   The 20 minute loop option was great for keeping things organized on the bow camera as well. When you keep the date/time set properly, you can go back through your day much easier and pull the footage out (in 5 min segments) that you want to keep/use.

Cool new rod from Venture Custom Rods that I look forward to tweaking a little and landing some giants on next fall. Thanks to Paul Amberg for letting me play with one this fall.

Other Observations
The biggest observation for me was lack of baitfish, which I am blaming on warm weather.   Hopefully, weather will get back to normal for the time of year and we can see if this is going to be an ongoing thing or a weather related blip on the radar.   When the sun came out and water temps held or came up in November, action seemed to die off, especially in the mornings. Several days we could not get bit until after noon. After great morning action in the previous 2 falls, this was a frustrating change.   Baitfish was deep in places we’ve seen it in the past, but it never moved into the 10 and 15 foot of water that we need it to be at to make fish more catchable. This has to be weather/water temp related. Water temps never got down to the point where this bait came in to spawn. Baitfish was loaded in the 20 to 30 feet of water range throughout the fall.   We got more fish on points and tips and structural elements of that nature than over saddles and in channel, current, etc.

Special Thanks to: Some of these will be repeating year after year so humor me a bit……

Duffy Thury (Supernatural Big Baits) for another good supply of baits to beat up. The fish love them and so do I. I wouldn’t want to troll without several of these in the tackle box.

Mike Blewett (Wick Onez Musky Customz) for the Kingpinz collection. Great baits with some of the most amazing paint jobs you will find on a lure. Dick Moore (Moore’s Lure) – For all my terminal tackle needs.

Bob Schmidt: Just Encase tackle boxes. Simply the best in tackle storage. Thorne Bros Custom Rod & Tackle: Proud to be a Thorne Bros Pro Staffer. Nearly all of my gear is available through Thorne!

Lidio Azevedo (Blue Water Baits) for the opportunity to run some awesome Canadian made lures.   Thanks, Lidio!

Dave Kormanyos (DK Musky Lures) for the Fifty Finders! Very cool baits. Thanks to Andrew Rideout and Zac Buwalda for the hook-up.

To the Rabbi, Todd, Amy, Tom, Lee, Brad, Eric, Mitch, Dean, Brady, Brian, & Jeremy for taking time away from work, family and home to spend time in the Pooh boat with me this past fall.

Final Thoughts

After not being as excited to fish last fall as I normally would have been, I was looking forward to trolling even more-so than another other fall this year. I did not make it out casting during the 2015 season. Not one single time. Not having enough or experienced help at the resort was the main reason, but a sinus issue sucking my energy made me choose not to fish at night after the end of the day.   Getting out in the boat and doing some trolling is like my reward for making it through a long, busy season at the resort and spending it with cool friends is the best part.   Catching fish is a bonus.

I have a surgery date to correct my sinus issues and hope to put that behind me in late January so I will be home in Manitoba from mid-January to mid-February to take care of that, but otherwise plan to enjoy time away from the resort until spring. It will be nice to breathe like a normal human again after a couple of years fighting with my nose not working properly.

Thanks for following along with our adventures in the Pooh Boat again. Hopefully we will have more to report this time next year!

Cheers

J-Man

4 thoughts on “J-Man’s 2015 Muskie Trolling Report: Lake of the Woods; Sabaskong Bay & Area

  1. Justin…I am in awe of your entire project. Wow….great stuff!! You guys do get it done. Congratulations on following your dream in the fall after a bust-your-ass resort business spring thru fall. I do understand what you experience. It’s a young man’s game. Stay healthy and strong. And….keep up the fabulous fishing. You need your own show. Love the details and stats. That’s a great way to stay in touch with the whole nature cycle out where you are fishing. Proud of you!!!!

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  2. Justin… I only wish I were 20 yrs younger and had the initiative and mental ability to use the technology you currently employ. Am also interested in the data here. Your recordkeeping is to be commended. The best fishermen I know keep records of weather conditions, including barometric pressure, temps, wind speeds, water levels– and I have never done so. Just rely on previous experience. Your methodology is superior. What I can relate anecdotally from 60 yrs in 6201 is that there are more muskie, fewer northern, smaller crappie, fewer sauger, more bass, bigger walleye being caught. This past year, I caught the FIRST carp relative (we used to call that fish a sheephead) at LotW while spinner/drop sinker fishing for walleye. 5-6 lbs. I also think the prevalent technology of depth finders and lake software contributes to more water being fished than previously, which likely accounts for bigger walleye. There are plenty of the 12-17 inch variety around, though there are more in the 22-30″ range. Our core gang is looking forward to another Sept. trip, which promises to be an annual addition to our bookings. Am also disturbed by this invasive crayfish and loss of “cabbage grass” habitat. The new world is not always an improvement. Also wonder if you notice effects from climate change. Best of luck with your snot chamber op. I’ve heard it is the cat’s meow. You da bomb, bro. Best wishes, vjg

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