Muskies Under Pressure: Unraveling Pre and Post Frontal Conditions
To unravel the techniques needed to fish in pre and post frontal conditions, you really need to understand the dynamics of what is taking place below the surface of the water. Muskies, as most fish in the lake, carry around a swim bladder to keep their pressure regulated in a 3-D water filled space. They don’t have their feet planted heavily on the ground like people, so the swim bladder helps dictate their position and comfort in the water column.
It's because of this swim bladder that muskies are so heavily affected by various weather fronts. In our case, you might feel it in your joints or sinus cavities, while muskies are feeling the discomfort with their ability to maintain optimum body positioning. Frontal conditions bring out the best and the worst in fishing for muskies, but you just need to strike when the iron is hot.
The best time to catch a trophy musky (if you are following your local weather patterns) is prior to a cold frontal condition. As a cold front is approaching, the atmospheric pressure in the surrounding space is slowly dropping letting our underwater friends know it’s time to eat! It’s something like stocking up on groceries before a snowstorm. Muskies know the pressure is changing so they want to feed and wait out the storm.
Typically, once the leading edge of the cold front arrives, the big feeding frenzy subsides and muskies, like other fish, will find a lower water habitat to haunt until the weather neutralizes. During the feeding window is a great time to throw the kitchen sink at a musky, all while observing seasonal favorites. If the front is a fall time movement, it’s time great time for big blades, quick gliders, and thumping rubber. If the front is moving up in spring, use your favorite downsized cranks and surface baits to get the party started. This is a great time to use the muskies active feeding windows against them and use all the tricks of the trade.
After the short window closes and the leading edge of the front arrives, the pressure behind this leading edge will rise sharply and slowly level out. It’s at this point when most anglers throw their hands up and throw their rods down. Even though the big feeding window has closed, the possibility is still there to catch a musky, but you have to work a little harder. During the sharp change in pressure, muskies want to hang out in areas that make them feel comfortable.
They will rest near deep structure in their favorite haunts to wait out the bends, and it’s here that you’ll experience a different type of bite. If you seek to catch a post frontal musky, the trick is slowing down, fishing deep, and many times downsizing your lure. Muskies have had their Thanksgiving feast, but they wouldn’t turn their nose up at dessert if it was put right in their face. A great style of fishing for this post frontal condition is vertically. Vertical fishing allows you to slow your active reeling rate, and allow the lures to rise and fall at their own pace. Sometimes when fishing horizontally, we might be outmaneuvering these slimy couch potatoes with quick line pickup.
The play is to make slow attempts to entice muskies and jig your lures right in their faces; as mentioned, they might be full but if you put in on their nose, it’s an easy strike. Make sure to cover only highly suspect water, don’t waist your time casting toward shoreline, follow the edges, rocks, and underwater rocky landscapes. These fish are holding to deep cover and aren’t going to follow in from a bombed shore cast.
If all else fails in the post frontal pressures, you can always bring some live bait to the party. Nothing stokes the fire to feed like a lively sucker dinner. A combination of both presentations can be very effective, just don’t shoot for the biggest sucker in the bucket, remember in this situation that you should downsize your live bait as well.
Fishing Frontal conditions can always be a pain, but it helps to know what you are up against before you get started. Always pay attention to the forecast, if you know a couple of days before the front blows through, you might just get out there and catch the trophy of your dreams. If you’re late to the frontal party, remember to slow down, size down, and stick to the structure.