Musky Season Is Never Over for Avid Anglers
So now that the lakes are officially frozen and it’s time to seal up the family barge, what can avid musky anglers do to hold them over for the long winter season? Winter can seem to take eons if you aren’t an ice angler or experienced game hunter. Long after the lakes have gathered several inches of ice, you might find yourself gazing back at your summer snapshots and longing for warmer temps, but there are plenty of important projects that can keep you motivated while you await next season. Muskies aren’t resting on their laurels and neither should the devoted angler. The following is a prep list for lazy days to keep you in tip-top shape for the season opener next year.
This may seem like a “give-me” but don’t neglect your boat maintenance while it’s seasonally retired. Some folks get their boat out at season opener and find themselves disappointed with all of the undone tasks that could have provided hours of entertainment over the long winter. When it comes to musky-boat maintenance, you should set aside some valuable hours to prep your boat for another amazing season. It's great to pull apart your boat and inspect it from top to bottom. Take time to freshen up your emergency kit, check your fire safety devices, clean out any foreign objects, empty your gas tanks or add some stable, tighten up screws, oil and grease gears and moving parts, check all switches, touch up paint your trailer, check floatation devices, and make any general repairs/additions like new seats, electronics, etc. Also, don’t forget to add some mouse repellant (recommend Grandpa Gus’s) to keep out the varmints. Hitting those repairs and fixes early will save you a lot of time down the road.
Winter is a great time to bring your rod, reels, and tackle inside for an in-depth inspection. If you left a bird’s nested reel below the deck, pull it out for a quick fix. This is a great time to oil and repair all of your reels, adding fresh lines before storage. For rods, winter projects can include eyelet repairs, reel seat adjustments, wrapping, and general cleaning. Cork handles can get especially grimy, so treat them with some degreaser and follow it up with a little Kelly’s Cork Renew (mostly used on shoes, but perfect to seal and protect your expensive rod handles).
When it’s time to address your tackle, the long winter months can be a fine time for repairs and organization. Bent hooks, dull hooks, loose lips, etc. are great projects to attack over the winter months. As much as lures cost these days, it’s very important to keep them in fighting shape. Fix rubber baits with a hot butter knife; add fresh skirts to your favorite blades; sharpen every hook in the box. And while we’re on tackle, take the time to get it organized for the next season. If you have more than one box or lots of boat space, fill your boxes for the months you fish. Take the time to sort out baits by seasonality and color for the lakes you love. You won’t be disappointed when the time comes and you have a handy dandy spring box prepared with top waters, light spinners, and bucktails ready to go. It can save you from opening an unsorted and tangled box when the moment arrives.
Winter is an excellent time to up your game on electronics. Many lucky anglers will receive updated electronics from Santa this holiday season, so take the time to get to know your trolling motors, live image scopes, and other electronic units. It helps to keep a handy charged battery for setups and in-depth study. Don’t make your first trip out on the lake a “wing-it” operation by not understanding your new maps, not installing updates, choosing the wrong map card, or not understanding all your electronics can do for you. Set the depth read, color charts, and favorite spots before you go on the water. Take the time to watch the official videos or find a YouTube channel with tips and tricks for setting up your various units. This will save you time and energy in the spring/summer when fooling with set-ups is the last thing you want to do at season opener.
Study Your Location… Location… Location
No matter where you hang your hat within the muskies’ habitat range, the most important part of your winter plan is studying up on your old waters and new ones. Every avid angler should be prepared for tying new locations without hesitation and knowing where to find the best possible action on their water. This comes through map rehearsal. It might sound nerdy, but if you have the time during your winter evenings, turn off the tv and spread out a paper chart across your dining room table (or your computer screen). Take the time to do the work. Great tips are going back through your old photos and marking catches on your map or searching for the best structure on a body of water with deep holding areas related to shallow feeding areas. Make sure you are marking areas of interest so you don’t develop a case of “spot fever” when the season begins. It's quite common early in the season for some anglers to run from spot to spot to spot without engaging fish from the excitement of a previous catch. Therefore, it’s a great time in the winter to engage your mind by planning out your activities precisely so that excited energy doesn’t get the best of you and you can take the time to fish out each well-planned structural area because you put the work in over the winter.
If you’ve got the time over the winter, taking on next year's projects and preparing for a new season is a great method to stay busy. The minds of musky anglers are always active when engaging in the sport, so don’t let the downtime take you away from the sport you love. Utilize these long winter nights planning your next move, or preparing for your next strike. The avid angler never rests when boating trophies is on the line.