Muskies from a Kayak
Spring and fall for big fish
Big fish and little boats. The concept doesn't just draw me, it consumes me. How big of a fish can be caught from a kayak? This is a question I constantly try to push the envelope with. Luckily, there are others like me. Jesse Crawford is one such angler. A muskie nut who finds himself spending his free time chasing monsters from a tiny, plastic boat.
Crawford typically finds himself on lakes and reservoirs. There is no doubt the techniques he uses are transferable to moving water, that's just not where he spends most of his time. When winter releases its icy grip, and spring creeps up, you can find Crawford throwing baits on a local reservoir. "In the spring, reservoirs perform best. The muskies seem to follow the baitfish into shallower, warmer water."
Early in the season, Crawford says to think small and slow when it comes to baits. "Small jerkbaits, relatively small spinners, and small crank baits. The later in the year we get, the bigger the baits get."
Once fall hits, Crawford switches gears and heads to northern natural lakes. "In fall its been hard for me to find fish in reservoirs, but that's really prime time for (natural) lake fishing." He sticks to his theory of increasing bait size later in the season. "I'm not going to tell you my favorite (bait), but I will say you see a lot of Bulldogs and Double Cowgirls in the water."
Now that you have an idea of how to catch them, there are some considerations that need to be taken when kayak fishing for muskies. For Crawford, the first is safety. "Musky fishing is the only fishing I do that I worry about safety. They are big, powerful fish with sharp teeth and gill plates. The best time to catch them is when the water is cold enough to worry about. I wear an inflatable PFD all the time." Other considerations would be to wear waders with a belt, as well as a dry top just in case you take an unexpected swim.
Safety doesn't just end with you. The fish's safety needs to be taken into account as well. These are apex predators that are not all that common even in bodies of water they thrive in. Measures need to be taken to ensure a safe release. "I have gloves ready that allow me to grab them anyway necessary and not worry about getting cut. I keep several hook removal tools and jaw spreaders where I can use them."
Of course there are some nuances when it comes to kayak fishing for a large predator like this. "Jerkbaits are pretty tough to work. Most muskie baits pull pretty hard and have a tendency to reposition the boat. It is pretty hard to keep a natural motion with a jerkbait and keep your boat where you want it. Twitch baits are even worse." To stop lures from pulling you out of position, Crawford rates a drift sock as the number one muskie angler accessory. "It really helps control the boat. I attach it at the transom and have a rope attached near my seat to retrieve it."
Your kayak is another consideration when fishing for big fish. A large, stable craft is preferred by Crawford. "Keeping the bait moving at the boat is a vital part of the process, so being able to stand and fish is a must. It is good to keep in mind that if you are lucky enough to get a fish to follow to the boat, it is going to create a lot of torgue if they bite." There are numerous options that fit the bill. Test paddling different kayaks is a great way to find one that is stable enough to stand in.
Fishing for muskies, especially from a kayak, is not for everyone. It is reserved for hard-nosed, ardent individuals willing to put in the time. However, these fish are out there for the anglers willing to dedicate themselves to catching them. The rewards are like few other things in freshwater.