We are a couple weeks into muskie season here in central Ontario. With northern Ontario's opener this past weekend, muskie is open pretty well everywhere.
Whether you're trying muskie for the first time, or you've been fishing for them for years, here are a few tips and reminders to keep you fresh on the water.
Fish handling:A topic often beaten to death, yet there are still ample examples of poor practices to be found online and in trophy photos.
Secure your hand on the bottom of their jaw, being careful not to put your hand through a gill arch, hurting yourself and the fish. (A wonderfully detailed description of this hold can be watched here by Pete Maina)
Support their weight with your other hand beneath their belly. Vertical holds put a lot of stress onto the fishes' anatomical structure. The pressure of gravity outside of water alone is enough of a shock for them.
Alyssa Lloyd Photography
Landing: Always, always, do your best to land muskies as quickly as possible. Don't dilly dally. Get them to the boat and leave them in the net boat-side to unhook them. While you're getting your camera ready, be sure to give them that time submerged in water in the net.
Make sure you've got a good hold on them, lift, support, snap a photo and get them back in the water. For a tough fish, they are exceptionally fragile outside of their natural element, treat them as such. A good trick is to hold your own breathe every time you hold a fish out of the water.
***If you need more incentive aside from the fishes' well being: bite windows for muskies are often few and far between. Get your catch back in the water so you can start casting again while they are active.***
Alyssa Lloyd Photography
Proper tools:A net large enough to hold a small human and long nose pliers will help hook releases that avoid maiming hands. Don't forget heavy duty cutters preferably with long handles that will snip through muskie hooks with ease.
If you get a hook embedded in your own hide, you'll be happy to have them. They also help with unfortunate hook placements that can't be removed from fish until the barbs have been cut, for instance their gut, or even their eyes. These sorts of incidents happen, but having the proper tools to deal with them when they do, makes a world of a difference. For yourself and the fish.
Sam Thompson Photography
If you're a seasoned muskie angler, these things come as second nature. If you're just beginning, you're liable to learn the above through trial and error.
As a beginner, one more thing to pay close attention to is regulations in your area. Seasons and exceptions can vary depending on your FMZ (Fisheries Management Zone) and can even change throughout the year if there are unfavourable water conditions.
Don't let this discourage you. As a beginner, there are better ways to learn. If you are unsure of something regarding muskie, never hesitate to ask an experienced muskie angler. It'll save yourself and the fish a lot of grief.
Wishing you all a wonderful hook free season full of personal bests.