Guide Lines with Matthew Pickar: Wisconsin

Northern Wisconsin Musky Opener Report with Matthew Pickar

The strategy for this opener was somewhat unconventional from years past. In typical openers I would be targeting shallow lakes and flowages with stained water casting small glide baits and bucktails targeting fresh weed growth and warm waters. We decided to flip the script and target deep water clear lakes.


Air temperature was 30 degrees and surface water temp was 57 degrees at 0623. The forecast was sunny with not a cloud in the sky and a slight wind blowing from the southwest. Surface water temperatures had dropped several degrees from the weekend before. A temperature profile was taken of the entire water column. The temperature profile suggested a thermocline was established between 15 and 20 ft.

Location of bait in the morning was very high in the water column, occupying the top 10 ft. This was the zone that was targeted. Speed of trolling was 3.3 mph. Moon set was at 0804 and at 0812 we had our first strike in 26 ft of water but unfortunately the fish shook the hooks. One small contributing factor to the success of that trolling pass could be attributed to trolling with the wind.

Location of bait in the afternoon moved from where we had seen them for most of the day. The influence of heavy boating traffic from the holiday weekend drove the bait into an area nearby that had considerably less boat traffic, which allowed them to stay in their preferred comfort zone of the top 10 ft of the water column. Surface water temp was now 62 degrees. Moon underfoot was at 1630 and a 40” musky was caught at 1633 on a 6” OBP crankbait that I made. The boat was in 28 ft of water and the bait was running at a depth of 8 ft. Trolling with the wind at 3.2 mph.


Air temp was 69 degrees and surface water temp was 62 degrees at 1256. The forecast to start the day was partly cloudy, windy, wind blowing from the west. An approaching storm front with strong thunderstorms was heading our way. A temperature profile was taken of the water column, indicating no thermocline was established. I am fairly certain that this lake is too shallow and small to form a thermocline.

The first hour was spent locating the bait. Bait was related to the bottom 8ft of the lake and often associated with structure. The area of the lake that we decided to target had a max depth of 24 ft. The zone of the water column we decided to target was 10-15 ft. Lures were set and 5 minutes later at 1401 a 48 ½“ musky was caught on a baby depth raider sucker pattern. The bait was running at a depth of 10ft. Trolling against the wind at 3.5 mph.

This big fish catch had no association with a moon phase, and I believe the approaching storm front was the greatest contributor to switching this big girl into a positive mood. Overall a great start to the season with three important lessons learned:

1. Don’t be afraid to try something new and do something different

2. Find the bait and you will find the muskies

3. Moon is very important however weather can have a greater influence on a musky’s behavior

Gregg Thomas

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