The “Catch” with Keith Cortopassi
As I reflect back on the 2021 Musky Season, I can honestly say that the fish threw a ton of surprises at me this year in particular. In 25 years of chasing Indiana Musky, this will go down as my most successful season for both numbers and average overall size. It took a variety of tactics to make that happen, several of which would NOT have been part of the usual plan.
It started in the beginning of March, with the fairly early ice out. Generally I would consider this time of year to be exceptionally tough, but rewarding to those who stay persistent. If you find a fish this time of year, it will usually be an extremely heavy, pre-spawn female. This year was different. Immediately after the ice left the lake, I found several feeding fish. Some male and some female, but all heavy, healthy, and clean mid 40 Inch class fish. This was the first year I experienced so many active fish at ice out. It would continue to be an early spring bite for my boat.
As we began to transition into late spring/early summer, I was excited for the traditional “hot bite.” I was instead met with low Musky catches, and low fish sightings on all of my usual spots. I began to question myself and my tactics, and I was growing frustrated, to say the least. Just when I thought that it couldn’t get much worse, we were hit with an unusual heat wave that pushed the water temperatures way up….and fast.. I decided at that point to switch gears entirely, and start running the same trolling program that we generally wouldn’t utilize until early fall. The results were absolutely insane! Over the period of one week and 30 hours of fishing, we put 39 Muskies in the boat, and lost a handful of others. The key here was that the water surface temp had skyrocketed extremely fast. However, the immediate sub service layers remained cool and even cold by traditional calendar year standards. No giants (by some standards) were caught but all the fish were between 35 and 46.5 inches. Some of those fish carrying very impressive weight for this time of year.
Gradually the bite began to taper off, and those fish that seemed to be everywhere, were gone. I had to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan. The good news is that I had a few weeks to do it. The summer heat was setting in, and once the water gets beyond a favorable temp, we hang it up, and begin planning our late summer/early fall plan of attack. A few weeks to let the pleasure boaters and jet skis get off the water, and then we get back at it. Generally the best fishing is still ahead.
The fishing in Indiana can really begin to get hot again for both numbers and big fish, starting in October until ice up. This year was a bit different as we began finding small packs of active fish that were feeding in super short windows, and only in very specific conditions. They were unusually picky, but when the feeding window opened, the action was fierce and fast. You absolutely had to keep baits in the water and moving. Thorough figure 8’s became a must and resulted in most of the fish landed. Once again, all the fish were between 35 and 45 inches, as well as heavy and healthy. But still, nothing over 46.5 inches in my boat for 2021.
That brings me to the end of my season, the last few days of November to be exact. On a last minute solo mission, I would be blessed with 2 gorgeous 45 inch fish, just minutes apart from each other. They almost looked like twin sisters, completely gorged on shad and solid as can be from head to tail. One of those fish, fell to a Bondy Bait being vertical jigged, 16 foot down over 30 foot of water. The other eventually engulfed a Magnum Swimmin Dawg after half a dozen heart stopping figure 8s! It became clear that a key factor to those fish eating was “the moon.” Both fish decided to eat less than 30 minutes into a Major. Sadly and somewhat surprisingly, those beauties would be the last two fish that I woulda handle for the year. A bittersweet ending to what I would call a unique and unexpected season.
So where were all the truly big fish hiding you ask??? Well, that’s a question I would ultimately have to close the books on. Eventually I would put the boat away without ever getting a chance at a 4 footer or bigger for the 2021 season. I did however manage to put more fish numbers in my boat than ever before…..and by far. I am more than happy with that, and consider it to be a successful year overall. I try to end every season with the reminder that sometimes success should be measured by the knowledge gained, and not necessarily the number of fish caught. 2021 gave me a generous amount of both, and I am grateful for that.
I anticipate 2022 to be a big and exciting year for Musky Psycho Guide Service. As I begin my first full season of guiding on Indiana waters, I can say with certainty that the future of Indiana Musky Fishery is looking stellar. I look forward to fishing with my return clients, as well as meeting new clients and friends in 2022. Let’s get in the boat and take pictures with fish together.
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