-Niagara Musky Association – Catch & Release
-Musky Lures, Secret Musky Logic
-One Musky Champion: Captain Larry Jones
By Forrest Fisher
When I was just a little boy in the 1950’s, I would read the Breem’s Forrest outdoor column in the Buffalo Courier Express (New York), noting that “musky fishermen from Chet Bowman’s livery at the foot of Sheridan Drive would score on big muskies off Strawberry Island.” I was always fascinated by the size of the fish shown in the newspaper pictures – some 50 pounders, so these big fish have always had my personal attention (and fear).
In those days, anglers would brag about the great taste of musky – which was really not all that good, but they were actually bragging more about their big fish catch. It’s a guy thing, especially post-era WWII, success was hard to find at times.
Anglers did eat many of the musky’s caught back then, many of those anglers were elderly post-depression era fisherman and they knew what it meant to have zero food. They would not waste anything, especially a big fish that might provide many meals. It was a different time.
Today, modern-era anglers are educated and know much more about conservation, they understand the fishery for giant fish is limited to preserving and maintaining the smaller fish. One organization, the Niagara Musky Association (NMA), has many dedicated members and is passing on the master plan of catch and release to everyone when it comes to musky.
As a result, members of this fishing and conservation organization have proven with catch data and record keeping that their view of catch and release is working. They catch a musky monster, handle it carefully, take a photo if possible and release the fish back to nature. Wall mounts today only need a length, birth and picture to recreate your catch and allow life in the musky world to flourish.
With this program in effect for many years now, decades, big musky are caught all year long, but musky are especially on the mega-feed as we enter November. Upper Niagara River and Buffalo Harbor currents attract baitfish in large schools as fall weather turns toward winter months and the muskies know it. The savvy anglers know it too, anglers like Captain Larry Jones, who is literally booked for every day from October through the end of November. Why? Because Jones catches fish and he catches them all the time. He knows the strategy of baitfish location change and that means big fish for his clients.
Just yesterday, Captain Larry Jones was fishing some of his secret water trolling areas with a client, Chris Kempf from Cheektowaga, New York, and the musky were cooperating despite the 34 degree air temperature. Kempf reeled in two musky over the few hours of night preceding sunrise, one of them measuring nearly 47 inches.
Jones set up his client trolling a Legend Plow crankbait, a modified $100 lure, with the lure running feet down over 41 feet of water out in lower Lake Erie in front of Buffalo. Jones says, “We were marking schools of emerald shiners 25 feet down, lots of walleye hooks and a couple bigger muskie hooks. Using lead core line to acquire extra depth, we set our crankbaits at 25 feet and trolled through the baitfish from different directions of approach. On the 4th pass at 5:30 am we got a hook up and after a short fight into the net went an extra fat 46.25” muskie. We managed to catch a 2nd fish too, a 38″ muskie closer to the Buffalo Harbor South Gap in 34 feet of water.”
Catching two fish normally defined by anglers as “the fish of a thousand casts” in less than two hours is an incredible feat in itself, but Captain Jones does this all the time largely because he understands the fishery.
Jones adds, “Yes, a lot of the conditions that allow you to catch big muskies before the water temperature drops cool enough to bring in bait fish from deeper waters of Lake Erie are short lived. The wind-induced water temperature changes with wind direction change and everything is either there or gone just like that.”
While late fall is the best time to hook a real giant, Jones says, “The only other chance you have before the water temp in Buffalo Harbor gets warmer then the deep waters of Lake Erie is strong winds with big waves turning Lake Erie silty grey and water behind the walls is green tint, everything moves to cleaner water, baitfish and predators. Get a North or NW winds and it blows up the Harbor behind the walls replacing warm water with equal lake temperature water and everything disappears again. So timing to conditions is everything.” Jones is sharing his secret tactics with words from the wisdom of experience.
I will personally admit to the joy and surprise of landing 12 or 13 of these monsters while fishing for walleye and bass over the years. Each time I have noticed the eyes of the hooked musky are actually focused and turning to observe the angler with the rod or the net in the boat. As the fish moves around the boat during the landing process, the eyeballs and pupils of the fish turn with every fish change of movement.
Yes, it is fascinating, but a bit spooky too, especially on Halloween night! Exciting to be sure! We have always carefully released them because we value our fingers and because they are such a magnificent, handsome, fish! They are freshwater sharks, lots of teeth!
Captain Larry Jones has been trophy musky hunting the Niagara River and Lake Erie for nearly three decades and catches many fish near the 50 pound mark on frequent occasions. He also fished the Upper Niagara River and Chautauqua Lake. In 1996, Jones caught and released 112 muskies of his own to win the Muskies Inc. – Masters Division Championship. Add that his clients that year caught another 79 muskies from his boat. Wow, this guy is spooky good at musky fishing!
Captain Larry holds a U.S. Coast Guard Masters License and his boat rig is U.S. Coast Guard inspected each year, he is fully insured and well equipped. His contact info is (716) 833-6739, or on the web, visit: http://www.visitbuffaloniagara.com/businesses/mostly-muskies-charters/.
Respect these magnificent fish if you hook one, release them quickly, and be careful not to damage their gills or fins.
Share life with others, make new friends in the outdoors, lead by example.