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Muskie fishing

Jim Gaber and his son, Zach Gaber, of Lincoln, cast and retrieve big lures in hopes of catching one of the trophy muskies swimming along the dam at Merritt Reservoir in Cherry County.

NEBRASKAland Magazine/NGPC

I like to fish for a variety of species and target different species at different peak times throughout the year. That is the best strategy for staying on a good bite year-round.

My son and I target big fish of a variety of species all the time. At times, we target the biggest predator fish that swim our waters — the muskie. We target muskies every year during the spring and fall; we usually leave them alone during the heat of the summer when they do not need any additional stress from being hooked and landed.

Unfortunately, we have been in a big muskie slump for quite some time now, and it is getting old.

Muskies are known as the fish of 10,000 casts because they are apex, top-of-the-food-chain predators. Because they sit at that pinnacle, they are never abundant anywhere they swim. You have to earn muskies. That is the frustration of muskie fishing.

One reason muskies have a reputation for being impossible to catch is because many anglers just are not doing it right. There are many things you can do to reduce the number of casts to somewhere less than 10,000, but how does one confidently fish for such a rare fish with little encouragement that he or she is doing things right? The conundrum of muskie fishing is that you have to keep pitching big baits out there with little or no indication that you are doing it right.

For starters, anglers should fish waters where muskies are present. Then they should have an understanding of what prey those big predators are eating; after all, predation is what drives their location and behavior all of the time, except during the spawn. Continually switching baits is not a way to reduce the number of casts required to catch a muskie. Rotating through every bait in the box reeks of no confidence. Figure out the right tool — the bait you will fish in front of the muskies — and then keep it there as long as possible. Eventually, when they are ready to eat, your bait will be in front of them.

It is that simple — and that hard.

My son and I have been waiting a long time now for it to happen again. It will. It is only a matter of time.

Daryl Bauer is the outreach program manager in the Game and Parks' Fisheries Division. Contact him at Read his blog, Barbs and Backlashes, at


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