Last week we posted about water temperatures and how that relates to musky fishing. The intent was to share information with you all about chasing musky in hot water…something we continue to deal with here in Wisconsin given the hot water temps and low water we have in most parts of the state. That being said, there were a few statements that came off as definitive when in fact they are not.
After we posted, we got a chance to chat with Jordan Weeks (DNR Fisheries Biologist) about our message and where it is backed by science and where it is not.
Through this discussion, we learned that the science here is not yet clear. There is currently no scientific research that definitively confirms at 80 degree water temp we should stop musky fishing to reduce fish mortality. Even at temperatures above 80 degrees there is still more than enough dissolved oxygen in the water for musky survival. That being said, most anglers recognize that they see more floating dead muskies in the dog days of summer which could or could not be related to the impact hot water has on musky mortality. There are several factors here that have to be considered: hot water, increased angling pressure in the summertime, or we just see more floating muskies in the summer because the get bloated and float. As Jordan has mentioned before far more muskies die at the bottom than those who die and float to the top.
The root of this exact discussion is what guides the current research project happening in West Virginia, Virginia, and most recently right here in Wisconsin. The intent of this research is to directly study the impact angling for muskies in hot water has on fish mortality. Hopefully the results will help clear up this ongoing debate in the future.
Until then, we are left to develop our own interpretation of what we see when angling for muskies in hot water. Personally speaking, when water temps start to hit and exceed 80 degrees I start to see muskies seek out colder water and drastically reduce their feeding. This is a sign of stress, but the cause of this stress is the piece that is not definitive. Given this, I do decide to press pause on the musky fishing until I can find water temps consistently under 80 degrees. This might mean stopping fishing altogether, but more often than not it requires I find cooler water where I feel more confident I will get a bite AND that I will be able to safely release that fish.
One thing we can all do is check water temps and be cautious when things get really hot. Finding hungry fish (musky, bass, and pike) will likely be done by locating cooler water anyhow so its well worth the pursuit. It is always a great practice to keep fish wet throughout the capture and get them back in the water as soon as possible, but something we try to be even more focused on during stretches of hot water.
Overall, I really enjoyed the conversation with Jordan and learned quite a bit. Thankfully, the current 10 day forecast in Wisconsin has a few days of rain and temps dropping into the 70s. Hopefully this continues so we can all get back to the musky grind!