New opportunities in final weeks of N.Y. muskie season

Hans Mann Left With Dan King Who Caught 55 Inch Musky In Buffalo Harbor

They often referred to as the fish of 10,000 casts. For New York’s Great Lakes waters, the upper Niagara River and Buffalo Harbor offer the best opportunities in Western New York for catching an elusive muskellunge. They are also available in the lower Niagara River, but not in the numbers that anglers see above Niagara Falls. Capt. Hans Mann of Buffalo Harbor Outfitters loves muskie fishing, especially in the month of November.

Mann believes in the effects of the sun and moon in fishing for muskellunge and it was no fluke that he chose Saturday morning on Oct. 22 for his first trip in Buffalo Harbor to pursue these majestic fish. There was a mid-day major phase going on per the Solunar tables and he wanted to be there for it. Accompanying him were friends Josh Ketry of Hamburg and Dan King of Orchard Park.

At 10:15 a.m. on that fateful day, a big fish hit Mann’s homemade 9-inch Deep Carver, a large crank bait he called a Night Shiner (orange belly, black sides, and gold flecks). After all, they call him “Hans the Carver.” He traditionally runs the lure 42 feet back behind his boat, giving him a dive of 15 to 18 feet. They were in 26 feet of water near the north gap of Buffalo Harbor, starting to navigate nasty 3-foot waves coming off Lake Erie. Dan King was up on the rod and the fish screamed out 100 feet of line on a tight drag. It was a big fish.

When King finally reeled the muskie to the boat and they were able to visually see it for the first time, they couldn’t believe how big the muskie was. The fish was huge, by any muskie fisherman’s standards in any location around North America. It measured just under 55 inches long (on a bump board) and the girth was crazy big. They didn’t have a tape measure and used a 30-inch cable for a guesstimate. It was bigger than that. Mann would guess it was 50 to 55 pounds, but he didn’t want to speculate any further than that.

Earlier in October, he caught a 55-1/2-inch muskie on the St. Lawrence River (another one of New York’s fabled Great Lakes muskie waters), but it didn’t have the girth this one did. He was prepared for that SLR trip and was able to weigh it on a net scale before he released it. That one was 44 pounds. He didn’t have the scale for his Buffalo Harbor adventure. It was his first trip of the year in the harbor, seeking out the big fish of autumn. It was more to get the cobwebs out for musky fishing as he prepared for charter customers. He was fishing with friends this day.

It was the biggest muskie he had ever seen, and he’s caught a lot of muskies. A lot. The fish was quickly released to fight another day, but after a few quick photos. Mann would have never guessed that this fish was hanging around, especially with Lake Erie a record high temperature for that time of year.

“You can’t make these fish hit your lure when they are not ready to eat,” said Mann. “You can just put yourself to be in the best position to be in the right place at the right time.”

This is prime time for muskie fishing right now and this year there will be an extra couple of weeks that anglers can take advantage of thanks to an extension of the season for the upper Niagara River and Lake Erie. Previously, the muskellunge season would shut down in New York waters above Niagara Falls on Nov. 30. However, Canadian waters would allow for a couple extra weeks of fishing each muskie season.

“It will certainly be interesting to see what happens in places like Buffalo Harbor because we have never been able to fish for muskies after November 30,” insists Mann. Water temperatures will be key to bring more fish into these waters. Muskie chasers hope that those temperatures will crack the 40-degree mark, but it’s more than that. Mann likes to see those temperatures remain consistent over an extended period. That’s what really makes a difference.

There’s another huge factor with this time of year – the weather. The threat of snow and high winds always seem to loom on Lake Erie and this year showed the country of what that potential can be when over 80 inches of snow dumped onto Western New York south of Buffalo. The river and the lake turned to chocolate milk, and it shut the fishing down for at least a week. Muskie fishermen will be chomping at the bit to hit the river once that water starts to clear, but it’s not unusual for another wind and/or rain-snow event to arrive before the water is fishable again. Anglers can only hope and pray. Oh yeah, the water temperatures are now in the 40’s.

Muskellunge test your limits. You must do everything right when you get one on your line. They seek out your weaknesses. That’s also what keeps muskie fishermen coming back for more. It’s not easy. Muskie fishing isn’t for the faint of heart. No fishermen get more excited over a “follow” of a muskie to the boat. Catching a muskie should be on everyone’s bucket list. Maybe just one more cast …

Categories: Blog Content, New York – Bill Hilts Jr

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