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|Detroit River and St Clair River Musky Jigging
|Muskie and Pike Esox Angler
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Muskie Fishing in North America.
In recent years jigging for musky in the Detroit River and St Clair River has started to gain
interest among Detroit Michigan and Windsor Ontario area muskie anglers and guides. A
majority of the musky fishing in the Detroit area is done on Lake St Clair and by far the most
popular methods used are trolling and casting for musky. Like most musky fisherman
through out North America I prefer to cast for musky more then any other method. Moving
your rod up and down all day while drifting is not exactly the most exciting way to pursue a
muskie and on a slow day it can be as boring as trolling. However, jigging can be a very
productive addition to targeting musky in the fast current deep sections of the Detroit River,
St Clair River, and shipping channel. Normal conventional casting methods are not
applicable here and jigging is the key to getting these deep river fish. It is well known that
muskies are very well adapted for rivers and that some of the biggest musky in the area live
in or frequent the deep sections of these rivers. Jigging allows anglers to target the musky in
these deep fast current areas.
When to Jig For Musky
Jigging is worth trying all season but the most productive time to jig for musky in the Detroit
River and St Clair River is early in the season(June) and in late October and November.
But keep in mind that after mid October it is more often then not, that the days will have 20-
30mph winds making it almost impossible to fish and clouding the water in both rivers. Due
to the windy conditions I usually try to persuade clients to try jigging in June or go casting
through the summer and early fall to avoid loosing a day of fishing due to high winds. Its not
uncommon for 3 out of 4 days to be to windy in the late fall.
There are a number of reasons and theories that make spring and fall more applicable for
musky jigging but that could be a whole additional article. For the most part during these
times of year the fish in the rivers are concentrated in key spots and not spread out.
Even though spring and fall are best for jigging, I still jig for musky all season under certain
conditions. Even in the middle of the summer when I normally cast to musky in weed beds
and have incredible results there are some days due to cold fronts or other conditions that
there just is not any action and I might switch to jigging. Sometimes switching to jigging can
allow you to pass a bait right in front of an inactive muskies nose and induce a strike. And
no matter what time of the year or what the feeding activity is there are days when it’s too
windy to be fishing the main lake and jigging in the rivers can really save the day on a
There are also times that jigging is used that are not related to the weather or water
temperature, but personal preference. Not everyone likes to cast musky sized lures all day
and jigging can give you a break from that. You can jig for musky in the Detroit River or St
Clair River all day with a lot less arm fatigue.
Where to go jigging for musky
In recent years the Detroit River has received a good deal of publicity through the media for
musky jigging, however big musky can be found in every part of the Lake St Clair eco
system from Port Huron to Lake Erie. The closer you are to Lake St Clair the higher the
population of musky – in most cases. The problem is that about 10% of the area in the
rivers and shipping channel hold good numbers of big musky. The key is finding these
specific key spots. 99% of the time when I am jigging for musky in the St Clair River it is in
the North, Middle, and South Channels. Just this area alone can take all summer to cover
and explore it all.
The trick is key structure and FOOD. Many people make the mistake of drifting very long
sections of the St Clair or Detroit River jigging for musky. You need to pick small key spots
that have the ingredients to hold large musky and work them hard over and over. Such as
current breaks along the beginning and ends of islands, weed beds close to deep drop offs
and areas with plenty of other fish. One of the biggest indicators is an area where anglers
have been getting into good numbers of bass and walleye. You would be amazed at the
number of fisherman that hook musky while jigging for walleye. And sheepshead are one of
the Great Lakes muskies favorite foods. Think like a musky and look for spots with plenty of
good habitat (weed beds, shallow flats etc) close by that a big musky can move in and out
of with nice deep water and plenty of food.
How to jig for musky
The most common method used to jig for Detroit and St Clair River musky is vertical
jigging. This is similar to the technique used by walleye fisherman for jigging. Most
anglers prefer to keep their musky jig 2-3ft from the bottom and just raise it up and down a
few feet being sure to keep the line tight at all times. This is done while drifting down
stream at the same speed as the current using a trolling motor to adjust your speed to
help keep your line vertical and maintain your position. I also like to cast out and let jigs
sink to the bottom and bounce and rip them back to the boat. You can cover much more
area this way and it works great when casting into the shoreline and bouncing the musky
jig down a steep drop off out of thick cover.
I recenty have had some fun jigging out in the main sections of Lake St Clair. In areas of
the main lake that I usually only cast for musky in 8-16ft of water I have started casting jigs
and bouncing them off the bottom while reeling them in like a bass tube bait with some
good results. Even in thick weed beds with weedless jigs you can get right down into the
thick stuff musky are hiding in where most lures cant and muskie will strike at or follow the
jigs right out of thick cover. And on guide trips on occasion when customers get tired
arms from casting, the option of vertical jigging right down into the weeds or along the
edges at the end of the day can work wonders and save their arms.
Jigs to Use
Just about anything you can get down to the bottom that has some size to it (4-10”) in
length can work, however there are a number of lures and jigs I like to use that have
performed well. And no matter how good a jig works it has to get down deep. There are
a number of musky jigs on the market but not many that are designed to get down 30, 40,
or even 50-60ft in the St Clair and Detroit Rivers. You need at least 5 or more ounces
(depending on current and depth) and I often add extra weight to smaller jigs to get them
down. And there are even a few very large heavy sinking crank baits that have some
incredible action when jigged. Some of the jigs/lures I use are in the photo to the left from
top to bottom then up the right side you have the Shad Clone, Bondy Bait by Jon Bondy,
10” Storm Kickin Minnow, 9” Storm Swim Shad, Storm 6” Swim Shad, Lil Hustler Jig,
and 8” Tiger Tube. But keep in mind even if you have the best jig the greatest factor is
being in the right LOCATION!
There could probably be an entire book written on jigging for musky, but for now I hope
this helps you out enough ;) Whether you are into casting, trolling, or any other methods
jigging for musky is surely a means to have in your options. Casting for musky is a much
more exciting method ( nothing like seeing them hit at boatside) but don’t over look
jigging as good option to get down deep. This should be sufficient enough to get you
started and hooked on jigging for musky in the Detroit River and St Clair River or
anywhere you go after muskie either on your own or with local guides.
Captain Steve Kunnath
One great advantage to musky jigging
is that you can comfortably sit in a nice
chair all day!
|Whitecaps Musky Tackle
Purchase your Bondy Bait and
other jigs at Whitecaps Tackle.
Lake St Clairs online musky fishing
store. They have all the gear you