Muskies in Massachusetts? On the Fly?

What is the rarest fish to catch in MA? The musky. Every year, fewer musky are submitted for sport fishing awards than any other fish in MA. They are just hands down hard to catch.

So lets start back to last summer (2013). I am on Lake Quinsigamond in Worchester. I am throwing big 7 inch swimbaits for huge bass, when I hook into something giant. My first reaction is that I have a new record bass, but as it gets closer, I am astonished by what I see. In the water, about 6 feet from my boat is a 3 foot musky! I start frantically trying to unfold my landing net (I have a collapsible one), and I lift my rod tip to try to pull it in. But as I lift my rod, SNAP! I didn’t have a steel leader, just straight braid. Braid will snap when it hits anything sharp, so to be honest, I am surprised I got it as far as I did. But this experience got me hooked, I wanted to catch a musky in MA. I knew they were in the lake, but I had never seen anyone catch one. So I got out my heavy baitcasters and steel leaders, when I had an idea. I would rather try to hook a musky on the fly in MA, than hook one on a baitcaster.

The percentage of Massachusetts fly fishers that have caught a musky on the fly is probably less than 1%. I have never met anyone who caught one, and I have met very few spin fishermen or ice fishermen who have. They are rare, and catching one on the fly was going to be hard.

I began to assemble the gear I thought I would use. I got out a couple of 8 weights, and all my biggest streamers. I also tied a ton of big flies, and made some wire leaders.

Now the bigger problem: Where is the best spot to catch a musky? I looked through the list of places that they were stocked in, and tried all the closest ones. I asked everyone I met on the water about muskies, and slowly crossed lakes off the list. Finally, I decided to focus on three: Spy Pond, Lake Cochituate, and Lake Quinsigamond. Each of these lakes had produced at least 2 documented muskies in the last 5 years; not great odds, but better than searching for a a musky in a lake that has none.

So starting last summer, I hit these lakes all the time. Spring, summer, fall, it didn’t matter. But I had almost no luck. I saw one guy catch a giant in Lake Quinsigamond, and saw a musky in the flats in Lake Cochituate. But I hooked nothing.

So at the beginning of this spring I was ready again. I broke out the heavy rods. I fished long and hard all summer but again, I failed to land one. Then, just last month, I was fishing Spy Pond when I hooked into one! He hit the giant bucktail streamer, and I got him close when he head shook. I was actually pretty surprised – I didn’t know muskies did head shakes while hooked. It was surprisingly similar to a bass’ head shake, and the result was the same – a lost fish. I saw my fly go flying away, and the musky retreated deep into the murky water. I estimate it at about 30 inches.

Now I apologize to anyone who read this expecting a big fish at the end, but it doesn’t always end that way. I am still going to chase muskies next year, and probably until I catch one. Although irritating sometimes, it can be pretty fun, as I have caught many other species by “mistake”. Bass, pickerel, catfish (surprisingly), carp (also surprising), and pike, all in large sizes. While I do not recommend pouring so many hours into musky fishing (in MA), I would recommend targeting new species on the fly. It’s fun, and I have learned a ton about muskies, other species that I accidentally caught (like who would imagine catching carp or catfish on a giant bucktail streamer?), and the bodies of water that I fished. And lastly, please comment if you have any experience targeting muskies in MA, either on fly rods or spinning rods. I will be back at it next year, and will have some reports and hopefully a success story!

*Edit – I said “musky” a lot, but really most of the times I meant “tiger musky”

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