The Best Bait for Muskie Fishing in Ohio

The Best Bait for Muskie Fishing in OhioThe muskellunge is the largest member of the pike family -- it may span 6 feet -- and one of North America's most prized game fish. In Ohio, these top aquatic predators naturally inhabit the Ohio River and Lake Erie drainage areas and have also been stocked in many reservoirs around the state. Always check state regulations before fishing (see Resources).

Muskie Characteristics

Muskies are ambush predators, lurking in underwater plant jungles in deep water and rushing anything they can engulf: fish, frogs, muskrats, waterbirds and other small animals. Primarily sight-predators, muskies are close relatives of northern pike, and may be distinguished by their half-scaled cheeks (those of pike are fully scaled), light bodies and dark spots and bars (the typical color pattern of northern pike is the reverse). In Ohio, they spawn in springtime, and females lay as many as 200,000 eggs.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources recommends "big crankbaits, spinnerbaits, spoons, jerkbaits and in-line spinners" to land muskies. Some experts believe spinners are more effective with muskies than with northern pike, which prefer spoons. Suckers and minnows of 6 inches or greater are frequently the best live-bait. Gradually increasing bait size as the season progresses can match growing muskies' shifting predatory habits; muskies target larger and larger meals as they grow. In "Fishing Tips and Tricks," Greg Breining and Dick Sternberg recommend selecting a bait a quarter of the size of the quarry you're seeking.

Employing the Lure

In general, muskies are more cautious and elusive than northern pike. Directing your bait near likely hunting grounds like sunken logs, beds of aquatic plants and other shadowed places is a good method to draw them out. They're known for a tendency to trail a lure and then pull back without going for it; sweeping the lure in a figure-eight pattern near the boat after drawing in the fish can be used to combat this tendency. Don't let your lure go slack when it's actively tempting a muskie. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources reports that most muskies in the state are caught between April and October with water temperatures between 55 degrees and 75 degrees F. In hot weather, muskies are likely to seek water deeper than 6 feet.

Article Written By Ethan Schowalter-Hay

Ethan Schowalter-Hay is a writer and naturalist living in Oregon. He has written for the "Observer," the Bureau of Land Management and various online publishers. He holds a Bachelor of Science in wildlife ecology and a graduate certificate in geographic information systems from the University of Wisconsin.

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