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Finding best trophy fish potentials; fall’s the best time

Hank Imsande with his personal best, 56” muskie. Imsande knew when and where to tip the odds in his favor to catch and release this dandy fish. (Gary Korsgaden / For the Enterprise)

By Gary Korsgaden / For the Enterprise)

Runners strive for their “personal best” marathon times. Likewise, anglers are always looking to better their last largest catch. Admittedly a “ lucky horseshoe” is an important part of tagging that “lunker of a lifetime.”

Almost eccentric in nature, savvy anglers know how to tip the odds in their favor. Spending time on the water, knowing the importance of predator-to-prey relationships, picking bodies of water with highest trophy potential and knowing when to put the time in on these lake and river systems, tips the odds in their favor.

A place to start is the Minnesota DNR website under the lake finder tab. You can pick lakes by counties. Pay close attention to test netting data, particularly fish species sizes and baitfish found within the system. High populations of ciscoes and tullibees are prime food sources for trophy walleyes, muskies and northern pike. The presence of these bait fish will unlock the key to the locations game fish will inhabit.

In the search for prime waters for trophy walleye, muskie and northern pike, shallow rocky areas and large weedy flats with expansive areas of deep water are common characteristics of lakes for these species.

If I were to pick the best overall times to fish these waters, it would be the months of July, August and the first two weeks of September, coming back again late October and early November. These are the times of the year I can best capitalize on cisco and tullibee seasonal locations throughout the lake. I would pay particular attention to low light conditions and the times around the full moon being out on the water pre-dawn and past dusk.

  Ken Barr, president of the Park Rapids Bass Club, and his wife Suzie, put in a lot of time traveling to area lakes. Their search for trophy largemouth and smallmouth bass ranges far outside the Park Rapids area.

Recently, when I asked Ken what he looks for in trophy largemouth and smallmouth bass lakes. Ken quickly pointed out for trophy largemouth bass, he prefers waters with expansive thick weedy flats in close proximity to some deep water. Ken adds that trophy largemouth bass need heavy cover to ambush their food, such as sunfish and bluegills rarely venturing out over deep water for their forage.

Smallmouth on the other hand, Ken likes a mixture of shallow and deep rock and rubble areas. Smallmouth will cruise deeper water areas for crawfish and minnows and shallow rock and rubble areas, with scattered vegetation providing critical prime spawning habitat.

Ken agrees that fall is the key time for the taking of trophy largemouth and smallmouth but with the Minnesota regulations, closed season during October and November limits the prime time to take trophy smallmouth.

The first step is knowing bodies of water that have the highest trophy fish potential then putting in the time during the peak times could put another “lucky horseshoe” in that pocket.