Kayak Musky Fishing: Full Guide

by Tim Mueller

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In the fishing world, there’s a unique thrill that comes with the pursuit of musky from a kayak.

I mean, it’s a game of patience, strategy, and a bit of audacity.

But with these many factors to consider: how do you navigate this exciting yet challenging endeavor that musky fishing from a kayak is?

In this guide, I’ll dive into the world of musky fishing with a kayak, unraveling its intricacies, advantages, and how it compares to other forms of fishing.

Whether you’re a seasoned angler looking for a new challenge or a beginner drawn to the allure of musky fishing, this guide is crafted to help you navigate the waters of this thrilling sport.

Let’s do it, shall we?

Understanding Musky

Musky, often referred to as the “Fish of 10,000 Casts,” are a unique species that offer a thrilling challenge for anglers.

These apex predators are known for their size, strength, and elusive nature.

But what makes them such a prized catch?

Let’s delve into the world of musky:

  • Habitat: Musky inhabit a variety of water bodies, including lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. They prefer clear waters where they can use their excellent vision to hunt. When fishing from a kayak, it’s crucial to understand the type of environment your target musky prefer.
  • Feeding Habits: Musky are ambush predators. They use their powerful tails to launch themselves at unsuspecting prey. Understanding their feeding habits can help you choose the right bait and fishing technique. For instance, musky are most active during dawn and dusk, making these ideal times for fishing.
  • Seasonal Behavior: Musky behavior changes with the seasons. In spring, they spawn in shallow, vegetated waters. During summer, they often retreat to deeper, cooler waters. In fall, they feed aggressively to prepare for winter. Understanding these patterns can help you plan your fishing trips and increase your chances of success.

The “Kayak Advantage”

Kayak fishing offers a unique advantage when it comes to musky fishing.

The stealthy approach of a kayak allows you to get closer to musky without disturbing them. Plus, the mobility of a kayak lets you easily navigate through different water bodies, including narrow rivers or shallow areas where musky may be hiding.

Tips For Kayak Musky Fishing

Understanding musky is the first step towards successful kayak musky fishing. But knowledge alone isn’t enough. In this, we’ll explore practical tips and techniques to help you land your first musky from a kayak.

Master the Figure-8 Technique

One of the most effective techniques for musky fishing, especially from a kayak, is the figure-8 technique.

This technique is designed to entice a following musky to strike near the boat. As you reel in your lure, instead of lifting it out of the water, you continue to move it in a figure-8 pattern at the side of your kayak.

The figure-8 technique takes advantage of the musky’s predatory instincts. When a prey item (in this case, your lure) changes direction, it can trigger a strike from a following musky. This technique can be particularly effective when combined with long casts that cover a lot of water.

But mastering the figure-8 technique requires practice.

It can be challenging to maintain the movement of the lure while also being ready to set the hook at any moment. However, with time and practice, this technique can significantly increase your chances of landing a musky.

Sharpen Your Hooks

Musky are known for their bone-hard mouths, which can make it difficult to secure a hook, leading to missed opportunities.

Well, regularly sharpening your hooks can help overcome this challenge as sharp hook can penetrate the musky’s tough mouth more easily, increasing your chances of a successful catch.

But it’s not just about having sharp hooks; it’s also about maintaining them too.

After each fishing trip, it’s a good idea to inspect your hooks for any signs of dullness or damage. If you notice any issues, take the time to sharpen your hooks or replace them if necessary.

Additionally, consider the type of hook sharpener you use. There are many different types on the market, from simple handheld sharpeners to more complex electric models. Choose one that suits your needs and skill level.

Long Casts

Musky are curious creatures as they often follow a lure all the way to the boat before deciding whether to strike.

This behavior presents a unique opportunity for anglers. By making a long cast and keeping the tip of your rod in the water as the lure nears your kayak, you can entice a following musky to strike.

But why are long casts so important in kayak musky fishing?

Well, long casts cover more water, increasing your chances of attracting a musky. Additionally, long casts allow you to keep a safe distance from potential musky hotspots, reducing the risk of spooking the fish with your kayak.

However, casting long distances from a kayak requires practice and the right technique. I mean, I’d say it’s essential to use your whole body, not just your arms, to generate the power needed for a long cast. Also, consider using a two-handed casting technique for added distance and control.

Cover Large Areas

Musky fishing often involves covering large areas of water as these apex predators can be elusive, and finding actively feeding musky can require some exploration.

The good news is that the mobility of a kayak is a significant advantage in this regard as you can easily navigate through different water bodies, including narrow rivers or shallow areas where musky may be hiding.

Covering large areas is not just about paddling around aimlessly, it’s about strategic exploration. Use your knowledge of musky behavior to identify potential hotspots.

For example, musky often lurk near underwater structures, weed lines, and drop-offs. By focusing your efforts on these areas, you can increase your chances of encountering a musky.

Also, don’t be afraid to revisit areas throughout the day as musky are mobile creatures, and an area that was empty in the morning could be teeming with musky in the afternoon.

Seasonal Tactics

Musky behavior changes with the seasons, so adjusting your tactics accordingly can increase your chances of success.

For instance, during the fall, musky feed aggressively to prepare for winter, meaning this can be an excellent time to use larger lures and more aggressive techniques.

On the other hand, during the hot summer months, musky often retreat to deeper, cooler waters. Which is why I’d say that during these times, you might need to adjust your tactics and explore deeper areas.

Remember, patience is key when it comes to musky fishing. It may take time and many casts, but the thrill of landing a musky from a kayak is well worth the effort.

Preparations Before Kayak Musky Fishing

Now that we’ve covered some tips for kayak musky fishing, let’s move on to the preparations you need to make before hitting the water.

Before you hit the water for a kayak musky fishing adventure, there are several preparations you need to make:

Gear Preparation

Before you even think about hitting the water, make sure your gear is in top shape. I mean, your rod and reel should be well-maintained and ready for the challenge, right?

Musky fishing requires heavy-duty equipment, so ensure your gear can withstand the fight. These toothy predators hit hard and pull harder, pushing your gear to the limit.

Also, don’t forget to pack the essentials like a good quality net, pliers for unhooking, and a measuring board for those catch-and-release moments.

I’d suggests several mounts that can be used for mounting rod holders to your kayak, which are all good strong installations.

Safety Measures

Safety should be your top priority when planning a kayak musky fishing trip.

Always wear a personal flotation device (PFD) and carry a whistle for emergencies. I’d go as far to say that it can be one of the most important pieces of safety equipment to have while kayaking, as it can help to save your life.

And, in most circumstances, it’s the law to have a wearable PFD in the correct size on board your kayak. But it’s recommended that you wear it at all times while underway.

It’s also a good idea to have a first aid kit on hand. I mean, musky are powerful fish with sharp teeth and gill plates, so handle them with care to avoid injury.

Weather and Water Conditions

Understanding the weather and water conditions is crucial for a successful kayak musky fishing trip.

Spring and fall are often the best times for kayak anglers as muskies are usually found closer to shore. During these seasons, muskies generally spawn when the water temperatures are between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and not all of the fish spawn at the same time.

It’s important to know if you are dealing with pre-spawn, spawning, or post-spawn muskies as it can impact their location and behavior.

Physical and Mental Preparation

Musky fishing is not for the faint-hearted as it requires physical strength and mental resilience. I mean, you’ll be casting heavy lures all day, often with little reward.

But don’t let that deter you.

The thrill of finally landing a musky is worth every cast. So, prepare yourself physically and mentally for the challenge ahead.

What’s the goal?

Well, the goal is to let the fish tire itself out enough to handle. This might seem counterintuitive. After all, you might think that the quicker you can get the musky out of the water and into your net, the better.

But musky are strong, and a musky that’s still full of energy can be difficult to control. So, it’s better to let the fish fight and tire itself out in the water. But be careful not to let the musky exhaust itself completely, as this can make recovery and release more difficult.

Straddling the kayak can give you leverage and better balance when handling a musky. This position allows you to use your lower body to stabilize yourself, freeing up your hands to control the fish and your equipment. It’s a bit like riding a horse.

You’re using your thighs and core to maintain balance, which can be especially helpful in a small, tippy kayak.

Techniques For Kayak Musky Fishing

Musky fishing from a kayak is a thrilling experience that requires a combination of skill, knowledge, and the right techniques.

So, to help you a bit, I decided to share with you some some techniques that I believe can help you succeed in your kayak musky fishing adventure.

Casting Techniques

Casting is an essential skill for any angler, and it’s no different when you’re targeting musky from a kayak.

It’s all about precision and distance, you want to be able to cast your lure into the exact spot where you believe a musky might be lurking.

Remember, muskies are ambush predators, so they’re likely to be hiding near structures or in weed beds.

Just like with anything that you want to get good at, I’d recommend you to practice your casting to ensure you can accurately hit these spots.

Also, don’t forget to vary your retrieval speed and pattern to mimic the movements of a wounded fish, which is irresistible to a hungry musky.


Jigging is a fantastic technique for kayak musky fishing, especially when you’re over deep water or a dense weed bed.

The key to successful jigging is to make your lure mimic a wounded or frightened baitfish. This means varying your jigging speed and pattern, and not being afraid to experiment.

Sometimes a slow and steady jig will do the trick, while other times a more erratic action is needed.

Figure-8 Technique

The figure-8 technique is a must-know for any musky angler. It’s a boat-side maneuver designed to trigger a strike from a following musky.

The idea is to make your lure look like prey trying to escape. This technique is particularly effective when you’ve got a musky following your lure but it just won’t bite.

By transitioning into a figure-8 as you near your kayak, you can often provoke the musky into striking


Trolling is a great way to cover large areas of water, and it can be particularly effective when kayak musky fishing.

The key to successful trolling is to vary your speed and depth until you find what works.

Remember, muskies are ambush predators, so they’re likely to be lurking near structures or in weed beds. Use your fish finder to identify these areas and focus your trolling efforts there.

Also, don’t be afraid to change up your lures and bait to find what the muskies are biting on.

Using Electronics

Modern fishing electronics, like sonar and GPS, can be incredibly useful for kayak musky fishing.

They can help you locate underwater structures where muskies might be hiding, track water temperature, and even mark suspended fish.

Handling And Releasing Musky When Kayak Musky Fishing

Handling a musky correctly is crucial, not just for your safety, but for the fish’s well-being too. Muskies are robust, but they’re also susceptible to injury if mishandled.

Muskies have sharp teeth and a powerful tail, and they’re not afraid to use them. So, it’s crucial to handle them with care, ensuring their safety and yours.

But it’s essential to remember that these are living creatures, they deserve our respect and care. Improper handling can lead to serious injuries for the musky, and it can also put you at risk.

First Rule: Avoid Bringing the Fish Into The Kayak

Landing a musky from a kayak is a thrilling experience, but it’s also a delicate operation.

The first rule is to avoid bringing the fish into the kayak. Muskies are large, powerful, and equipped with sharp teeth. Trying to wrestle one into your kayak is a recipe for chaos.

Instead, use a good quality net to secure the fish in the water alongside your kayak.

Handling the Musky

Once you’ve netted the musky, it’s time to handle the fish.

Always use wet hands or gloves to avoid removing the fish’s protective slime layer.

Support the musky horizontally, never vertically, as this can damage their internal organs. If you’re planning on taking a photo, do it quickly and keep the fish’s gills submerged as much as possible.

The Release

Releasing a musky is just as important as the catch.

The goal is to ensure the fish is healthy and strong enough to swim away. Hold the musky upright in the water, moving it gently back and forth to push water through its gills.

This helps to revive the fish after the fight. Once the musky starts to resist and shows signs of life, it’s time to let it go.

The Role of Conservation

Conservation is more than just a concept; it’s a practice that we, as anglers, must incorporate into every fishing trip. It’s about respecting the fish and the environment in which they live.

As kayak anglers, we have a responsibility to protect the species we pursue. Catch-and-release fishing is a crucial part of musky conservation.

By practicing proper handling and release techniques, we can ensure these magnificent fish continue to thrive for future generations to enjoy.

Gear For Kayak Musky Fishing

When it comes to kayak musky fishing, having the right gear can make a significant difference in your success and overall experience.

Here are some additional pieces of equipment that you might find useful.

Rod Holders

A strong setup for trolling is important with rod holders that will bear the impact of a musky hit.

I personally like the Scotty Powerlock as a good all-around rod holder which will hold both baitcasters and spinning reels.

There are several mounts that can be used, a Scotty Flush Mount, or Combination Side Deck Mount and even the combination of a Scotty Gear Head or Side/Deck Mount attached to a YakAttack wide track, which are all good strong installations for mounting rod holders to your kayak.


A sonar/GPS is also a valuable accessory to have when trolling as it will help you to maintain a consistent speed that you may be trying to troll at.

Once you have fished an area and have either caught or marked fish, a GPS can mark your spots for future reference.

When musky are suspended in the water column, there is no mistake when they show up on your sonar what kind of fish is near your kayak.


While casting for musky, an anchor attached to an anchor trolley can be a great tool to help you hold onto a productive spot that you know is good musky water.

My anchor also has a large red float attached in order to be seen by the power boats fishing the same area at certain popular times of the year when musky are concentrated in a small area of a lake or river.

Frequently Asked Questions

1) Where is the best musky fishing in the world?

The world is full of fantastic musky fishing spots, but a few stand out above the rest. The St. Lawrence River is renowned for its potential to produce world-class monsters, with 60-inch muskies being a real, albeit remote, possibility.

Green Bay, Lake St. Clair, and the Ottawa River/St. Lawrence River systems are also known for their giant muskies, where anglers have a legitimate shot at a 50- to 56-inch muskie nearly any day of the season. It’s even possible that a record fish swims in at least two of these fisheries.

2) What time of year is best for musky fishing?

During warmer months, early morning and late afternoon are prime times.

In colder months, early-to-late afternoon is your best bet. You can also catch muskies at night, but you’ll need to slow down your approach or use live bait like ciscos, yellow perch, or suckers.

In early summer, look for muskies in areas with a dark, mucky bottom where the water temperature rises fast and early emerging vegetation like coontail and wild rice first begins to appear.

In late fall, your tactics must coincide with how deep the muskies are in the body of water you are fishing. Muskies don’t want to expend energy chasing small, fast-moving baits. They prefer erratic jerk baits and crank baits, as well as large rubber, live sucker rigs, and vertical jigging presentations.

3) How rare is a 50 inch muskie?

A 50-inch muskie is considered a magical goal for nearly every musky hunter. They are more common now than they were 20 years ago, but they are still considered a rare catch.

Most adult muskies live over a decade and most male musky die in two decades, with the largest females being the ones that make it 30 years or more.

So, when you see a 40 or 50 inch musky, you’re looking at a fish that’s lived a long and successful life.

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Hi, I’m Tim Mueller, a fisherman from Michigan. During all my life I loved fishing and everything that surround this activity. After many months of thinking about it, I’ve decided to create this website to provide the best advice for fishers all around the world.