Why Are Muskies So Hard To Catch? A Guide to Make it MUCH Easier


Muskies are on the list of most hard-to-catch fish in the world along with Pacific Bluefin Tuna and wahoo. They present a challenge to anyone going after them, Muskies are hard to catch and they fight hard and hit your bait harder.

So the question is: why are muskies so hard to catch? Muskies are so hard to catch because they are rare and hard to find in many water bodies, they are unpredictable, reluctant, and their mood changes rapidly during the day. They may follow the bait and never catch it or fight their way out of the lure with their strong bodies and sharp teeth.

Indeed, muskies are hard to catch. However, when you know all the reasons behind that you can minimize this difficulty to a level. Keep reading to know how.

Are Muskies really that hard to catch?

So, are muskies really that hard to catch?Yes, Catching muskies is a hard and challenging task. They are picky, unpredictable, moody, and can put up a strong fight against the most experienced anglers. Special specific gear is needed and you must have a variety on the boat to change between them on a single fishing trip.

I can start by telling you thousands of stories of anglers spending days seeking a muskie with no luck or single bite. But that’s no surprise to experienced anglers since they call it “The Fish of 10,000 casts” due to how hard it is to catch muskies due to their unpredictability and their moody nature.

In addition, fishing for muskies requires special gear that can hold up their weight and not end up broken in half. Muskies always fight their way out of a lure and might be hard to contain, so they require strong heavy gear which can be expensive to lots of people interested in fishing.

Why are Muskies so hard to catch?

image of a muskie up close to illustrate why are muskies so hard to catch

So, why are muskies hard to catch? Muskies are hard to catch because they are rare and hard to find in many water bodies, they are unpredictable and reluctant, and their mood changes rapidly during the day. They may follow the bait and never catch it or fight their way out of the lure with their strong bodies and sharp teeth.

Not all people can handle muskie fishing, especially beginner anglers. The experience requires a frequent and rapid change of tactic, depth, and bait and you still have no guarantee that they’ll strike. This can be frustrating to lots of people if they’re not patient enough to keep going.

Muskies can follow your lure all the way and still be reluctant to catch it, they hunt most of their time but you still can’t guarantee that they’re going to strike that specific lure of yours.

Muskies’ prime spots change according to every season, and every part of the day. So you need lots of accurate planning and locating to be able to target them where they are and get them on the hook.

Rarity also plays a role in the level of difficulty associated with catching a muskie as they’re not found in a wide range of water bodies. Some states stock them in local water bodies to maintain a healthy population of muskies, or to use them for management purposes to get rid of unwanted species like suckers and carp.

Aside from these reasons, lots of places have state regulations banning catching muskies during some times of the year, due to their declining population number. This makes it a little harder for muskie anglers to catch them in many areas.

Does Muskie Fight Hard?

So, does muskie fight hard? Yes, muskies fight hard. Muskies’ predatory nature makes them hit your bait hard and try to fight their way out of it. They have big bodies built for speed, they can grow up to 37.4 inches (95 cm) with strong muscles and a sharp set of teeth that helps them attack, puncture, and grab their prey.

Muskies are natural predators, they’re born to hunt most of their time. They fight underwater to earn their meal, and out of the water when they’re caught. That’s why Musky fishing offers a thrill that compares to no other type of fishing that anglers sooner or later get addicted to.

Having strong gear with premium quality is essential for this exact reason, you have to match the strength of your target

Will a Muskie Bite You?

Will a muskie bite you? Yes, a muskie can bite you. However, it occurs very rarely and it’s not based on feeding purposes. Muskies may bite humans with their set of sharp teeth because they mistook them for something they could eat. You can avoid the bite if you followed some simple precautions.

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Muskies attack everything they assume they can feed on. If you kept wiggling your hand or feet in the water, they’ll think it’s something that they can attack and eat.

Human flesh isn’t on the menu of things muskies enjoy, so when they attack a human it’s not because they’re trying to bite their flesh off, it’s simply because they’re yielding to their predatory nature. They attack, puncture, and grab their prey before they consider what the prey is. You can learn everything about why muskies attack humans here.

They won’t cause serious injuries or bite your fingers off as some myths say. Muskies are dangerous because they’re huge, quick, fierce fish with a sharp set of teeth that are hunting all the time. They have been known to occasionally, however very rarely, attack people and cause some cuts to their fingers, mistaking them for lures and something they can eat.

The precautions you need to avoid getting bitten by a muskie

Make sure you are extra careful if you’re fishing for Muskies at night. Generally, If this is your first time fishing for this type, you need good practice beforehand. If you can’t get prior practice, we advise you to have someone with a level of expertise on the boat with you.

Here are some precautions to consider as well:

  1. Don’t leave your hands or feet dangling near the water surface, especially when you have nail polish on. Colors entice muskie to strike mistaking it for lures.
  2. Avoid wearing shiny accessories. Muskies can be triggered to strike by any flashy jewelry paired with rapid movement.
  3. Don’t get too close to their mouth after being caught.
  4. Keep your boat stable. The aggressiveness of muskies on an unstable boat can maximize potential risks for both the fish and you.
  5. Always be ready with a good quality musky net to ensure a safe and secure hold of the muskie. It helps you keep the muskie underwater during measurement to decrease their aggressive behavior resulting from stressing out. Click here to choose from wide varieties on Amazon.
  6. Be ready with rubber gloves to hold a muskie after you catch it. It protects your hand from their sharp teeth.
  7. Use release tools like long-nosed pliers to help to remove the hook safely without exposing your fingers to their teeth
  8. Hold a muskie horizontally not vertically after you catch them. Holding them vertically can damage their gills and maximize their stress, hence, more aggressive actions.
  9. Hold a muskie with both hands horizontally to safely release your muskie and put them in the water.
  10. What to do if you got bitten by a muskie
    • Before you let someone near your injury make sure they wash their hands with soap and water. Don’t touch the wound and make sure all dressing is sterile, then follow this simple guide:
      1. Spray the bitten area with clean water.
      2. Add one-quarter teaspoon of salt to 200 ml (1 cup) of clean water.
      3. Pour water over the wound to kill any germs.
      4. Use a clean cloth to apply direct pressure to the wound to stop any bleeding.

Warning: if you possibly observed some teeth stuck in the injury, leave them in place until your healthcare provider can remove them without harming your muscles or tissues.

How Strong are Muskies?

So, how strong are muskies? Muskies are one of the strongest freshwater fish. They have a body of a predator, it’s long and thin and allows them to swim and attack quickly. They have well-set muscles and a powerful tail. They also have sharp sets of teeth that help them in their attacks.

The 7 Hardest Freshwater Fish to Catch (and Why)

  1. Sturgeon

Sturgeons are great fighters that can provide an adrenaline-provoking experience that takes all the stamina any angler has. They can weigh hundreds of pounds and require strength in pulling them. They catch air with their whole body length several times during the fight. You need extremely strong equipment to be able to land one.

  1. Tiger Trout

Tiger Trout is picky when it comes to attacking a bait. They move deeper into the water in summer and spring to avoid sunlight and heat. You’ll need several trials until you get the lure and strike zones right, but then you’re up to another fight. The landing of tiger trout will involve a lot of thrashing and head-shaking which makes it hard to get a hold of them.

  1. Smallmouth Bass

Many anglers agreed that after a day fishing for smallmouth bass they wake up with sore muscles from fighting to catch them. They have a reputation of being the best fighting black bass. Smallmouth bass is not hard to find as it has healthy populations across the country, but they make up for that with plucky fights.

  1. Peacock Bass

These colorful beautiful creatures don’t get out without a fight as well. They are similar to smallmouth bass and put up the same powerful fight.

  1. Rainbow trout

The difficulty of catching rainbow trout is merely after you get them on the hook. They can easily catch your lure but a fight is most likely to happen. Their bodies are built to be fast, with the ability to change directions in the blink of an eye. Their endurance is unmatched as well and can catch air more than any other freshwater fish.

  1. Common Carp

Common carp is underrated when it comes to considering it a hard-to-catch fish. The truth is they are tricky to catch and put up a good fight when caught. Catching a common carp on a fly will make you realize how strong and determined these fish really are.

  1. Chinook salmon

Like any fish from the salmon family, chinook salmon is a good fighter. You need to be patient to win your fight with these quick powerful fish. Chinook salmon will pull your bait hard and fast and you might fail to catch it if you don’t match their speed of retrieving.

Muskies are definitely on the list for the fierce battle they usually provide. It has something in common with each one of these fish, they are heavyweight, quick-moving, muscular fish that will take a lot to successfully land on a boat.

What is the best way to catch a Muskie?

So what’s the best way to catch a muskie? The best way to catch a muskie is using:

  • 8-to-6 feet (2.5-to-1.8 meters) medium-heavy rod.
  • Good quality reels.
  • Live bait like minnows. Or artificial lures like bucktails, and crankbaits.
  • Drifter musky net.

Use this equipment to cast them near weed edges, drop-offs, and rock areas.

Check out my recommended muskie reels here. These are the ones I have been using lately with great success after a LOT of trial and error through the years.

Muskies are known to be visual predators. They rely heavily on their sense of sight to move and feed, so it’s best to choose visually attractive lures. Visual lures work best if it has different colors whether it’s artificial or live. That’s why live baits are your go-to when you’re fishing in a small area such as creeks, it’s easier to be seen and caught.

If you can’t get live baits, artificial ones work too if you ensure that they’re attractive enough to catch their eyes. Things like bull shad, cisco, bucktails with big silver spinners, suckers, and crankbaits have proven to be successful in catching muskies.

Topwater fishing techniques for muskies can be effective too especially in warm waters. If the creek you chose is not in its coldest state, we advise you to go for topwater fishing. It’ll get you fewer fish, but they’d be much bigger. Make sure to properly use it around prime muskie locations.

Always be ready with a good quality muskie net to get a good grip of a muskie before you unhook it. There are huge varieties out there and you can choose what best suits you from Amazon, click here to start shopping for your safe tool now!

Apart from the gear, you need to understand muskie behavior to be able to successfully detect their prime spots. Some anglers use GPS and sonar machines to detect fish markings in deep water and others prefer to predict where muskies are located according to their natural habitat.

The prime spots and times that maximize your chances to catch muskies can change according to the seasons, as follows.

In summer

Weed beds near deep water are the best spots. Muskies will leave deeper water and head to the weed beds to feed. The best times are mornings and evenings. Muskies will suspend in deeper water, so trolling with large deep-running plugs would be a great idea during this time of the year.

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In winter

As the water temperature drops, look for rocks or wood that are close to deep water. Vegetation and weed edges can still be one of the targets in winter, if you had no luck there go for deeper water where you’ll find suspended trophy muskies. The best time to catch muskies will be around mid-afternoon.

In fall

Many muskie anglers agree that September and October are the peak trophy months and your chances to get one on the hook are rocket-high. When the water temperature drops and muskies start to heavily feed to put on weight before winter. Focus on afternoons and early evenings when the weather starts to get more chilly.

In spring

Small shallow lakes have better chances. Muskies will be in the shallower water, which warms up quickly and attracts spawning minnows. The best time is late mornings, early afternoons, and later in the day as the water warms up.

11 Muskie Fishing Tips That Work

  1. Be steady in your movements and walk slowly if you’re fishing onshore. Noise spooks muskies and drive them away.
  2. Pull hard in the opposite direction of the way the fish swims to ensure that the hook is set.
  3. Keep the rod tip low and to the side. Don’t vertically pull a muskie.
  4. Use the “figure 8” technique to keep enticing muskies before you take your lures out of water.
  5. Cast in your lure and reel it fast to the boat. This tip has been tried and tested with good results.
  6. Use bright colors like red and yellow for your lure,as these colors work very effectively around weed beds and water plants where muskies usually stay. It’s a bonus if you could add some noise-producing part to your lure.
  7. Change directions of bait to trigger muskies to chase them. Going in different directions entices hungry muskies to go after the bait.
  8. Vary your retrieve to best ensure you’re using the right speed. Sometimes they go after swift moves but sometimes they are triggered by much slower moves. The only way to know is to try.
  9. Pick areas with thick weeds and shallow rock cover where big muskies are roaming, Target weeds in the depth of 7-to-9 feet (2.5 meters), and the rocks are in the depth of 3-to-8 feet (1-to-2.5 meters).
  10. Try night fishing where the water temperature is suitable for Muskies to stay longer in the shallow water. Muskies prefer cold and dark waters. Night fishing is a good chance to catch muskies as they find it hard to see your boat so they’re not easily spooked. Learn how to fish for muskies at night here.
  11. Hold your musky with rubber gloves to avoid getting a bite on your fingers. Don’t hold it vertically as this stresses the musky out leading to more aggressiveness.

You can check out our complete guide for handling muskies safely here.

Related Questions

How Strong is a Musky’s Bite?

A musky bite is strong enough to cause some tearing and cuts but not strong enough to cause serious deep injury or detach a finger. People confirmed that they needed stitches after being bitten by a muskie, but the state of the injury is not something to worry about.

Can you catch a Muskie from the Shore?

Yes, you can catch a muskie from the shore. It’s better to target muskies in late fall if you’re willing to catch them from the shore. Make sure you’re casting your lures near weed beds, flats, and rocky areas.

How Many Casts does it take to Catch a Muskie?

Ten thousand casts are what it takes to catch a muskie according to a popular saying. They’re hard to catch and very unpredictable when it comes to biting the lures, many anglers spend hours and sometimes days trying to get it right.

Can a Muskie Bite off Your Finger?

No, a Tiger Muskie can’t bite off a finger. Tiger Muskie’s teeth are sharp but not strong enough to cut through a finger bone. They may cause superficial cuts with their sharp teeth and they’re avoided by wearing rubber gloves.

Helpful Resources

The Hardest Fighting Freshwater Fish

Muskie Fishing Tips

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>