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Outdoors with Mike Roux

Autumn Musky in Illinois

Published on Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Southern Illinois is right in the heart of Beck’s territory. Anytime I get into the area around Carbondale and Murphysboro I always check-in with the top fishing guide on Kinkaid Lake, Colby Simms. Last week was one of those occasions. Colby said to get there, that the musky bite was very good.

So as not to fish alone, I called my good friend, Mike Hamski. Mike lives in Park Hills, Missouri and is substantially closer to Kinkaid than I am. He agreed to take some time off and we planned a quick trip that would allow us to fish in the evening and stay over to hit the lake again the following morning. We thought if we gave Kinkaid five or six hours in October, we might be able to hook a musky.

I love musky fishing although I have not had a great deal of experience with these big, toothy fish. The hand-full of trips I have made have been successful and I now have a keen addiction to the musky. Hamski has some experience with big fish from several trips to Canada with his father-in-law and my best friend, Roger Lewis. So we had a plan.

Mike met me at the marina at 4:00 p.m. and we launched. Colby had tipped me off that the musky were already way up the creeks in shallow water. He said to look for weeds in less than 5 ft. of water and he suggested using one of his custom-made musky spinnerbaits. I chose his “School-N-Shad” bait which sports no less than four willow leaf blades. Mike picked a Mepp’s spinner that served him well just a month earlier in Canada.


The “School-N-Shad” has proven itself time and time again for big musky. (Photo by Mike Hamski)

Storms had just blown through the afternoon we started. There was stiff wind so we were looking for quiet coves with feeder creeks. Because we only had a couple of hours to fish, we stayed pretty close to the marina area. Colby and I had caught some fish in these spots before. We were “running & gunning” from cove to cove to cover as much water as quickly as we could.

In the third cove I heard Mike say, “Whoa! There he is!” When I looked around he was fighting a musky. I quickly grabbed the net and helped him land the first fish of the trip. It was a nice 24-in. silver musky. We were both tickled to have found musky that fast. “This might turn out to be really good,” my partner said.

We fished until just after dark, finishing the day in a wide flat cove with a good creek leading into it. The depth varied from 2 to 10 ft. so we decided to come right back to this cove to start the next morning. We hooked up and turned on the running lights to head in for the night.

Mike and I enjoyed a great dinner in Carbondale pouring over maps of both the Illinois and Missouri farms we would deer hunt together with Roger next month. We have done a lot of preparation and hopefully with a little luck, you will be reading stories of those trips as well.

The temperature the next morning was 44-degrees with a light wind. It was a crisp ride across one of the most beautiful lakes in America. The leaves are gorgeous there right now with brilliant reds and yellows splashed on the hillsides. It was a great sunrise and we were in the exact right spot. We made our first casts just before 7:00 a.m., throwing the same baits we both used the evening before.

It did not take long for Mike to strike pay dirt. Once again he pulled about a 2 ft. long musky out of a great looking cove. “It’s two to nothing,” I said as he released his second musky in as many days. “Yeah,” he said. “But that bait you’re throwing is big and really flashy. It is going to connect sooner or later,” he added.

In the very next cove I made the statement, “This spot is as good as it gets.” I was casting as I made the comment. As I retrieved the spinnerbait almost to my rod-tip a big musky followed it all the way in. “I’ve got a follower!” I yelled to Mike. I then started the traditional figure-8 pattern at the boat that often aggravates a following musky into hitting the lure.

It worked and I not only saw the fish follow the bait in but I actually saw it eat the spinner in crystal clear water at the length of my rod. As I set the hook this musky did something I have never seen a fish of any species do before. This 3 ft. long musky came straight up out of the water like a Polaris missile leaving a nuclear submarine. It came out of the water at least three body lengths, twisting and turning all the while. At the apex of its jump it threw the bait and disappeared into the clear water beneath the boat.

Hamski and I yelled at the same instant. Neither of us could believe what we had just seen. “That was a good fish!” Mike said. “How long do you think it was?” he asked. “I have no idea,” I replied. “I don’t know how to judge the length of a fish flying in mid-air,” I added. We recounted the event many times as we fished on into the cove.

We motored to a new spot at about 8:45 a.m. and again commented on the breathtaking surroundings. We fished all the way in on the right side and then began fishing our way out on the opposite. The boat was in about 7 ft. of water and we were casting into less than 3 ft. I heaved the huge spinnerbait close to the bank and began about 200th retrieve of the trip when I got slammed. “I got one Mike!” I yelled. The big musky was very upset about my hook-set and was already fighting furiously in the clear water. “That’s a big one Mike!” Hamski replied as he scrambled for the net.

It was just after its first run that the fish did the exact worse thing possible; he took me around a stump. “Mike he’s got me around a log. He’s gonna pull off!” We could both see the long silver form fighting hard against the hook and the line just two-feet under the surface. I could not give him any slack at all for fear of losing him quicker.

In a move of desperation, I tapped the foot control on my electric motor. It moved the boat just enough to improve my angle on the stump to let the fish work itself free. Now the fight was in open water and it took on a new life, with splashing and thrashing as I moved him closer to the boat.

On the first attempt to get the net under the musky Mike did everything right, but when he saw the net the fish made another 10 yd. run; now fighting me and the drag instead of the stump. The next time I got him close I raised his head and he almost jumped into the wide net. “He’s a dandy,” Hamski said. “That’s a really big fish,” he added.

This was the fourth musky we had hooked in about five hours of fishing on Kinkaid Lake in southern Illinois. That is not quite one musky an hour, but it is pretty close. We still think that is a pretty good average.

The big fish of our trip was 41 in. long and after some quick photos it was released, unharmed. The sun was up high now and we stayed on the lake about another 30 minutes. As we loaded the boat, we decided that we would be back soon.


Mike Roux holds a fine 41 in. musky from Kinkaid Lake that he came dangerously close to losing during the fight. (Photo by Mike Hamski)

When harvest ends or we a hit rainy week that keeps you out of the field, I suggest getting to Kinkaid Lake just outside Murphysboro, Illinois if you like catching musky or just like to catch big fish. Don’t worry about not knowing how to catch them or not knowing the lake. Just call Colby Simms at Simms Outdoors at 618-521-0526 and schedule a date with him. Also, for the experienced musky anglers reading this story, check out to find and buy the very best musky lures on the market.



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