Muskie fishing is called the sport of a thousand casts because it takes a thousand casts to cross a hungry muskellunge. To cut the number down, anglers search the water for prime habitat and big muskie lurking just below the water.
Standing in the kayak reduces glare on the water and improves casting distance and accuracy. To target one of the most elusive predators in the world, plan on rigging a kayak for sight fishing.
On Your Feet
Upstate New York pro guide Justin Hausner secretly fishes for muskie when he’s not running tournaments for Kayak Bass Fishing and New York Kayak Bass Fishing. “Searching for those big, toothy critters is always fun,” he admits.
Hausner focuses on weed beds where he can cast a big lure into a hole or clearing. “Spotting the weedlines and pockets is the difference between catching fish and getting skunked,” he insists.
To make that happen, serious sight fishermen put their faith in high-quality polarized sunglasses. “Five layers of polarization and protective coatings on my Coyote Polarized glasses cut the glare and UV exposure, even in shaded water.” Amber lenses are best for green water and indirect sunlight.
“Standup fishing improves casting distance and accuracy, too,” Hausner adds. Being able to pitch the lure a few feet or launch it 50 yards with pin-point accuracy requires unrestricted range of movement.
For Hausner, standup fishing starts with a stable platform that is easy to maneuver. He chooses the
34-inch-wide and 12-foot-long Jackson Kayak’s Liska as his favorite standup platform. “The boat is comfortable to stand all day and short enough to paddle while standing.”
Rigging the kayak comes down to placing essential gear in easy reach and removing everything else. “Keep the net where you can reach it quickly,” Hausner suggests. Muskie can grow over 50 inches and weigh more than 50 pounds. Armed with a mouthful of punishing teeth, landing a muskie requires a huge net. Hausner recommends a folding net with a collapsible handle and rubber-coated mesh.
He recommends a boat with a flat, open cockpit and flush-mount rod holders. An elevated, frame seat provides more support and a solid foundation to stand up and fish. Once Hausner is on his feet, he moves the seat back and out of the way. “I want to use every inch of the deck,” he insists.
A standup angler isn’t made in one day, Hausner recommends newbies start out on a stripped-down kayak in a controlled setting. He encourages first-timers, “Practice before you go out on choppy days.” Even old pros need to stretch and warm-up before a long day on their feet. “Try to prevent legs from cramping on the water,” Hausner says.
Stand and Fly
Sight fishing for muskie is popular with fly anglers, too. Searching for a target then landing the cast is a perfect application for the long rod. And muskie really like huge streamers darting across the surface.
Fly fishing guide Brian Cadoret sneaks around the backwaters of New England searching for logs lurking in the shadows. “Eighty-five percent of the time I’m standing up,” Cadoret says.
Not only does extra elevation allow him to see through the water to structure and fish, but it allows him to track the movement of his fly. “I’m focused on my retrieve adding strips and pauses, noting the depth of the fly and changing the speed to elicit a bite,” he says.
Then the real thrill. “I’m always looking for a muskie to appear behind the lure,” he says. The giant predators are famous for stalking a lure all the way to the boat. “When the fish is close, I swirl the fly in a figure eight.”
A stand-assist strap gives the angler a third point of contact when standing or sitting. “I place my feet as wide as possible on the deck and pull myself up with the strap,” Cadoret says. Once on his feet, he tests stability. “I’m always surprised how far I can lean to the side,” he says. To improve confidence and take full advantage of the hull design, anglers should be comfortable with the limits of the boat.
Cadoret looks for a boat at least 35 inches wide for standup fishing. He limits accessories to a large net, a box of flies and a large fly patch. “I take the kayak out of the wrapper and fish it,” he jokes.
Standing room only for trophy muskellunge. | Photo: Chris Ingram