Catching a muskie is a complete thrill. I can’t imagine catching one from a kayak. Andrew Yutko targets big muskie from his kayak. A lot of his time is spent fishing New Jersey’s Monksville Reservoir. We took some time to learn his strategies for kayak fishing muskies on Monksville.
How would you describe that moment in your kayak when you first know you are into a big muskie?
The feeling of hooking into a big muskie is almost indescribable. It never gets old. I shake like a kitten in a pit bull cage every time. It’s the reason they are my favorite fish to seek. The adrenaline rush is like nothing else.
How do you keep the fish from taking you for a ride?
I use heavy gear when targeting muskie. Eight foot heavy rod with 65# braid and a heavy duty casting reel. This allows me to somewhat horse and control the fish so as I can land it faster putting less stress on the fish.
Keeping my rod in front of me pointing parallel to the kayak allows me to keep my rod and kayak pointing in the same direction making for better control of the kayak while fighting a big muskie.
What is your kayak?
I’m fortunate enough to own 2 Native Watercraft Propel kayaks, a 13′ and 10′. These allow me to stand when casting and battling a muskie. Standing allows me to keep my rod tip up and away from the kayak and better control of the fish. I have lots of room to walk on my deck and the balance and stability allow me to lean when needed without fear of flipping.
In the event a muskie runs toward trees, I can simply peddle in reverse pulling the fish away from structure. To be honest I haven’t found any disadvantages in my kayaks. I can carry a big game box, a milk crate up to 16 rods but usually 6 when muskie fishing. I have a fish finder and anchor on both kayaks. My 13′ propel is also equipped with a 1 hp Torqeedo trolling motor for big water or for covering water quickly.
How do you describe the quality of the Monksville Reservoir for muskie fishing?
In my opinion Monksville Reservoir offers the best muskie fishing in New Jersey. Many would argue this as it has a reputation to be brutally difficult to fish which is why it’s more commonly known as “skunksville.” However like anything else in life the more time you put in the more you get back.
I find the average muskie I catch runs around 40 inches, which is better than any other muskie water in New Jersey. The current state record of 42 pounds came out of Monksville. I have also seen fish upwards of 50 inches, some probably even in the elusive 55 inches plus range.
I normally expect to at least get a follow when I go to Monksville for muskie. Although this year has been much tougher, which I can only attribute to an unusual stain in the water.
Is Monksville Reservoir a primarily fall fishery or can you also catch big muskie during other times of the year?
I find the best times of year for muskie are May and June then again from September through November. The water gets very warm in mid summer and the fish tend to stay deeper. Although I’m hoping to figure that out this year.
In spring after the spawn, they are very aggressive and I use hard baits like Shallow Raiders. Once the water gets above 60 degrees I switch to big buck tails and top water, Cowgirls and Top Raiders mostly. A steady slow retrieve works best.
In the summer I try to reel as fast as possible really get that bait burning through the weed beds. In the fall I slow it down a bit. When the water cools below 55 degrees, I tend to throw big soft baits like Bull Dawgs.
What do you consider your absolute favorite muskie baits from the kayak on Monksville?
Top Raiders, Cowgirls and Depth Raiders are my top 3 muskie baits. Top Raiders on cloudy days work best. Most of the time you’ll catch me throwing size 10 Cowgirls on my Revo Toro Winch 50.
What are your favorite kayak muskie rod/reel setups when in the kayak?
I carry a few set ups for different lures. When throwing Cowgirls I use an Abu Garcia Veritas Toro 8′ heavy casting rod paired with an Abu Garcia Revo Toro Winch. This is a slow reel designed for pulling power. I can throw big blade baits all day without getting tired.
For top water and jerk bait style lures, again I use 8′ heavy Abu Garcia Volatile muskie rods paired with a Daiwa Lexa 300HS and a Quantum PT-IRON, both reels are 7.1:1 gear ratio, much faster than the Revo. I can burn topwater quickly. All the reels are low profile but have huge line capacity and good max drag. For smaller muskie lures like Rapalas X-14, I use an Abu Garcia Orra with 50# braid paired with an 7’6″ Berkeley Lightning Heavy rod, good for big swimbaits and any of the smaller 5-6″ lures I may use.
Muskies are known to follow and fall for a figure 8 at the boat. How do you do a figure 8 from a kayak?
Figure 8 from a kayak is nearly impossible however I’ve adapted my own technique which has in fact worked. I run my lure in a figure “U”, upside down figure U, using the bow of the kayak as a guide line. Basically I start from my left and run the lure up around the front of the kayak then down the right side, make a big turn to left coming back up the right side around the front and back down the left. It’s worked for me and its much easier than trying to do a figure 8 on one side of the kayak.
Most musky baits have lots of big treble hooks. Do you bring along any safety equipment in case those trebles ever go somewhere they shouldn’t?
Once I get a muskie next to yak I try to use lip grips. I tether mine to a 6′ line so I can attach and let go instantly. This allows the fish to thrash without doing any damage to its jaws.
I can then put my rod into a holder and remove the lure safely all while the fish remains in the water. I always carry a first aid kit on any fishing adventure. I also carry a pair of heavy duty snips just in case something unexpected happens and I need to cut a hook quickly. They are conveniently located in my under chair storage bag.
What are 5 pieces of advice that you have for anyone fishing muskie from a kayak on Monksville Reservoir?
My advice to anyone fishing Monksville or any other muskie water is have patience first and foremost. They are in there and plentiful. Don’t give up after an hour. It could take all day but the longer the bait is in the water the better your chances are. It’s the fish of 10,000 casts for a reason.
Second you don’t need to cover the entire reservoir to get a bite. Pick a big cove, drop an anchor and pick apart that cove all day. Too often I see a boat come in make a cast every 50′ going around the perimeter of the reservoir. Way too many spots are missed that way. You really need to bomb an area good before moving on. I may fish a football field size area for 3-4 hours before moving on.
Third, avoid the big east wind days. East is the least. West is the best. This is extremely true for muskie fishing. Any day with a west or south wind is best. Try to fish on the 3rd or 4th day of stable weather as well. If it’s 60 today and 85 tomorrow that’s not always best. Let a pattern form 3 to 4 days of similar weather is best.
Fourth, moon phases. I’m not the biggest believer in this however I find that half moon phases are better than full or new. I don’t have much to support this other than logged catches most of which relate to half moon over full or new.
Lastly if you’re muskie fishing leave the bass and panfish gear at home. Years ago I’d get frustrated and grab a bass rod and fish for largemouth for hours. Who knows how many muskie I potentially missed out on because I gave up. Now I only bring muskie gear and stick with it all day. In the end it’s worth it. It only takes one bite, one muskie to make hours of casting into the most unforgettable day on the water.
Do you provide guiding service?
I do provide a guide service. I provide an extra kayak equipped with peddle drive and fish finder. I also provide a PFD. Extra gear, rods and lures, is available with a deposit, this stuff isn’t cheap. Rates vary depending on length of trip and unfortunately there are no guarantees we will hook up with a muskie. I can promise a good time if you have a good sense of humor. I can be reached by email Andrewyutko@gmail.com or Facebook under Andrew Hunter Yutko.
Who are the companies you pro staff for?
I currently prostaff for The Kayak Fishing Store, located in North Wildwood NJ. The owner Chris Parson is probably the most honest and genuine guy I know. He’s extremely knowledgeable on kayaks and accessories. He has even helped design some of the best kayaks available today including the Eddyline C-135, best in show at ICAST 2015.
The one bad thing about doing this blog is how many destinations get added to my fishing bucket list. Thanks Andrew for such great information. Monksville Reservoir is not far for a lot of us in the Northeast. If muskie from the kayak is now on your bucket list, give Andrew a shout.