Muskie fishing is such a challenge regardless of your approach. But when you decide to chase down the elusive muskie on foot, the challenge level increases significantly. Shawn McLaughlin is an Ontario angler that knows how to conquer the challenge of shore fishing for muskies. He catches some amazing muskie by patrolling the shores of Lake St. Clair and nearby rivers. Shawn took some time to fill us in on his approach to shore fishing for muskie.
When did you first get the muskie fever?
Well I’d have to say the first time I caught the fever was my first time fishing for muskies. Rod in hand with a couple baits I decided to try my luck at a spot I had heard they were catching. Second cast I hook into a healthy 44″ fish! Not one cast later I hooked into something substantially bigger! Upon seeing the fish I was awestruck at the sheer size of this beast and after pleading with another shore angler to assist in netting the fish, it was clear this fish was over 50″. In all the commotion I did not get a measurement but I would put the fish at an estimated 50-53″ and that was where it all began!
What is your personal best muskie?
Fast forward 3 years to 2010 on a unseasonably warm bluebird November morning on the shores of Lake St. Clair. I was fishing by myself with one other angler in sight down the break wall. A friend pulled up afterwards to ask how the bite was in which I replied… “nothing yet, but I did have 1 good follow.” My buddy decided to go fish crappies, a decision I’m sure he soon regretted!
Not half hour later while sitting on the break wall on a long bomb cast my regular hot perch shallow bulldawg came to a halt. As I pulled back I initially thought I was snagged…that is until the snag started giving massive head shakes! Once I realized this was no slouch of a fish I stood up and got serious. Almost instantly the fish broke water in the distance and gator rolled in the line. I kept tension and battled her a little closer and this fish tried twice more rolling in the line which the last time I had to unravel her while seeing the magnitude of this fish. After shouting to the other angler down the dock for help to net her, the fish was landed and a new personal best for me at 53 1/2″ x 26 5/8″ of joy!
While I know you fish muskies from a boat, it caught my attention your success from the shore. Are there advantages that fishing from shore offers?
Fishing muskies from shore can have its advantages as well as disadvantages. One of the benefits for targeting muskies from shore is in the fall the shad run along the shorelines in search of warmer water and prepare to spawn which can put the odds in your favour with the muskies following close behind. Another advantage would be your retrieve angle… when fishing from shore you are giving the fish a different presentation as most boat anglers cast towards the shoreline and retrieve from shallow to deep. From the shore, you’re doing the opposite. Another benefit of fishing from shore on steep drop offs and current breaks with Bondy Baits is you can be directly on the structure.
One of the disadvantages is most of the shore spots I fish are elevated several feet from the water so figure eighting and netting fish can be difficult. This is where a long rod and long shafted net come into play.
From a boat, anglers have the advantage of covering a lot of water. Are you moving quickly down a shoreline hitting a lot of spots or working a few select spots thoroughly?
When fishing from shore there are several “go-to” spots that have proven themselves over time but I base where I’m going to fish by the amount of bait present, water clarity, and wind direction. I will thoroughly fish an area until I determine if there’s enough action to stay or try elsewhere.
Also boat anglers have their electronics to see what is going on under the water. What type of structure/conditions are you looking for when scouting water from shore?
Muskies will hold in a variety of depths and structures but the determining factor is usually bait. Muskies are an ambush predator so breaklines, rocks, wood, proximity to deep water are all areas where muskies will stage.
What are your all-time favorite shoreline muskie baits?
I can’t say I have one particular favourite musky bait but there are a few that will always be in my tackle box. The Bondy Bait a vertical jigging lure that can also be casted. The Shadzilla by Waterwolf Lures and the Bulldawg by Musky Innovations. Also there is a new prototype bait by a local bait maker that I will eventually be promoting.
How many rod setups do you bring when shore fishing? What are you favorite setups to be shore casting?
I usually bring 2 setups when fishing in case my equipment fails. I prefer to use a 9ft XH or XXH to aid in figure eights and casting long distances.
You fish the Lake St. Clair area and its local rivers. What makes this area so good for muskie fishing from shore?
Lake Hurons cool waters flow through the St. Clair River down into Lake St. Clair then through the Detroit River into Lake Erie. With St. Clair being a shallow body of water it provides warmer more ideal water for spawning and a wide variety of forage to keep the fish close by all year long. The practice of catch photo and release over the last decade has aided in the overall numbers of quality fish being caught and some would argue the fishing has never been better!
I’m proud to call Lake St. Clair and its tributaries my home waters. Lake St. Clair is world renowned for Musky fishing and provides anglers with some of the most action filled days any musky angler could dream for. I’ve personally caught 13 muskies in a day casting and there aren’t many of bodies of water you can say that!
One of the advantages of this day and age of social media is the amount of information available about fishing. But one of the disadvantages is that posting can bring a lot of pressure to fishing areas. As someone who is committed to spreading the sport of fishing, how do you balance getting information out there without giving away your best spots to the whole world?
With the explosion of social media these days there is a myriad of outlets one can use to aid and inform yourself to become a better angler. But since we’re on the topic, I’ve noticed with this new generation of anglers on social media there is a good number of anglers that are more concerned with trying to figure out where Joe Blow caught his fish. They spend time analyzing photos instead of actually doing their own research and learning the habitat and behaviour of the species they wish to target. I’m a firm believer that you need to know the habits and preferred habitat of your target species as well as proven techniques before even approaching the water. Once you understand your quarry’s behaviour it is much easier to know where to start. With that being said I believe in one true statement that no social media will help you with and that’s… that there is no substitute for time spent on the water. The angler who is out the most often should have a better understanding of what the fish are doing.
There will always be community spots that are know by the masses but Lake St. Clair being so featureless, there aren’t many “spots” to worry about divulging. I have no problem giving other anglers advise on techniques, gear, habitat, proven baits but I believe that you should do your own research and put in your own time on the water. If you focus on what the fish are doing today you won’t need to worry about what they were doing the day, week, month before.
What can you tell us about what you are doing with your Extreme Sportfishing?
Extreme Sportfishing is a Facebook page that I created to showcase some of the freshwater Sportfishing opportunities Ontario and Canada have to offer… although I’ve recently decided to start profiling other anglers worldwide who live the Extreme Sportfishing lifestyle and are ambassadors of Catch And Release.