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Merwin is fished out and other feeble excuses

Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2018 5:03 pm
by Don Wittenberger
I just spent 9 days at Merwin and didn't catch a damned thing except for a 37-incher. A 42-incher got away. After years of doing this, I've come to realize there are three decisive factors in catching muskies at Merwin: (1) Time of year, (2) weather, and (3) hooksets. This is the right time of year, but the weather sucked most of the time (the sun was shining), and frankly I've gotten a bit rusty at turning strikes into hooked fish. Also, it took us two days to figure out the trolling motor won't work if you don't plug in the battery charger, so we had only 7 days of what you might call fishing if you take a certain amount of literary license with the term.

Mike and I are getting old, so we sleep in and usually don't get out on the water until 2 or 3 p.m., and a fishing day is 2 or 3 hours for us now. We don't work at it all that hard anymore. We're spend more time sleeping and eating. The fish aren't afraid of us anymore. In fact, on this trip, a couple of them came up, broke surface, and laughed at us. We now give boat rides to locals as a sideline. One of them has a photo of my 42-incher in midair, jumping and spitting my lure. I'm waiting to get a copy of that. That fish was laughing, too.

Re: Merwin is fished out and other feeble excuses

Posted: Tue Oct 02, 2018 9:45 pm
by tmusky1
Fished it back in August for the first time. I really like it, too bad it's so far from my home. Trust me, we've ALL been laughed at by the muskies at one time or another.

Re: Merwin is fished out and other feeble excuses

Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2018 11:02 am
by Don Wittenberger
It's about a 5 hour drive each way for me, counting a gas stop in Woodland, and I have to fight through Seattle-Tacoma traffic to get there. This time, I left home on a Thursday afternoon and it took me 3 hours just to make the 77 miles from my home in Shoreline to Olympia.

Fortunately, I have a place to stay when I get there, because Mike lives near the lake. I met him and Penny years ago at the Cresap boat ramp, where they were kayaking (which they still do a lot). A longtime salmon angler, Mike had heard about tiger muskies but didn't know how to catch them, so I took him fishing with me. On his third day of musky fishing, he caught and released a 31.15-lb. fish that remains our best Merwin catch. Since then, we and our pal Tony from Portland have caught many fish over 25 lbs., and countless smaller ones, but none ever topped that one.

Years ago, we began discussing among ourselves the fact a day would come when we could no longer do this. For Tony, now in his 80s, that time arrived a couple seasons ago. Mike and I, now in our 70s, are getting there.

Merwin has almost everything any musky angler could want -- 4,000 surface acres, 26 miles of unspoiled shoreline with vast amounts of timber, big fish, and little fishing pressure. It lacks the reefs and weedbeds typical of midwest musky lakes, but your odds of success at Merwin are much higher than, say, at Wisconsin's Chippewa Flowage, which typically gives up about 3,000 muskies to roughly 16,000 anglers per season (which is enough to support a robust fishing tourism trade in that area. For the record, it took me 1 hour to catch my "Chip" musky, a 36-incher, fishing out of John Detloff's Indian Trail Resort back in 2003.)

What Merwin lacks is accommodations for anglers. There's only one motel nearby, the Lone Fir in Cougar, which also has the only RV campsites with hookups in the area. Pacific Power operates several primitive campgrounds in the area, but Lone Fir and these campgrounds usually are booked up months in advance, partly because of Mt. St. Helens tourism. Gas, groceries, and restaurants aren't readily available, so you have to stock up in town, on your way to the lake. Merwin has only two publicly accessible boat ramps, at Cresap and Speelyai, which may be impossible to get into on busy summer weekends. Most anglers fish for kokanee, and you'll see them trolling the deeper waters in the middle of the lake.

The best time to fish Merwin for tiger muskies is after Labor Day, when there's less crowding at the boat ramps and the muskies hit better. We've caught them in July and August, but action is slow then. We've enjoyed our best success in cloudy or rainy September weather, which brings the fish up from the depths and onto the shorelines. Tactics and tackle vary, but I fish this lake mostly with a weighted bucktail that runs fairly deep. A bucktail can cover more water, in less time, and because you have a small population spread over a large lake, you have to cover a lot of water to find them. This lake has a vast amount of great-looking cover, but most of it is empty because there are many more logs than fish, so you have to search for them. Encouraging the state to maintain a high stocking level is crucial to the quality of the fishery here, because when the population is too small, the muskies become all but impossible to find.