Last updated on March 7th, 2023 at 05:51 am
If you are looking for the biggest of the big trophy muskies, then you need to be fishing in the best musky lakes in Wisconsin, especially northern WI. Of course, there are other good musky lakes in Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, Canada and more around the U.S. & Canada.
In order for muskies to attain their notorious world-class trophy musky sizes, the fish need the perfect combination of water, forage, and genetics. We’ve put together this list of the top muskie lakes in North America. Here they are in state alphabetical order.
Table Of Contents
- Best Musky Lakes
- Best Musky Lakes In Wisconsin
- Green Bay
- Best Musky Lakes In Northern WI – Vilas County
- Big St. Germain Lake
- Best Musky Fishing In Kentucky
- Cave Run Lake
- Best Muskie Lakes In Michigan
- Lake St. Clair
- Best Muskie Lakes In Minnesota
- Mille Lacs Lake
- Lake Vermilion
- Best Muskie Lakes In New York
- St. Lawrence River
- Best Muskie Lakes In Canada
- Lake St. Clair
- Lake of the Woods
- Best Musky Fishing In Pennsylvania
- Allegheny River
Best Musky Lakes
|Best Muskie Lakes||State||Size||Link To Local Guides|
|Cave Run Lake||Kentucky||40 miles long||Kentucky Muskie Guides|
|Lake St. Clair||Michigan||420 sq miles||Michigan Muskie Guides|
|Lake Vermilion||Minnesota||61 sq miles||Minnesota Muskie Guides|
|Mille Lacs Lake||Minnesota||132,000 acres||Minnesota Muskie Guides|
|St. Lawrence River||New York||743 miles||New York Muskie Guides|
|Lake of the Woods||Ontario||1 million acres||Ontario Muskie Guides|
|Lake St. Clair||Ontario||420 sq miles||Ontario Muskie Guides|
|Allegheny River||Pennsylvania||325 miles long||Pennsylvania Muskie Guides|
|Big St. Germain||Wisconsin||1600 acres||Wisconsin Muskie Guides|
|Green Bay||Wisconsin||123 miles long||Wisconsin Muskie Guides|
Best Musky Lakes In Wisconsin
The best musky lakes in Wisconsin is actually Green Bay. In the 90’s, Green Bay was stocked with Great Lakes Strain muskies. This, in conjunction with a tremendous forage base and plenty of open water to roam, have allowed the muskies here to grow to trophy sizes.
The forage base here consists of gizzard shad, whitefish, and many other fish species. With a plentiful food supply, muskies have reached 50-pounds and the upper 50 inches in length.
With so much water to cover, the hardest part is finding them. The larger muskies tend to follow the forage fish as they migrate around. Because of this, trolling here seems to be the most productive option. Although, casting can also be done, especially around distinct structure areas.
In the spring fishermen should focus on the rivers, as that’s where the muskies like to spawn. The Fox River is well known to offer great muskie fishing in the spring time. Muskies tend to be found in very shallow water during this time, even as little as 1 foot. After spawning, they will exit the rivers.
As summer rolls around, it’s best to check emerging weed beds around the west side of the Bay.
Trolling with various crankbaits or spinners is often very effective. Try to stay in the clear water, away from dirty or cloudy patches.
Once again, late fall seems to be the best time, while again tracking the forage is another must. Lower Green Bay will contain more muskies as the shad migrate in there, but deeper open water and some of the sharp breaks found in the main bay will also hold big muskies.
Some have pointed out that even the largest of muskies here tend to have an eye for smaller crankbaits, in the 6-8 inch range. Try using those instead of your larger baits. The theory being that these medium baits mimic the shad forage.
Best Musky Lakes In Northern WI – Vilas County
The best musky lakes in northern WI are in Vilas County. Vilas County Wisconsin contains one of the most robust concentrations of freshwater lakes on the planet. Because of this, Vilas county has some of the best musky fishing in North America. There are 73 streams and rivers and over 1,300 lakes that provide an abundance of fishing opportunities that are unmatched anywhere.
For over 100 years, Vilas County, Wisconsin has been a prime fishing destination for anglers from all over the Midwest U.S. Vilas County is one of the best places to fish year round.
Big St. Germain Lake
One of the best musky lakes in Vilas County is Big St. Germain Lake. Big Saint is famous for great muskie fishing as well as walleye and smallmouth bass. At a maximum depth of 42 feet, this 1,600-acre lake in Vilas County offers consistent musky fishing throughout the summer. Although, late fall seems to be prime muskie time.
There are far too many other lakes in Vilas County for us to cover here. This handy lake grid, courtesy of VilasWI.com, gives details of all public-access boat landings and lakes in the county.
Best Musky Fishing In Kentucky
A lot of people are surprised to hear that there are really good musky lakes in Kentucky, but it’s true. Let’s take a look at where you will find the best musky fishing in Kentucky.
Cave Run Lake
Perhaps the place for the best musky fishing in Kentucky is Cave Run Lake which is located in the eastern part of the state. At around 40 miles in length, Cave Run Lake is great for catching both stocked and native muskies. It also happens to be one of the most southernmost lakes that contains muskies.
While fall is the most popular time to catch large muskies in Cave Run Lake, anglers have a good shot at catching them year round here. In the fall, the muskies tend to follow the shad to shallower waters, and smaller lures seem to produce musky strikes in this area.
Bonus Pro Tip: Be sure to check out Buckhorn Lake and Green River Lake in KY, as well. You might even have better luck and less angling competition.
Best Muskie Lakes In Michigan
Lake St. Clair
Many feel that Lake St. Clair is the best muskie lake on the planet. It is indeed an amazing muskie fishery, and absolutely the best muskie lake in Michigan. Not only can you pull in quality muskies here, but the opportunity for quantity of muskies is also unmatched. This all natural musky lake features great-lakes strains of muskies that naturally reproduce.
Lake St. Clair is rich with muskie fishing history, and has been well known for several decades as a world-class trolling destination for fishermen looking for large quantities of muskies. Lake St. Clair has 420 square miles total of muskie-rich water with an average depth of about 10 feet.
Traditionally, trolling has been the most popular muskie fishing method here, due to the large area of water to cover. It is so effective that on some days, charters may land 10+ muskies, which would be impossible pretty much anywhere else on the planet. While trolling remains king, casting on Lake St. Clair can also produce fish, especially around weeds.
Some famous Lake St. Clair muskie guides have even made a living by vertical jigging for muskies, which is a non-traditional fishing tactic here. Jigging can be done year round with success in the right areas.
Best Muskie Lakes In Minnesota
Minnesotans are blessed with an abundance of lakes. You can catch all sorts of different species in Minnesota. But if you want the best lake for muskie in Minnesota, we recommend either Mille Lacs Lake or Lake Vermilion. They are by far the two best muskie lakes in Minnesota.
Mille Lacs Lake
Comprising over 132,000 acres and located in the center of Minnesota, Mille Lacs Lake is one of the best muskie lakes in Minnesota. This lake has a large population of tulibees, and has rich vegetation. In addition, the lake has huge structures, long breaklines with patches of weeds, rock bars, some mud flats, and plenty of large open water.
According to some local guides, Mille Lacs Lake offers the best chance to land a 50-pound muskie in Minnesota. During the 1990’s and early 2000, this lake received a excellent muskie stockings, and by the mid 2000’s the numbers and sizes of the muskies were exceptional.
In recent years, the overall numbers of muskies has fallen a slight bit, due to increased muskie fishing and also some harvest pressure. Nonetheless, the muskies here remain exceptional in size, and there are still plenty of them to be caught.
Due to the size of Mille Lacs Lake, selecting the right place to fish is a major challenge. On some days, wind and waves are also a factor that anglers need to contend with. The vast open water in this lake leads to days with some pretty large swells.
While trolling for muskies has become more popular in recent years on Mille Lacs, casting still remains the primary method for most here. Regardless of water depth or which method one chooses, it is recommended to search along the top 10 feet of water.
When water temperature is in the 40’s in late fall is when muskie fishing is best on Mille Lacs Lake. The muskies here follow the tullibees to harder-bottom areas where they spawn. It is advised to use large soft plastic muskie lures during this time.
Another prime time to catch muskies here is in July, during the first major moon phase. Using large spinners along deep weed edges has proven to be especially effective, especially during dusk and dawn, or after sun down.
Located near Cook, in northeastern Minnesota, is 40,000 acre Lake Vermilion. According to many, this is best lake for muskie in Minnesota. Lake Vermilion has plenty of reefs and little islands. It also features good vegetation and larger numbers of perch and tullibee. Compared to Mille Lacs, there are more muskies per acre here, and your chances of catching a 50+ incher in Lake Vermilion are higher than almost anywhere else.
Despite all of the structure offered on Lake Vermilion, the muskies here tend to spend most of their time in the open waters. Therefore, trolling is certainly an efficient method here. That being said, casting still remains the primary musky fishing method on Lake Vermilion.
The best times being August and September. On bright & calm days, fishing the deep weed & rock beds along the west can lead to strikes. While on dark and windy days, topwaters and spinners lead to bites on the east side of the lake.
As in most of the best muskie lakes, October is generally good month overall. There are plenty of places to check out, but try to stick to weed and rocks during this time.
Best Muskie Lakes In New York
St. Lawrence River
What are the best muskie lakes in New York? Well, it’s not a lake at all. The best place to catch a trophy musky in New York is in the St. Lawrence River, where catching 60-inch, 60-pound muskies is a possibility.
The St. Lawrence River has a solid forage base, which includes perch, herring, gobies and alewife. Some of these can get up to 9 inches in length, but average 4 inches. While is great for helping the muskies get huge, it also means that they are usually well fed and less often hungry. This leads to less chances of you hooking one.
It seems that in recent history the feeding windows for muskies in the St. Lawrence have become tighter, with many missed strikes being quite common.
Casting for muskies can be done here, especially near breaklines, points, and rock piles. Still, trolling remains the prime modus operandi here. The river is vast and deep, and muskies are often found in the open waters. A good target zone for muskies is 18-60 feet of water.
The St. Lawrence River may not provide the most action for muskie fishermen, but it does provide the best chance for mammoth-sized musky. In fact, the minimum size limits here are set above 50 inches.
Ideal muskie fishing on the St. Lawrence River happens from August through September. As is the case with most other prime muskie locations, the absolute best time seems to be late fall.
Best Muskie Lakes In Canada
When it comes to the best muskie lakes in Canada, Ontario is king. Ontario is home to two of the best muskie lakes in Canada, Lake St. Clair and Lake of the Woods.
Lake St. Clair
Yes, Lake St. Clair again. About half of Lake St. Clair is in Ontario, with the other half being in Michigan. So, re-read the section on Lake St. Clair above to see why it may be the best muskie lake in Canada.
Lake of the Woods
Even though Lake of the Woods in incredibly popular with muskie fishermen today, it’s possible to catch trophy muskies while not seeing another boat in site. There are plenty of reefs, outcrops, and islands to find muskies.
What makes Lake of the Woods one of the best muskie lakes in Canada is that it covers roughly 1-million acres and has an impressive maze of over 14,000 pine and spruce lined islands. This creates a near endless supply of muskie hots pots.
Best Musky Fishing In Pennsylvania
In the northwestern part of the state is where you’ll find the best musky fishing in Pennsylvania. But, just like New York, it’s actually a river, not a lake. Stretching over 325 miles, the Allegheny River includes a large reservoir that was created by the Kinzua dam.
Just about all areas of the river produces monster muskies, some in the 50-55 inch range. What’s more, these fish are fat! Often up to 40-50 pounds. Muskies in the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania feed on trout, large dace, and suckers.
Most of the lower section is pretty navigable, but the upper and middle sections require the use of a jet boat in order to get around due to wood and rocks in the water.
Allegheny River muskie activity usually is found in the 2-15 feet of water, near log jams, weeds, and rocks. Since the current tends to be strong, anywhere that you might find a break in current can be a prime spot. As for muskie lures, it’s best to mix it up to see what is working on any particular day.
Once again, late fall going into winter is prime trophy muskie season. Those periods are also the best for predictable fishing: fish generally deeper most of the day, though checking shallower water at midday can pay off, and avoid shallows on cold mornings.
There is also decent musky action ins spring and summer, especially around fresh weed beds. Some guides like to target the reservoir during these times. This is with good reason, as the reservoir is often where the largest muskies are caught.
Understand that this list is not an all-inclusive list of all great muskie lakes. Thankfully, there is plenty of other muskie rich waters out there. However, the muskie lakes and rivers above are the best of the best.
If you are in search of a guide for any of these best muskie lakes, search our musky guide directory now.
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