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Big muskie

Mitch Fairley holds one of four large muskies he and guide Thad Hinshaw caught at Evergreen Lake on Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. (Courtesy photo)

While some folks are still in the tree stands hoping to nab a big buck, others are in the boats still searching for what could be the best action and the biggest fish of the season.

Take muskie guide Thad Hinshaw and his friend, Mitch Fairley. They caught four muskies at Evergreen Lake on Friday. They measured, 45 inches, 44 inches, 38 inches and 34 inches. Hinshaw hooked a fifth fish and lost it at the net. Hinshaw said the two biggest fish were heavy.

“Easily both were 30-pound fish,” he said. “They both put up hard fights and stayed down — such strong fish,” Hinshaw said.

Hinshaw said they were casting colored twitchbaits and gliders over structure. But they only stayed a short time unless Hinshaw saw massive schools of shad on the sonar. Availability of food is always key to hunting predators, but in fall, it’s critical. The cold water is a signal to fish that winter is coming and they’d better eat all they can. Water temperature was 43 to 44 degrees due to the mild fall. But temperatures will drop farther, and shad will go deep to find warmer water soon, Hinshaw said. Predators like muskies will go with them and become harder to catch. From now until then, fishing should be good.

“I thought spring and summer were a little slow, but this late fall bite has really made up for it,” Hinshaw said. “I think the past 2½ months have been the best, most consistent bite I have experienced on Evergreen since the late ’90s to early 2000s.

Evergreen Lake is closed to boats during the second half of the firearm deer season this weekend.

Cold weather fishing

Heed these cold-weather tips from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

• A U.S. Coast Guard-approved float coat is a comfortable type of life jacket. It provides floatation when needed and warmth; 

• Survival suits provide flotation and hypothermia protection if you wind up in the water;

• When immersed in water or manually activated, Position Locator Beacons transmit a signal that allow rescuers to pinpoint your location;

• An emergency light worn and activated in the water can attract the attention of rescuers or passing boater;

• Waterproof whistles are cheap and simple ways to make noise without exhausting yourself.

Scott Richardson is Pantagraph outdoor editor.  Contact him at (309) 820-3227 or email srichardson@pantagraph.com.  Share stories and read past outdoor and fishing columns at www.pantagraph.com/blogs

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