Admittedly I haven't spent much time fishing the lower, but I've had some success there. If what I write sounds authoritative, keep my first sentence in mind.
I've caught fish in the lower because I listened to everything John Henning told me and because I tend to fish weeds on new(er) water. John fished the lower river hour after hour, year after year until he passed away in 2007.
Muskies love eddys. Muskies also love weeds.
The first time I fished the lower i listened to John and pounded eddys. We caught three fish all on Perchbaits in three hours. All were caught trolling and all were caught in depths between 15 and 35 feet of water. For the first hour we pulled lures with little confidence, but when we saw a black Lund set up shop, John's black Lund, where we were fishing, we knew we were in the right kind of spot. Talk about confidence. Why did we quit after three hours? We couldn't see ten feet because of blowing snow.
I troll the large eddys of the lower almost uniformly. I start heading down or upstream fishing tight to the shore in 12 feet or so of water with a shallow spread. I turn and drop the lures deeper and head back to where I started in 30 feet of water. I turn and head back in 15' to 20'. I turn and head back in 35'. After a few of these circuits I'll criss cross troll the eddy with my lures closer to shore up in the collum and my outside lures deeper. I like to troll eddys until the GPS screen is pink. (I use pink for my tracks.) Then I'll run to another Eddy or troll to one.
I generally troll Perchbaits and the occasional Depth Raider in the lower. If the water is clear, and I'll get to clarity next, I like white. If the water is mud, I like orange.
Here's a tip on how to find an eddy. If you see a steelhead boat stop their drift, fish where they stopped. Or you could just start by trolling in Peggy's Eddy. That's were I started and it's as good a place as any.
John told me to fish the lower when the water temperatures were 45 degrees and lower. The problem with fishing late in the season is clarity. In the lower clarity is paramount. I'll fish the upper when it's muddy because it's easy for me. I know the upper and I keep my boat at Rich. In the lower the old adage holds particularly true, $#!t rolls downhill. If it blows, so does Lake Erie. The upper gets muddy and the lower gets worse. Target times when there is at least two feet of visibility. Any more is greedy, but always welcomed. Give me cold water, three feet of visibility and some weather blowing in and I'm a cocky SOB on the lower tier.
I have trolled and cast the weed beds in the lower. I saw my share of fish, but only one committed casting. It was a solid fish, maybe mid-forty, but it threw the bucktail. Any casting advise I would give you for the lower would merely be speculative.
Here's the best advise I can give you. Check out John Henning's release reports from 2005 backwards. John was pretty precise with his entries. Everything you need to know, coupled with what I've typed, is in those reports.
The fish above is my largest, by far, lower musky. I doubt I'll ever beat her. She crushed a white and silver Perchbait back 80 feet in 25 feet of water in an Eddy on the Canadian side. There are monsters in the lower river. Put your time in and pop one. Best of luck.
wow! such great information! thank you for your reply!
I was casting around the lower last week for salmon and had a musky follow my spoon so it got me thinking about targeting them down there. Found this post while poking around - thanks for all the info Scott!
No problem, Phil. There is oodles of good advice on our website. Best of luck in the lower and everywhere else.