I'm going to ramble a bit.
There's mud, which is often referred to as chocolate milk, and then there's chunky mud. The best advice I can give you regarding chunky muddy water, and by chunky muddy water I mean dark brown like Hershey's syrup or watered down brownie mix, is to stay home. Chocolate milk? Go fishing, provided that...
With all of the snow we've had and the big blow moving in later today the river should be damn close to chunky mud for a few days. The biggest problem with chunky mud and a big wind is not the water clarity, it's wood. The river will look like the Rhine during the turn of the 19th century at the height of logging season or a flume at Six Flags.
I've tried fishing the river with branches and logs and whole trees floating by. Never again. Not gonna happen.
Stained and deeply stained water is another thing. Gray, off green (Jojo call this three day old guacamole), chocolate milk or tea with a splash of cream means it's game on as the season nears the close.
I've caught fish with the clarity less than a foot in the daytime, but rarely at night. Carrie's 52" monster hit orange with the visibility about six-inches. I don't mind two to three feet of visibility at night, but four to eight makes me much more confident. Anything more than ten feet and you'll find me fishing dusk until after dark.
Think loud and proud when the water clarity is way off.
For colors I like orange contrast. My best lures for the deep stain are an orange and black jailbird pattern I call Page Jailbreak. This color was the brainchild of legendary NMA board member, Tom Page. Tom is one of the most underrated musky anglers around. Most of my river trolling fish I've caught can be attributed to the knowledge Tom Page and Tony Scime shared with me when I started. In water clarity more than two to three feet I don't worry at all about lure color.
For lures I like wide wobbling water pushers. What's a great wide wobbling water pusher? A Believer comes instantly to mind. Jointed or straight, take your pick. Little rattles or big rattles? Sure.
In deeply stained water (maybe two feet of visibility) I only troll, but I pretty much only troll in the fall anyway. When the Huntley was pushing warm water into the river casting was always an option in any condition, but since that super polluter is dead, way off water means troll. I pound obvious spots on the river where I've had success in the past over and over again. I hit underwater targets and areas loaded with bait from different angles again and again and again.
Troll slowly. Give the fish a chance to find and kill your bait. I like to troll upstream. It's easier to control your speed pulling up. You can hang baits in fishy areas for longer periods.
My advice is if you want to go fishing and the water isn't deep brown and it's safe to go, go. Muskies don't worry about water clarity. That's for us. Your chances may go down of hooking up in deeply stained water, but they aren't zero either. Many big fish have been caught in what is often referred to as mud. There are many anglers who think the big fish get dumb when the water is way off. Give it a shot. You've been skunked before under perfect conditions. What's the difference getting skunked when it's not?
I hope my tips help. I searched our website for "muddy water" and "chocolate milk". Here's a few golden oldies I've written over the years. There's a wealth of fishing knowledge contained on our site written by some of the best musky anglers in the world. The search engine is a powerful tool. Remember that.
"Milky-green when we started, but it was starting to turn brown when we finished. I'd say three feet plus with orange which is more than enough. I would expect the river to be mud for several days, probably longer. As December approaches and the long offseason looms, fish when you can in whatever Ma Nature throws at you. The biggest fish my boat has ever landed in the river was in muddy water. Think bright, loud, wobbly, straight paths, and slow speeds. Hammer structure like it owes you money. At least that's what has worked for me in chocolate milk... Don't forget the cookies."
"The system is changing. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Water clarity that once was is lost. There are few who fish now that remember it.
It began with the forging of the great lures. Three Depthraiders were given to the Founders: immortal, wisest and fairest of all anglers. Seven Perchbaits and Plows to the Harbor Hounds: great trollers and dwellers of the Bethlehem Steel Mountain Halls. And nine Mr. Toothys were gifted to the race of grinders, who above all else, desire bottom contact. For within these lures was bound the strength and will to govern each musky.
But all of them were deceived.
For another lure was made. In the land of Drifter, in the fires of Mount Platypus the Musky Lords forged a secret Master Lure to control all others. And into this lure they poured huge rattles, crazy water pushing action, bright colors and their will to hook all muskies. One lure to rule them all.
For Many weeks the lures of power hid in the gloom of tackle boxes and there they waited.
Mud crept back into the waters of the River. Rumor grew of a storm from the west, whispers of a nameless fear. And the lures of power perceived their time had now come.
One lure to rule them all. One lure to find them. One lure to catch them all. And in the muddy water bind them."
"Boys, here's the way I look at mud. You can just as easily get skunked in gin as you can in mud. I get skunked like it's my job. I'm a non-catching musky fishing machine; a miracle of fishing futility. What difference does it make if I take the zero in clear water or chocolate milk? Fish eat in the mud. If you are fishing in mud you still have a chance at catching a fish. You have zero chance if you don't. Fish slow and loud and proud. If you mark something big hit it over and over again from every direction like you're Muhammad Ali in his prime. The very best of luck to everyone out there giving it one last shot. To paraphrase Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev, Fish in the mud, but shoot for the stars."