Sport Fish Michigan April 2017 Angler Magazine Report

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April is upon us. The ice has melted, and instead of seeing the lakes covered with shanties and snow, we see waves and boats! Northern Michigan spring weather can be cold and rainy, but that will not stop anglers from hitting the inland lakes in hopes of landing some big pre-spawn smallmouth and largemouth bass. With the new DNR regulations in place allowing us to target bass, the month of April is now wide open for us, where it was previously closed. While we can target bass, it is still catch and immediate release, however.

With a lot of the lakes maintaining water temperatures in the upper 30’s to low 40’s it is important to note that most of the bass in the larger inland lakes are still rather lethargic. Feeding fish can and will be found transitioning from deeper water to shallower flats and weed covered drop offs. The feeding window tends to be short lived this time of the year; generally, it can be the warmest time of the day. Smallmouth’s love sun and a sunny day can really trigger a nice bite as the sun will penetrate down through the clear waters here in Northern Michigan.

A good go-to presentation in April can be blade baits and jerk baits. With the blade bait, retrieving with a double pump action associated with a fall can be key. Try several different styles of pumps making the blade bait flutter in your retrieve to trigger a strike and establish a pattern. The same goes for jerk baits–make sure you play with the jerk/pause cadence to establish what the fish want. With cold water, we at Traverse City Bass Guide Service like to start with at least a 3-5 second pause in between jerk/retrieve. In the colder water, April bass can even want as long as a 10-second pause. Keep in mind as well, that sometimes a twitch can be more effective than a jerk!

When targeting bass with these techniques, you have a very good chance of stumbling into a post spawn pike. This can make for a nice added bonus to get the blood flowing. Pike have a tendency to be found actively feeding adjacent to drop offs and on weed covered deeper flats this time of year. When you find one, you will usually find more! If you find that you’ve stumbled into an area that has nothing but pike, try moving a little deeper or in contrast a little shallower. The bass usually aren’t too far away.

We at Traverse City Bass and Sport Fish Michigan look forward to a great season chasing fish on the open water. We hope everyone has a great April and we look forward to seeing you on the water.

Sport Fish Michigan Fishing Report 04.01.17

The fishing in Northern Michigan is on fire right now! Our area is producing some excellent numbers of fish, both in the rivers systems and on open water. We are so grateful to have such awesome fishing and wonderful clients. Here is a sneak peak at what we have been up to:

Inland lakes and Grand Traverse Bay have been producing good catches of perch. Most fish in GTB have been found in 50-70ft. of water. We have seen schools even as deep as 90+ ft., as well. Larger schools are consisting of 7-9-inch fish, but when you can find the smaller concentrations, you can locate the larger fish. Good electronics, such as a Humminbird Helix unit, are crucial in finding these schools. We are so excited to see the perch populations returning to GTB and surrounding ports. Inland lake perch fishing has been good adjacent to drop-offs and weed covered flats in 25-55ft., depending on the bottom make-up. Perch minnows and wigglers have been working well. Finding a softer bottom has been key.

GTB has been producing limits of lake trout and cisco. Locating fish has not been difficult at all, finding hungry, active fish has, and can be, a bit of challenge. Fish in deeper water have been more aggressive than the shallower schools. 100-135ft. seems to have large concentrations, but the more active fish have been found feeding in 145-160ft. The trout are gathering in the bottom 10 feet, and the cisco seem to be behaving as they always do in 35-degree water. Cisco can be found feeding aimlessly, with no patterned depth in the water column. A simple mark and drop technique has been working well when jigging and casting for these fish in deeper water. Cisco in the spring often feed half-way up in the water column, and seeing marks “zooming” across our Humminbird Helix screens is the tell-tale regarding the depth in which these scrappy fish are feeding.

Trolling the shallow water on the shores of Lake Michigan out of ports like Frankfort, Manistee, Arcadia, and Onekama for brown trout has been great. Using lighter fluorocarbon and longer leads on inline planer boards has worked well. We have found that using more natural colors in clearer water, and brighter colors in dirtier water, has been producing more biters. Most temperatures have been from 36-38 degrees, if you can find any pockets of water with 40-41 degree temps, you should find browns.

Fishing on the rivers, we have seen one of the best runs of steelhead our area tributaries have had in quite a few years. We have consistently been hitting fresh fish for the past three months. Just when we think that the run has peaked, and the fish are slowing down, we get another inch of rain and more fish come into the Lake Michigan tributary systems!

This past week’s warmer temperatures, however, have increased temps to the low 40’s, and this is really initiating the spawning process. A lot of active, hungry fish have been coming in the faster tail-out water of spawning gravel. Depending on the river, 3-5ft of water has been good. Finding the slower seams in the bottom, inside and outside of faster water covering the spawning gravel has been best. Steelhead seem to have now left the slower, sandier, wintering holes, working their way to higher, faster sections of water.

Trout beads, stoneflies, and hare’s ear flies have been great with both fly rod and conventional gear. Indicator fishing and float fishing with beads and spawn has been most productive. We have found that even with the dirtier water, 8mm beads have produced the most fish. Colors like Sun Orange have definitely been the MVP of the spring, with the Clown egg in a close second.

While anglers with a valid fishing license are certainly allowed to keep their limit of steelhead, we at Sport Fish Michigan like to practice catch and release whenever we can. Many of these fish can successfully spawn, and are not reliant on stocking programs. For this reason, releasing spawning fish is crucial in helping to maintain our steelhead fisheries for years to come.

Good luck out there, we hope to see you on the water!

Sport Fish Michigan Lake Report March – April 2017

Spring is here! With all the ice gradually melting, open water fishing on most inland lakes is in full swing and Grand Traverse Bay is open for some great fishing opportunities, as well. Listed below is brief description of what techniques and tips Sport Fish Michigan has to offer anglers when hitting the water over the course of the next month.

Inland lake fishing for perch has been very good, and this is an awesome time of year to take advantage of big fish and large schools. Most fish can be found feeding in 38-50 feet of water adjacent to steeper drop-offs and weed-covered flats. If you are lucky enough to find perch minnows at your local bait shop, this will help yield the best action when targeting perch. The fish tend to move this time of year as they are actively spawning and transitioning from deeper to shallower water. Make sure to use a Minn Kota Motors I-Pilot or back trolling technique, as using an anchor can spook the school, forcing them to move.

Grand Traverse Bay has been fishing very well this March and will only continue to heat up for several species. Lake trout and cisco fishing is incredible this time of year. Utilizing good, effective electronics, and successfully anchoring on top of large schools will bring the most success. This time of the year, jigging spoons and blade baits are key, fish are constantly moving, in search for alewife, gobies, and other baitfish in the warming water. 50-100 feet of water is a great place to start, this is usually a key area to find both species, however don’t be afraid to check shallower as the water warms, as most of the baitfish and insect life will be gathering around the warmer rocks and weed cover. And if all else fails, deep waters of 150 feet or even more will almost always hold fish. These deeper fish may not be the actively feeding fish that cruise the shallower waters, but can often be tempted with a good jig.

Traverse City, Frankfort, Leland, and Manistee offer some excellent shallow water trolling opportunities on Lake Michigan for brown trout, steelhead, and even the occasional lake trout. Anglers will have great success trolling body baits on in-line planer boards in 8-15 feet of water. Locating stained water areas and gradual temperature breaks will help pinpoint where feeding fish are located. Browns tend to congregate in the water that has the least amount of visibility and the warmest temperature. Don’t be afraid to fish very close to the shoreline, the inside trough can be very productive this time of year!

Good luck and see you on the water!

Sport Fish Michigan March 2017 Angler Magazine Report

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With there still ice fishing to be done on many inland lakes, the annual spring steelhead run into the area’s Lake Michigan tributary rivers, as well as the open water bite for species like cisco, lake trout, burbot, brown trout and lots more, the opportunities abound for anglers here in Northern Michigan.

The river fishing for steelhead pushing into the area’s rivers should be excellent if this fall’s run is any indication. While many fish held over the winter in the rivers, there should be a few nice pushes of fresh fish to target. Jigs tipped with wax worms fished under a float should tempt these frigid water chrome battlers if a spawn bag doesn’t do the trick. For fly anglers, egg patterns, leech patterns or small minnow patterns will all work.

For anglers looking to get that last ice bite, the perch and the walleyes are feeding more these days with their upcoming annual spawn. Both of these species will spawn in the early spring, shortly after ice-out, and much of their pre-spawn bite window takes place under the ice. Jigging Rapalas or jigging spoons tipped with a minnow head can be deadly for cruising walleye both early or late in the day. For perch anglers, minnows can often attract hungry jumbos, but sometimes downsizing to a small tungsten jig tipped with a spike or a wax worm will seal the deal. But anglers should keep in mind that as ice thaws, extra caution should be taken when venturing out. No matter how good the late ice bite can be, no fish is worth having an accident over.

Ciscos, burbot, lake trout and whitefish all bite well during the cold water periods of March. Trolling is an excellent way to cover water, and vertical jigging is a fantastic way to stay over top of a school of fish. Trolling spoons, plugs or even vibrating blade baits can be the ticket to getting the Ciscos, lake trout and whitefish to bite. For jigging options, spoons and blade baits are the way to go. Look for schools or marks adjacent to steep breaks or depth contours like inside turns or points or humps.

We here at Sport Fish Michigan are looking forward to getting back onto the water after a busy ice guiding season. While there are still ice trips to be run yet, we are anxious to get after the early ice-out fishing that can often times be dynamite. Get out and have a great time fishing, whether it’s on the last of our ice or in a boat. Take lots of care, however, since the waters are still ice cold. No matter which body of water you fish, know what technique is most enjoyable to you, have fun, stay safe, and catch some fish!

Sport Fish Michigan Ice Fishing Report 2.16.17

The hottest bite as of this week has definitely consisted of perch and northern pike. With a few days of consistent sun and higher temperatures, both species have been on the move in search of baitfish, feeding and staging adjacent to their spawning areas. We are noticing that the perch are really running in size-oriented schools, and each school has its own mood. Some of the smaller schools of larger fish have actually been feeding more aggressively than others. With this in mind, we have not been using a very large presentation like a perch rig or jigging spoon. The most successful technique has consisted of small orange and chartreuse tungsten jigs tipped with wax works and spikes. Using 2lb fluorocarbon main line has been best. All lakes have had different depths that have been producing perch. The most important thing to look for when locating active perch is a soft muddy bottom on a flat that is adjacent to weeds or a drop-off. If the lake you are targeting is mostly shallow, finding isolated weeds with a soft bottom will be key.

Northern pike fishing has been great. The rest of the month will yield some of the best pike action of the year. Both the males and the females have increased their daily travel and really seem to be putting on the pre-spawn feedbag. We have really steered away from steel leaders this season, we have had great success with 15lb fluorocarbon tip-up leaders rigged with a size 12 treble hook. This has allowed the action of the golden minnow to maintain a very active wounded motion. By using lighter line, smaller hook and a ¼ ounce egg sinker we have found that we are getting a lot more action. Depth of water for these pre-spawn fish has been consistent with most lakes. 6-15ft of water close to drop offs, flats and weed beds has been best.

Last ice fishing is right around the corner. With this comes some excellent action for all species, but it also brings sketchy inconsistent ice conditions. We ask that all anglers please use extreme caution when hitting the ice the rest of the season. Good luck and catch them up!

Sport Fish Michigan January 2017 Angler Magazine Report

January in northern Michigan is an excellent time to take advantage of many different angling opportunities. For those who want to get out on the ice, this is a great time to venture out on smaller bodies of water that have just formed safe fishable ice. Another January option is hitting the river for trout and steelhead. Both options will provide anglers with active fish and lower levels of angler competition due to the time of year.

First ice conditions can be an excellent time to encounter active panfish, perch, walleye, and pike. Panfish love the shallower weed flats this time of year. Fishing on top of and adjacent to small depth changes and structure can be very effective. Size 12 teardrops tipped with spikes accompanied by 2-4 lb. fluorocarbon can be most effective. While targeting panfish in the shallows, anglers can go after cruising pike on the edges of weed beds and close to adjacent drop offs. Tip-ups with sucker minnows provide a great bonus option while searching for panfish. Presenting your sucker minnow right above and slightly into standing weeds can produce nice pike this time of year.

Walleye can be found cruising the drop offs at daybreak and dusk. Depending on the lake, most active depths will range from 15-25ft. Jigging Rapalas, Buckshot Spoons, and smaller jig heads tipped with a minnow can be a good rod and reel option at this depth range. Anglers fishing tip-ups in this same zone will have great success as well. Big Blue minnows and Greys on a size twelve treble weighted by a ¼ ounce egg sinker will work for most tip-up rigging. When jigging this depth range, good electronics are critical for finding active fish and interpreting the type of jigging cadence that is most desired for that specific day. Both pike and walleye often inspect offerings for quite a while before striking.

January steelhead fishing can be an absolute riot! If you can get past the cold fingers and frozen rod guides, this is great time to pursue low-pressured fish and not encounter a large number of anglers. The active fish can be found in deeper slower sections of the river mostly keying in on the tail outs of runs and holes. Anglers presenting spawn and beads under floats will have great success. For those who prefer to tackle these hungry fish on the fly, intruder, egg, and leech patterns will produce fish when presented at the right depth.

We at Sport Fish Michigan would like to caution all anglers fishing first ice, to please use good judgment when venturing out and always fish with a friend. Ice doesn’t always freeze uniformly, and weak spots can be common during this first ice period. Good luck, tight lines and we hope to see you on the water this January!

SFM Weekly Fishing Report 01.22.17

Despite the current warm-up, ice fishing is still red hot in Northern Michigan. Sport Fish Michigan has been on some great fishing this past week establishing consistent bite patterns for perch, walleye, and bluegill.

Walleye and large perch have been actively feeding in the same general area on several different bodies of water. The best action has been found fishing 28-33 feet of water directly on top of larger flats consisting of a soft bottom. Fire tiger tungsten jig presentations tipped with wax worms have been deadly. Size 3-5 Jigging Rapala’s in black and silver have also been great for targeting walleye and keeper perch at the same time. We have found that rigging our tip-ups with a 3/16oz egg sinker, 18” 4lb fluorocarbon leader accompanied by a #14 gold treble and blue minnow has been most effective for both species.

The bluegill bite this past week was very good! We had several limit catches on some smaller bodies of water fishing in 12-16ft. The most desired presentation we found consisted of glow 1/32oz tungsten jigs tipped with natural colored spikes. The fish really wanted the jig moving, consistently attacking the jig on the rise 2-3ft off of bottom.

Sport Fish Michigan November 2016 Angler Magazine Report

Northwest Michigan Area Fishing Report

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As the waters cool, opportunities still abound for some spectacular fall fishing. While many are taking to the woods for the fall hunting season, anglers willing to brave the chillier weather can be rewarded for almost every species.

For inland lakes, walleyes, yellow perch, and smallmouth bass are prime targets as they put on the feedbag for winter. With the shorter days, the feeding windows are condensed, giving anglers some great chances to intercept the active fish. For walleyes, pulling minnow plugs behind planer boards adjacent to steep break lines remains a great option right at dusk. Anglers wanting to cast shouldn’t overlook the mid-day feeding window with baits like a leadhead jig tipped with a paddle tail soft plastic. Perch anglers can score big with nice jumbos using perch rigs tipped with wigglers or even small perch flies tipped with a small piece of cocktail shrimp. Another favorite option that can really call in some nicer fish is a small jigging spoon with a dropper chain. For some reason, big jumbo perch really like the action of a jigging spoon and will sometimes take this offering when few other things seem to be working.

Inland lake bass fishing can be incredible, and the fish on the inland lakes come up to the shallow flats to feed before heading deep for winter. Swimbaits, crankbaits, and even spinnerbaits are all great options to throw this time of year. Don’t be afraid to try skinny water at times if there is sunny weather. It’s not uncommon for smallmouths to roam into water as shallow as four feet or so during the fall feed. This is a time of year when bronzebacks famously “wolf pack”, and locating one in an area generally means that there are many more around.

Grand Traverse Bay Fishing Report

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Fall bass fishing in Northern Michigan can be just as good as the spring pre-spawn fishing, but with lots less angling pressure. True, the fall gales can be an issue when planning a trip, but when we have the weather, the fishing can be awesome!

The Grand Traverse Bays cool much slower than the inland lakes, meaning that the fish are down in deeper water later into the year, and deep water tactics are the way to go here. Very often, fishing the steep breaks are the way to locate smallmouths as they will venture up onto the breaks to feed, retreating down deep during periods of inactivity. Drop shot techniques, swimbaits and crankbaits are great fall options and are some of the go-to options for Traverse City Bass Guide Service and Sport Fish Michigan.

For anglers looking to put some meat into a cooler on the Bays, yellow perch schools are roaming around in huge numbers not seen in years! While many of these schools have 4-6 inch perch, there are some bigger fish around. What is exciting is to see the number of smaller fish, meaning that we should have some outstanding jumbo perch fishing in the years to come if we are careful about not overharvesting this fantastic and tasty fish.

Another stellar option is the cisco aka lake herring. With a change in diets over the past several years, they are incredibly good table fare now, and are now exciting more and more anglers. They are extremely plentiful in Grand Traverse Bays, and are super aggressive feeders as well, hitting seemingly anything that comes close to them. Jigging spoons in a 1 ounce or 1-1/2 ounce size are perfect for these fish, as are blade baits. Ciscos these days are running much larger than they ever have, and 4 pound plus fish are common on guide trips this past year for Sport Fish Michigan. Trolling is another productive way to target these fish, but smaller hooks may be the ticket to a higher landing ratio. Cisco fishing is an absolute hoot, and anglers who like to reel in an incredibly hard fighting fish won’t be disappointed! And being outstanding to eat is only a bonus!

The Bays are big water, and the fall’s north winds can churn the waters up quickly. Take care when heading out onto any body of water this fall, and make sure to have the proper safety gear aboard. Equally as important is to let others know what your fishing plans are, and where you plan to be. Stay safe, enjoy the fantastic fishing out on Grand Traverse Bays, and catch lots of fish!

Sport Fish Michigan September 2016 Angler Magazine Report

Northwest Michigan Fishing Report

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September’s fishing in northern Michigan is usually incredible, and this year should be no exception. With lots to fish for, the opportunities abound for anglers wanting to target a variety of species using multiple techniques. Most attention this time of year is on the mighty salmon, and this is the prime time to target them!

Out on Grand Traverse and Platte Bays, salmon and lake trout fishing are fantastic—a far cry from what it was the last couple of years. Quite a few king salmon are present, and they are running as true adults should-in the 20-25 pound range! Coho salmon are also present, and these silver salmon are a very respectable 8-9 pounds. There aren’t huge numbers like in years long past, but enough to have people once again excited to get out to target king and coho salmon. Trolling early in the day and later at dusk is the best option to get the most out of willing king salmon. Spoons and plugs are great options as are meat-rigs behind a flasher. Flies and smaller plugs are a great way to target the coho salmon on both Grand Traverse and Platte Bays.

For those wanting to vertical jig, early morning or right at dusk is prime time for king salmon using 2-3 ounce jigs like a Jonah Jig. For coho jigging out on Platte Bay, the middle of the day can also be productive, and Sport Fish Michigan captains prefer slightly smaller 1.5 or 2-ounce jigs to trigger biters.

Platte Bay in September can be a truly world-class place to target coho salmon in shallow water using light tackle. Spinners retrieved at a medium speed can lead to some awesome action, and Platte Bay is the place to do this. This is an absolute favorite way for several Sport Fish Michigan captains to fish in open water for these silver salmon. A 7 to 9-foot rod will help not only make long casts but will also help to cushion these fish when they run, jump and charge under the boat!

Targeting salmon is incredibly fun, and with many anglers out plying the waters, showing a little patience with other anglers is critical. We are all out trying to have fun and catch some fish. A little common sense and some etiquette will go along way to helping us all have fun while we’re on the water. Stay safe, and great fishing!

Grand Traverse Bay Fishing Report

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Bass fishing in northern Michigan can be just as incredible as is the scenery in which we fish. With so many lakes to fish, there never seems to be time enough to hit them all! September is a fantastic month to get out to target northern Michigan bronzebacks as they are beginning their fall feed. With daylight hours shortening, the feeding windows are condensed, making for what can feel like a true feeding bonanza by our northern smallmouths. As the northerly fall winds descend upon us, the inland lake waters seem to experience smallmouths coming shallow more quickly than out on Grand Traverse Bays.

Many of the inland lakes are great places to not only find calmer waters during the north winds that come with fall, but they are also loaded with quality smallmouth options. Windy points and shallow flats adjacent to weed edges and drop-offs are prime spots to start looking for fish that are moving shallow to feed. As the water temperatures fall throughout September, power fishing options like crankbaits, umbrella rigs and spinnerbaits once again take hold. Drop shots and finesse style fishing is still a mainstay when the weather is warm and calm.

Grand Traverse Bays are slow to cool, and many of the bigger smallmouths are still down deep in 30 plus feet. Drop shot rigs are a great way to tempt these fish. As the month progresses, more and more fish will make the push shallow where they will be easier to target using a larger arsenal of techniques.

The Traverse City area is known for its amazing smallmouth fishing, and any given day can showcase just why its been so popular with television shows and well-known bass professionals. Stay safe out on the water, have fun, and tight lines!

Sport Fish Michigan August 2016 Angler Magazine Report

Northwest Michigan Report

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Sport Fish Michigan has had terrific fishing this summer; water temperatures have gradually increased providing a consistent bite for most big water species. August is a great month for anglers to target some very willing trout and salmon in the Northwest region of Lake Michigan.

Grand Traverse Bay is fishing very well this August. Water temperatures have been varying with wind direction from 68-70 degrees on the surface. Anglers that have successfully found the thermocline have been producing good catches of Lake Trout in 80-100 feet of water. Jigging and trolling have produced good catches of trout. Ciscos have been feeding above the thermocline attacking higher in the water column. Both east and west bay have been blessed with a fairly high density of alewife over the course of the spring and summer. This has provided a fishable salmon population for anglers willing to troll. Most of the salmon being caught have been 2-3 years old with the occasional adult encounter. Flasher and fly combinations, lead core, spoons, and even cut bait rigs have been productive.

Platte Bay is setting up very nicely for this fall. With the warm temperatures in August, the thermocline will be found 80-100 feet depending on the wind direction. This provides an excellent depth range to target aggressive lake trout that have been biting very well all spring and summer. Larger dodgers, cowbells, and small spoons trolled at 1.9-2.4 mph have been best for most anglers. Pockets of baitfish have been found near and around the rocks and steep breaks.

Frankfort has offered some spectacular fishing all spring and summer. Warm August temperatures have brought heavy south winds forcing most of the fish deep with the thermocline ranging from 80-120 feet. Lake trout fishing has been very consistent with most schools of fish gathering along the steep breaks and under water points. Anglers that have fully committed to salmon fishing have been producing some nice fish. Salmon numbers have fluctuated with the wind direction; however most anglers are reporting a very fishable population.

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Grand Traverse Bay Report

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Summer time bass fishing in and around the Traverse City area is in full swing now that we are in August, and that means fishing deeper water. With the incredible amount of wind that we experienced in July, the water temperatures aren’t super hot, which is helpful in keeping oxygenated water and fish active.

For those fishing on Grand Traverse Bays, the smallmouth fishing has been excellent at times, and spotty at times. For the most part, anglers should target deep structure in 20 feet or more. A good sonar graph will help to pinpoint these structures. Deep weed beds will also hold fish, as this is where baitfish, crayfish and bugs will all congregate. Drop shots are a staple for us here at Sport Fish Michigan and Traverse City Bass Guide Service. When there is wind, a spinner bait fished on the shallower flats can lead to some thunderous bites! For the early-morning risers, a top water fished early in the day or late in the evening can be a great way to target fish orienting on the shallow side of deep drop-offs.

For inland waters, the bass are relating to deeper water that also have weed edges associated with them. Top waters are a great way to locate fish early in the day, or again later in the evening, although smallmouth will readily bite top waters all day if there are slick overcast conditions. A soft plastic jerk bait can be another fantastic option this time of year.

While the bass fishing may be in its summer patterns, the opportunities to have a great day on the water still abound. With lots of summer boating traffic to contend with, make sure to have the necessary safety equipment onboard. Have lots of fun, and just as important is to stay safe!

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