As submitted by Captain Ben Wolfe to Angler Magazine for the month of April, 2015
February’s brutally cold temperatures meant ice fishing on Grand Traverse Bays in early March, and many anglers got out and were able to enjoy this spectacular fishery from the ice. Sport Fish Michigan guides were able to also take advantage of this rare opportunity, and our many guide customers were thrilled to catch lake trout, burbot and huge whitefish. How things change quickly, however, as mid March ushered in a warm, sunny spell that sent ice anglers all across northern Michigan scurrying for the banks as ice rapidly melted, prompting Coast Guard warnings across the region.
April is a different story, and even though ice fishing may not be an option, the fishing can still be awesome. In fact, for those with cabin fever, this early season can be awesome! Fish haven’t seen moving baits in months, and anglers can easily move to different contours and depths in a boat as opposed to drilling holes. It’s good to be back on the water fishing from a boat!
Grand Traverse Bays are still very cold and there will be burbot still shallow following their late winter spawning. Whitefish are also “shallow”, and Grand Traverse whitefish are huge. We may not have the numbers of whitefish that places like Green Bay does, but what we lack in numbers we more than make up for in size. And we also have a world-class lake trout fishery too. April is a prime month to fish shallow for lake trout, brown trout and steelhead on the Great Lakes near harbors and river mouths. Trolling or casting, action can be spectacular.
Rivers are teaming with steelhead and April is the perfect month to be on the river fishing for these silvery chromers. Adult steelhead can be anywhere from 5 or 6 pounds all the way up to 15 pounds or more! Hook into one of these fish, and you’ll be in for a battle royal! Long 8-10 foot rods are the typical rule for steelhead and even float rods to 13 feet aren’t uncommon. Spawn bags or jigs tipped with wax worms are a staple for cold-water steelhead and trout. Depending on water clarity, bright colors can work one day and produce nothing the next. Sometimes dark colors produce well, so a variety of spawn bags and jigs are essential for the best success.
Walleyes flood northern Michigan’s rivers as well, but anglers should know that this season is closed until the last weekend in April. With cold temperatures from this winter, it’s likely that there will still be excellent walleye numbers in the rivers once the season opens, meaning anglers can keep these tasty fish. Plugs, wobble-glos, worm harnesses and jigs all work well for walleye anglers.
The opening date for trout season is one that many have circled on their calendar. This year, it’s April 25th. A cold winter means that trout should be hungry when the opener rolls around, and streamers will rule the day for fly anglers.
Bass fishing is still closed until the last weekend in April as well, so die-hard bass anglers still have to wait a while before heading out to target the bronzebacks and largemouths that inhabit our northern waters. The early bass season is catch and immediate releases only, so snap a quick picture and send that trophy back! The season to keep bass won’t be until later. Regulation changes are being discussed for the future, so we will have to stay tuned as to what transpires.
Make sure to check out the DNR’s 2015 regulations for seasonal openers, size regulation changes and other information to stay informed for the soft-water season. April is a great month to be out on the water, whether it’s on a river or a lake. As always, take care, be good stewards of our precious resources and have fun!