March has snuck right up on us here at Sport Fish Michigan; we are very excited to be putting away the ice fishing gear! This past winter offered some excellent fishing, as well as stellar ice conditions, allowing us to offer a wide variety of species to our ice customers. We had success targeting lake trout, burbot, whitefish, perch, walleye, and northern pike. With the ice conditions quickly diminishing, we have already had the opportunity to hit the open waters of the Grand Traverse Bays. Here is a quick look at what we have been targeting and what we will be perusing over the course of the next few weeks.
As most of you know, the perch fishing on Lake Michigan has greatly improved in the past two years; this past fall yielded high numbers of perch with a good average size. With the bays not receiving much if any safe ice this winter, the fish have had the chance to feed and flourish with limited pressure.
Access to the bays is just starting to improve, shoreline ice is melting, and most of the drift ice has found its way to one shoreline or broken up into miscellaneous pieces. These conditions have made getting out in a boat possible in locations like southern West Bay and southern East Grand Traverse Bay. We are successfully finding large schools of perch with good size in 70-90 ft of water. Most of the active schools are appearing to be 1-2 ft off the bottom in rock and weed-covered areas. Steep drop-offs and inside turns of drop-offs have proven to hold the larger schools. We have had good luck using traditional perch rigs with perch minnows and as well as jigging small jigging Rapalas and 3/4 ounce Jonah Jigs.
We have also had good luck finding pre-spawn burbot in 85-110 ft of water just off of 40-50 ft spawning flats. It has been difficult to mark these fish because they are hugging bottom so tightly. Because of this, we have used a fan-casting technique 360 degrees around the boat with 1 oz jigging spoons to locate active fish. Once we have located the school, we then can set up on them vertically. Anglers will also find active lake trout and cisco while fishing this same depth of water. Any 1 oz blade bait or jigging spoon will help in effectively targeting all three of these species. As the water continues to warm anglers will find that the lake trout and cisco will gradually work their way into shallower water in search of warmer temperatures and baitfish.
We have also had some excellent steelhead fishing this past week, the warmer days have generated some good runoff and rainfall which has helped bring some fresh fish to our local tributaries. With good numbers of steelhead running this past fall, we have been seeing a large number of holdover fish that are becoming more active on a day to day basis. The most effective form of fishing has consisted of float fishing beads and spawn with conventional gear. Light leaders and smaller presentations have been working best. We have a lot of great fishing ahead of us this spring, and we are looking forward to good numbers of steelhead running our tributaries.
This fishing is only just starting to get good; the next two months will only get better for these three species. This is a great time of the year to get out on the Bays and take advantage of some awesome fishing for fish that not only fight hard but taste excellent.