Captain Ben Wolfe of Sport Fish Michigan – AnglingBuzzTV fishing report for late April / early May. Detroit River walleye fishing, river steelhead report, and the impact of spring waters being colder than usual.
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.
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!