Sport Fish Michigan December 2015 Angler Magazine Report

BenWolfeDecemberDecember is upon us, and our hard-water ice fishing season is still seemingly a far way off for many bodies of water. With a much milder El Nino winter, it seems that there is still be much more open-water fishing to be had here in northern Michigan. Rivers will stay open, unlike the past two winters, and big bodies of water like Grand Traverse Bays will almost assuredly remain open as well.

Grand Traverse Bays in early winter can be an awesome place to wet a line when the weather cooperates. Lake trout season is still closed out on the Bays, but there is still some great yellow perch action to be had, and whitefish will be moving shallow as well. For perch anglers, Deep Water Point on East Bay is always a go-to spot. Wigglers or minnows are the top choices out here on the Bays, but sometimes a jigging spoon can really help to attract fish that are spread out. Personally, I like a jigging spoon with a dropper chain tipped with a couple of wigglers or a small piece of minnow to call in fussy fish. Very often it’s a small jigging cadence that gets fish to move in closer, and then a dead-stick approach to tempt bites. Many perch anglers opt to use their ice fishing electronics for this style of fishing because it is immediate feedback on how a fish is reacting to our offerings. And don’t be surprised when a big Grand Traverse Bay whitefish or lake trout gobbles up your perch rig. Whitefish love a vertically jigged Swedish pimple or a small Jonah Jig. Wigglers work well at times, also, but whitefish can be so tricky in hooking when using wigglers, that sometimes it’s better to look for other techniques.

Steelhead on the rivers are still a great option in December, before the dead of winter truly sets in. Last year, winter hit us in November and didn’t let up. This year, water should be flowing well throughout the winter if we do indeed have the El Nino year that is predicted. Spawn bags can work wonders on Lake Michigan tributary steelhead, but don’t forget about small jigs tipped with wax worms. The old Jig and wax routine can be truly deadly on winter steelhead when fished under a float. And if there are trout in the system? They love a good wax worm too!

Inland lakes probably won’t see too much ice in December, with the exception of the smaller lakes in the middle of the state. Lakes closer to Lake Michigan will be protected by the big lake, tempering air temperatures. This means that anglers can still get out in a boat on many bodies of water. Yellow perch are the target of choice for many anglers, and the techniques that work on the Bays work well here too. The flash of a minnow can really trigger aggressive feeding responses from big perch this time of year, and with fishing pressure low, these fish are often very willing to bite.

Ben Wolfe’s Michigan Fishing Report for AnglingBuzz.com 09.11.15

Early September report includes information about northwest Michigan’s bounty of fishing opportunities in September, including smallmouth bass, walleye, lake trout, coho salmon, and king salmon.

Michigan River Fishing Report 11.03.14

11.03.2014

SFMboat
Hook N’ Look’s Kim Stricker is enjoying a nice fall day on the water with Capt. Ben on Platte Bay in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Salmon and Lake Trout Trolling

Frankfort

Trolling in Frankfort when the weather has allowed has been pretty good for 2 and 3 year old king salmon, steelhead and the occasional brown trout. The cold water has fish feeding heavily when the winds are down. Steelhead are in the top portion of the water column, and can be targeted just a few feet down with body baits and flashy spoons with gold or orange. Salmon can be trolled quickly this time of year, with a slightly faster speed often producing quality bites.

MaeTrout
Mae with one of the many trout she landed while fishing with Wolfe Outfitters on the Manistee River.

Michigan River Fishing

Big Manistee River (Lower)

Salmon season is over, aside from a few holdover fish on gravel. Steelhead is the name of the game now, but there aren’t tons of steelies in the Manistee just yet. While there are definitely some fish in the river, fishing hasn’t been gangbusters as hoped. Trips are yielding a few bites per outing, but action has been bolstered by a great trout bite when fishing close to Tippy Dam. Fishing with spawn bags or beads under a float has been the best option lately. Fly anglers fishing egg patterns and beads under a float have also seen action. Hopefully the recent snow and windy weather will trigger another push of fish, giving anglers more great days on the water.

Capt. Jeff Mallory, Wolfe Outfitters/Sport Fish Michigan

Betsie River

Steelhead are in the Betsie, and fish are running large when they can be found. Fishing above Kurick road is closed now for the closed trout season, but there are plenty of steelhead opportunities below Kurick. Float fishing with beads has been producing in the slower water just below gravel areas.

Recent higher waters have given the river some stain, and brighter flies or beads can be key. The hard north winds and rain/snow mix should bring fresh chromers into the river.

Capt. Jeff Mallory, Wolfe Outfitters/Sport Fish Michigan

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Steelhead are in the rivers, and the action is heating up! Not bad for John’s first-ever steelhead caught while fishing with Jeff Mallory and Wolfe Outfitters! Great job!

Northern Michigan Inland Lakes

The fall bass bite is on, and some of the best fishing can be when it’s nasty out. Traditionally, snow or sleet squalls can produce a red hot bite, helping to keep anglers warm during what is otherwise a chilly time of year. Fast moving baits like lipless crankbaits can trigger reaction bites from big bronzebacks and largemouths. Deep diving crank baits can also produce well when fished around isolated cover, and underwater points or humps. Some of the biggest bass of the year come now, and as the inland lakes cool more quickly than the bigger water of the Grand Traverse Bays, action has been dynamite when the wind and weather allows anglers to get out. When fish aren’t willing to chase down fast moving baits, crawling a tube or a drop shot rig can pay off handsomely. Blade baits will come into play as water temps drop into the upper to mid 40’s. Care should always be taken when heading out onto the water this time of year, but when the weather cooperates, the fish usually do as well.

Capt. Ben Wolfe, Traverse City Bass/Sport Fish Michigan

Michigan River Fishing Report 08.26.14

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Salmon and Lake Trout Trolling

Frankfort

Frankfort’s salmon fishing has been hit or miss lately for most of the charter boats. Salmon have shown up in waves, and when they do, they have been incredibly snappy, with lots of happy customers and anglers alike. Meat rigs and spoons are the keys to getting salmon to go, and first light and last light have been the hottest times to be on the water. Anglers arriving after first light have often missed the best salmon bite. Kings continue to dominate the salmon catches, but a few coho are being caught as well. By far, the most consistent fishing has been the lake trout fishing, with lots of big fish coming boat-side. And with a diet consisting more and more of gobies, the lake trout meat is a beautiful orange hue, very closely resembling that of salmon. Lakers are being taken both close to bottom and suspended. Anglers targeting “the bank” have done well when the salmon are around, but many are making the run to fish west Platte Bay to specifically target the lakers.
Capt. Andy Odette

Leland

Leland’s fishing has been an up and down roller coaster much like Frankfort’s. When the pockets of king salmon have come through, the fishing has been stellar. The recent few days of hot steamy weather has shut things down salmon-wise a bit more than anglers would prefer, after several days of hot fishing. Lake trout fishing has been curiously inconsistent as well, but what fish are being caught have been dandies. Fishing tight to bottom has been the most productive, but targeting suspending fish has also scored fish throughout the day.
Capt. Brady Anderson

West Bay

West Bay in Traverse City has been mostly consistent the past several days. The hot weather the past few days has pushed the fish deeper, but the salmon are still staged around the “hole” near the mouth of the Boardman River. Trollers have done well when hitting the first light of day. Lake trout fishing remains awesome, fishing suspended fish in about 80 feet of water. Not only are fish seemingly plentiful, they are running fairly large, too.
Capt. Brady Anderson

East Bay

East Bay salmon fishing has been consistent lately, but not fast and furious. Charter boats are getting anywhere from 2-5 fish a trip, but are hoping for better numbers of king salmon to move into the system in the upcoming days. Lake trout fishing remains red hot, with lots of big fish coming to the boat. Targeting suspended fish is the key, and 80 feet down seems to be the best depth right now. As always, when fishing for king salmon, the hottest bite is either the first light of day or dusk right before last light in the evening.
Capt. Adam Collett

Salmon and Lake Trout Jigging

Platte Bay

Platte Bay is still fishing reasonably well for lake trout. There are lots of smaller sub-legal fish in the system, which means that when these schools are found, it can be nonstop action. Even the smaller 16-18 inch trout pound an ounce and a half jig incredibly hard. For targeting larger keeper-size fish, the deeper breaks have been the ticket. Coho salmon are starting to show, just not in great numbers yet. The forecast has some north wind for the next couple of days, and that may be all that’s needed to bring in more of these awesome fish where we can target them with jigging techniques before they get up shallow in their staging area just outside the mouth of the Platte River. Fishing in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a special opportunity, and with such a wonderful backdrop of the Dunes and the Manitou Islands, who couldn’t help but love to fish out on Platte Bay?
Capt. Ben Wolfe

West Bay

Jigging for lake trout has been great the past couple of weeks. Fish are mostly deep now that summer is finally here in earnest. The past few days of hot weather has really made it pleasant to be out on the water. Lakers have been scattered depth-wise, but the best jigging bite has been in 105-120 feet of water. Use 1-2 ounce jigs to target lakers that deep. Salmon are starting to show up in the “hole” near the mouth of the Boardman River, meaning that jigging action for king salmon should be heating up soon. Jigging spoons up to 3 ounces are the keys to getting bit by the big king salmon that roam these waters.
Capt. Brady Anderson

East Bay

Jigging for East Bay for lake trout has been stellar lately. Of course, not every day can be a banner day, but the action has been great overall. Not only are numbers of fish coming to the boat, but the average size has been tremendous as well, with quite a few fish in the 6-8 pound range. The best bite for our trips has been in 105 plus feet of water. Early in the day, we have been able to get good numbers of fish in as shallow as 80 feet as well. As the day progresses, we have moved deeper, as the trout have moved to deeper water as well. We have even been able to target suspending fish by either dropping our ounce and a half size jigs down to them, or reeling up quickly through the water column, triggering aggressive bites from the suspending fish. There’s nothing quite like reeling up from the bottom quickly only to watch the rod double over as an aggressive lake trout grabs the jig as it comes by! Whitefish have also been caught on occasion, adjacent to the lakers, in 100 plus feet.
Capt. Ben Wolfe

Michigan River Fishing

Big Manistee River (Lower)

King salmon are starting to show up on the Big Manistee River, and angling pressure is increasing as well. Although there aren’t big numbers just yet, the recent rain should pull more fish into the rivers, and the north winds predicted for the next couple of days, although not predicted to be high, should bring some more fish into the staging areas of Manistee Lake. Trout fishing remains excellent, despite the late August date! Small spinners have produced well on recent guide trips, and 50 fish days are still possible. Although most of the fish are small 10-12 inches, they are scrappy and a lot of fun to catch. Larger fish in the 16-18 inch range are also being caught, mixed in with the smaller ones. Bass fishing on the Manistee has been tougher lately. Soft plastic jerkbaits have been the ticket for the smallies in the river the past few days, as have been weighted flies resembling minnows.
Capt. Ben Wolfe

Betsie River

King salmon have started to run the river, and what fish are in the river are mostly above the Homestead dam. The heavy rains yesterday should bring more fish into the low portion of the Betsie, below the dam. The fish are bright chrome and feisty, so beefing up on leader material is a good idea. Early salmon will absolutely chase a streamer when presented well, and watching a bright chrome king salmon chase a fly in shallow waters like the Betsie is tough to beat! Some of the best stretches are reached by boat, but then can be waded easily.
Capt. Jeff Mallory

Platte River

There haven’t been any cohos that have run up the Platte to speak of, but there are still walleyes in Loon Lake, in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. With the summery weather the past few days, tubing and kayaking action on the Platte has picked up, so anglers should be watchful for tubes, kayaks and canoes. Labor Day weekend will be busy if the weather is nice, so it may be best for anglers to go early in the day if they plan on getting out before the crowds.
Capt. Jeff Mallory
Michigan Smallmouth Bass Fishing

Grand Traverse Bays

Smallies are mostly deep these days, as the summer pattern is here in earnest. Drop shot rigs are the top producers when fishing this deep, and baits resembling gobies are working the best. Deep water here means fishing down in 30 plus feet of water. Windy weather helps to get fish active up shallower, and lures like spinnerbaits can work well when the wind is howling. The past several days have been hot, and while there has been some breeze, it has not been windy enough to really even try to target shallow fish. The deeper fish have been scrappy and fun to catch for guide trip customers. While the average size is a respectable pound and a half or so, there have been a reasonable number of fish in the 3-4+ pound range to make for extremely happy clients, despite the fact that it is late August.
Capt. Ben Wolfe

Northern Michigan Inland Lakes

Most of the inland lakes are fishing tougher than we would like. Lots of weeds makes fishing tougher still, as lure choice plays a role in that baits must get down through the weeds to the deeper waters where the bass roam in the summer. Early mornings can still be topwater time, fishing over the weed edges. Points, inside turns and humps adjacent to deep water are the keys to success on the inland lakes, and don’t be surprised when a pike or two lashes out at bass baits ripped through the weeds.
Capt. Ben Wolfe

Michigan River Fishing Report 08.01.2014

Salmon and Lake Trout Trolling:

Frankfort, Michigan

Catching Steelhead 10-15 miles off shore. Summer Steelhead on the big lake are typically caught in the top part of the water column. When they are hooked, these fish put on a spectacular aerial show. The salmon fishing is starting to pick up along the bank at first light with fish running 40-70 feet down. As the salmon bite slows in the morning, big lake trout are being caught off of West Platte Bay.
Capt. Andy Odette

Leland, Michigan

Salmon catches out of Leland have been spotty lately. A couple of recent hard north winds have brought in a few more fish. The lake trout fishing remains constant with the best actions being around 100 feet.
Capt. Brady Anderson

West Grand Traverse Bay

Lake trout fishing remains hot most days, with a couple of salmon bites per trip. 60-80 feet has seen the most consistent action, but dropping down to 100-120 feet has also produced good results, especially in the afternoons.
Capt. Brady Anderson

East Grand Traverse Bays

Lake trout fishing has been exceptional all season, and still remains outstanding. Most of the fish have been coming from 60-90 feet of water, close to the bottom. First light has seen some salmon bites the past few trips, and hopefully salmon action will continue to pick up as August rolls in.
Capt. Adam Collett

Lake Trout Jigging

West & East Grand Traverse Bay

Jigging has been very good lately, with many bites per outing. Larger jigging spoons have produced better recently, with most bites coming from 70-85 feet of water. Depending upon the current in the bays, fish have been caught as shallow as 50 feet, and as deep as 125 feet. Lots of fish right around the 20" minimum are coming boat-side, as well as plenty of fish above the 25" slot limit, providing steady action. Anglers are allowed to keep 1 fish over 25" on the Bays, and we have seen quite a few fish over 10 pounds. Anglers may have to hunt around a bit to find the bigger fish but the time can be well worth it when the bigger fish are found in 65-85 feet of water.
Capt. Ben Wolfe

Platte Bays

Lake trout jigging has been mostly good, with some very big trout being caught when they can be located. Fish here are a little more subject to fluctuating water temperatures, as Platte Bay is on the main portion of Lake Michigan, just north of Frankfort. When the lake trout are active and happy, they can be targeted in 65-85 feet of water. Jigging down to 100 or even 120 feet can produce when the fish get a little pickier. Jigging spoons in a variety of colors and sizes have all worked well as of late.
Capt. Ben Wolfe

River Fishing

Big Manistee River

The river temperature is still approx. 67 degrees. Trout at the Tippy Dam can still be taken on fly and gear presentations. Small streamers will do best for fly anglers preferring to fish during the middle of the day, while caddis flies are showing in the early evenings, providing great action on dry flies. Small mouth bass remain active in the river, readily chasing soft plastics and weighted flies like clousers. Summer steelhead are also showing themselves, with impressive aerial displays and runs when hooked.
Capt. Jeff Mallory

Au Sable River

Mousing has been very productive at night with savage strikes in key stretches. Tricos are going strong in early mornings. Browns have been active. Fishing for browns has been good, followed by blue winged olives aka BWOs.
Guide Bear Andrews

Boardman River

The streamer bite was good on the Boardman River several days ago, with the best action picking up after dusk.
Guide Bear Andrews

Upper Manistee River

There is some late hex activity on the upper Manistee, below 612 providing fly anglers a last few attempts at fishing the big mayfly patterns. Terrestrials are starting to play a role as well.
Guide Bear Andrews

Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass

Grand Traverse Bays

Fishing on GT Bays remains very good, even as fish are transitioning to deep water for summer. Drop shot rigs continue to be a key presentation as the fish drop into their deep water patterns. When there is wind, the fish may come shallow, providing anglers with a nice shallow-water bite. Shallow is a relative term here on the Bays, meaning water ranging from 4 feet to 14 feet or so. Spinnerbaits work well when it’s windy, and finesse presentations when it’s calm. Natural colors tend to work best in the super-clear waters of the bays, but there are times when a bright color can provoke a reaction strike from aggressive smallmouth bass.
Capt. Ben Wolfe

Inland Lakes

Bass fishing on the inland lakes, whether it is for largemouth or smallmouth, is always a bit slower during the summer. Deep weed edges are the ticket to finding summertime bass here in northern Michigan. Presentations like bladed jigs work well for largemouths, while double willow spinnerbaits work better for smallies when it’s windy. Dropshot rigs or jigs presented adjacent to the weed edge or ripped through the weeds can lead to some thunderous strikes. While summer bass fishing on the inland lakes can be tougher, big fish can still be caught, as evidenced by a 6.56 pound smallie caught on Lake Leelanau a couple of days ago.
Capt. Ben Wolfe