Chad Dilts – Coastal Angler Fishing Report – September 2018

What an amazing August! Sport Fish Michigan and clients had a terrific August, taking advantage of multiple fishing opportunities throughout the Traverse City Region. The lake trout and salmon fishing really picked up pace leading into this month, we are very excited to capitalize on every minute of action our area has to offer.

The lake trout, cisco, and perch fishing on Grand Traverse Bays in September can be red hot, allowing anglers the chance to take multiple species in one outing on the water. Anglers trolling and vertical jigging will have great success fishing in and around the thermocline for both trout and cisco.

The lake trout will be found in depths ranging from 75-120ft of water depending on wind direction. Most of the ciscos can be found making their way back to the southern portions of each bay over deeper water, 80-150ft. Larger schools of cisco transitioning to steep drop offs and deeper flats will almost always be found suspending in large schools in depths ranging from 80-110ft. When trolling and jigging over these deeper schools, anglers will also find hungry king and coho salmon. Looking for larger active marks on top of or underneath schools of bait fish can be very helpful in hopes of capturing some nice salmon!

Anglers looking for perch should mainly focus on depths ranging from 50-90ft. Areas with weed and gravel/rock coverage will produce more active schools than areas without. Last fall offered some excellent perch fishing, get out and enjoy some of these great tasting fish.

If the open water is getting old, don’t miss out on what our area tributaries have to offer this time of year. This summer we have witnessed some of the largest king and coho salmon our area has seen since the late 70’s and 80’s! Anglers looking to fish conventional gear in the area tributaries can primarily focus on using cured salmon eggs under floats and casting crank-baits. For those looking to tackle these hard fighting fish on the fly, larger streamer patterns can yield some positive results. No matter your preference, make sure you get the chance to get after some of the largest fish we have had in decades!

We at Sport Fish Michigan wish everyone a safe and successful September!

Ben Wolfe: Coastal Angler June 2018 Fishing Report

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The 2018 open water season is in full swing here in Northern Michigan, June has pleasantly surprised us with sunshine
and warmer temperatures. Anglers can finally get out on our are inland lakes and Lake Michigan shoreline without having to dress in ice fishing attire!

Our areas smallmouth bass fishery in the month of June is something that all bass anglers should experience. The Traverse City Area provides ample inland lake opportunities as well as Lake Michigan fishing options in Grand Traverse Bay. Depending on inland lake water temperatures, it is common to see pre-spawn, spawn and even post spawn smallmouth scenarios in the month of June. If you are looking for pre-spawn jerk bait action, drop shot fishing to big spawners, or just simply casting swim baits to isolated dark spots and drop offs, this is the time to get out.

It is no secret that Grand Traverse Bays are offering some exceptional perch fishing in multiple locations, anglers have had a more than productive fall, winter and spring fishery. June is a great time to find the larger schools of post spawn perch feeding in 50-70ft flats mainly comprised of rock and weed coverage, or even in this same depth zone just adjacent to a steep drop off or isolated hump. Perch spreaders tipped with minnows and even soft plastics have been working well for all anglers.

Grand Traverse Bay’s June fishery for cisco, lake trout, and whitefish is a great option for anglers looking to troll, cast and even vertical jig. Most of these fish can be found in the same depth zone depending on water temperature and food supply. The warmest water is typically the best when targeting these species as they are most commonly found in 30-80 ft of water with a surface temperature ranging from 46-55 degrees. Anglers looking to troll will have great success with shorter lead cores, slide divers and down riggers with long leads and smaller spoon presentations. Jigging spoons and blade baits are great options for anglers looking to capture these fish in a casting or vertical jigging scenario.

We wish every angler a safe and successful June, we hope to see you on the water!

Ben Wolfe: Coastal Angler May 2018 Fishing Report

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The month of May is an excellent time take advantage of numerous fishing opportunities in Northern Michigan. Anglers throughout the area will be gearing up in hopes of kicking off the open water fishing season on our area inland lakes and surrounding Lake Michigan ports. The water temperatures are just starting to hit that magical 50-degree mark, filling the shallower water flats and steep breaks with baitfish and all the opportunistic predator fish that we love so much!

On Grand Traverse Bays, the perch fishing has really picked up pace in the last two months. Larger schools of perch can be found just off steep weed- and rock-covered drop-offs in 45-85 ft of water. Any flat in the depth range with a good weed, rock, or gravel bottom composition will also present as a great area to target the larger schools of perch. Anglers using perch spreaders, live bait, and even soft plastics will have no problem taking home good numbers of perch. In this same depth range, anglers will have the opportunity to jig and cast for cisco, white fish, and lake trout. This time of the year is the best time to get into all three of these species in a shallower water situation. Trolling, casting, and jigging are all great ways to capture huge catches of these fish. Everyone should get out to enjoy this awesome fishery.

Anglers looking to take advantage of some spring brown trout action should definitely consider hitting the shallow water shoreline of Lake Michigan in the month of May. Ports like Manistee, Onekama, Arcadia, Frankfort and even Platte Bay will provide good numbers of brown trout on the right days. When in search of these acrobatic footballs, anglers will have good success finding areas where dirtier “stained” water presents. Finding areas with lower visibility and warmth are key when trolling or casting the shallows. Don’t be afraid to scout a shoreline for several miles in search of a temperature increase or color change in the water. Trolling with inline planer boards and fluorocarbon leaders seems to be effective for most anglers. Yozuri, Rapala, Bomber, and Challenger body baits work excellent for this application.

Anglers will also not want to overlook the terrific walleye fishing our area inland lakes have to offer during the month of May. With cooler water temperatures and very limited weed growth, shallow water casting and trolling at this time is extremely effective. Low-light hours and even well into the darkness of night are great times to get on a hot bite. 4-15 ft of water just adjacent to drop-offs will most commonly hold feeding fish. Slow trolling and retrieving can be key in this situation. Quiet and stealthy is the name of the game! We at Sport Fish Michigan look forward to seeing you on water, good luck!

We at Sport Fish Michigan look forward to seeing you on water, good luck!

SFM Fishing Report 03.06.18

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.

SFM Fishing Report 11.21.17

The last week of November has quickly come upon us in Northern Michigan. The past two weeks have had a very inconsistent mix of snow, rain, and cooler temperatures. The barometer has had the fish bouncing back and forth from heavy feeding patterns to complete lockjaw. With cooler consistent temperatures forecasted for the first couple of weeks of December, the long-term forecast looks as if it will allow anglers the opportunity to get in a few more open-water fishing experiences.

The past week and a half has offered some dynamite steelhead fishing opportunities on the Manistee, Betsie, and Boardman Rivers. Stream flows have finally balanced out after enduring the heavy rainfall that hit our area in early and mid-November. With the cooler evening temperatures and clearing water visibility, the fish have really been on the feed. We have had great success with 8mm and 10mm beads in subtler, neutral looking colors. Lighter color oranges, pinks, and yellows have been producing fish across the board. Spawn has also been red hot under floats, 5-8 egg salmon egg bags in white and pink mesh have seemed to correlate well with most of the rivers’ visibilities. Fly fishing has also been producing fish, egg patterns and indicator fishing are still excellent, but we are seeing some of the lower river fish acting more aggressive on streamer patterns. December is setting up nicely, with a lot of fish in all systems and fairly mild temperatures in the forecast.

For those wanting to take advantage of some excellent walleye fishing, now is the time to choose a nice, mild day to hit the water before the ice hits. Our area inland lakes have been producing some excellent daytime walleye fishing when drifting, jigging, and trolling. During midday, trolling bottom bouncers and crawler harnesses in 15-25ft of water at slow speeds has been producing fish. For those wishing to cast and jig, 1/4 -/1/2 oz. jig heads tipped with soft plastics and minnows has been effective as well. If you are willing to travel, the Saginaw River has been red hot for several weeks and will continue to produce great fishing throughout the winter. Vertical jigging has been the most effective technique on the Saginaw. 1/4 – 5/8 oz. jig heads with Lunker City Soft Plastics: this presentation will not let you down. Chartreuse, pink, purple, and orange color combinations have been consistent.

The perch fishing on Grand Traverse Bays continues to produce huge catches of fish. The key is finding a day where the wind will let up enough for anglers to safely venture out to capture these great eating fish. From the south end of West Bay to the tip of Northport, most of the active schools of fish can be found in 30-50 ft of water. Bottom content has been very key, the perch have been in areas with small rock, gravel, and chara weed coverage. Both larger perch minnows and wigglers have been a good bait for larger fish and steady action. The population of perch is really coming back in the GTB area and we are thrilled to see so many different year classes of fish.

We at Sport Fish Michigan would like to wish everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving. If you decide to enjoy the area lakes and rivers in the weeks to come, be safe and good luck!

SFM Fishing Report 11.3.17

The fall color is gradually coming to an end, and most of our inland lakes and Grand Traverse Bays have reached the mid- to low- 50-degree mark. This time of the year anglers can find several fun species to pursue in the Traverse City Area. Late fall can bring a lot of wind and rain, but if you can time the weather and wind with some warmer weather, you can truly have a great day on the water.

The perch fishing on Grand Traverse Bays has been excellent the past three weeks, and we are looking at some really good fishing in November. From the south end of West Bay to the tip of Northport, most of the active schools of fish can be found in 30-50 ft of water. On East Bay, the southern end extending up the east coast, as well as portions of Deep Water Point, have also held big schools of perch. Bottom content has been very key, the perch have been in areas with small rock, gravel and chara weed coverage. Both larger perch minnows and wigglers have been a good bait for larger fish and steady action. The perch population is coming back in the GTB area, and we are thrilled to see so many different year classes of fish. Despite this amazing boom in the perch population, with lots of fish in the 12-15 inch jumbo range, selective harvest is still the best practice to help ensure excellent perch fishing for years to come. Good jumbo perch fishing can be a delicate balance, and responsible practices should always take precedence.

Smallmouth bass fishing in the Traverse City Area has also been good as of late. We are still finding some of the larger fish in deeper water flats and drop-offs. Drop shots, tubes, and swim bait rigs have been producing most of our fish. We have also enjoyed casting an Alabama rig in some of the shallower flats around isolated structure and steep breaks. This is a great time of the year for bass anglers to get out on the water for some big fish. Most all of the fish we catch this time of the year at stuffed to the gills with baitfish, presenting a great opportunity to land a trophy fish. Fall bass fishing is some of the best of the year, and anglers can enjoy much less crowded waters than in the spring surrounding the pre-spawn and spawn.

The cisco and whitefish fishery on the Grand Traverse Bays has also been very good, and as long as the wind and cold weather allows us, we will continue to target these aggressive fish into late November. Vertical jigging silver, gold, and white colored jigging spoons in a 3/4-1 1/2 oz size is an effective presentation. Most of the fish will be found suspended in depths ranging from 80 to 150 ft of water. It is always best to find areas of the bay that have the least amount of current and wind when targeting these fish vertically. Don’t be afraid to move around and cover large areas of water in varying depths when in search for the larger schools. Lake trout season is now closed until January 1st on the Bays, so any incidental catches of these awesome fish should be quickly returned.

We have finally seen an end to the best salmon run our area has had in the past ten years. What a great fall for salmon! The fish were enormous, and the numbers seemed endless. This has helped put an over-abundance of food in the area tributaries, setting us up for an excellent late fall/winter steelhead fishery. We are really looking forward to getting our clients out this winter for some exciting steelhead action; things are setting up nicely!

The past two weeks of October has brought nearly 5 inches of rain to our area, this has greatly increased the flows of the Manistee and Betsie rivers and put the steelhead on the move. With both rivers running fairly high and around 49 degrees in temperature. We are seeing a large number of active fish in the shallower faster water of the river. Not to say we are not finding active fish in deeper slower winter water, too, but we are just having better luck at the tail-outs of spawning beds and faster pocket water. Fishing this water has also presented a fair number of nice brown trout on some of our past trips. It is always a delight to have the opportunity to get into the browns in this feeding scenario.

With the higher darker river conditions, 10mm and 12mm trout beads in brighter colors have been working well. Glow Orange, Clown, Oregon Cheese have been good under floats and indicators. For those looking to use spawn bags, a 6-8 salmon egg bag has been producing the most results.

We wish all anglers a safe and successful fall; we look forward to seeing you on the water.

SFM Fishing Report 08.24.17

It is crazy to think we recently experienced our last day of summer! The fishing in the Traverse City Region has treated us so well these past few weeks. We have had the opportunity to successfully target a variety of species using multiple techniques and strategies. Here is a bit of information on what we at SFM have been up to:

The king salmon bite has been excellent and we are looking forward to several more weeks of great fishing in the area. Not only are the rivers getting huge fish and good numbers, the big lake is still going strong. As most anglers are having great success trolling a salmon program, we have been vertical jigging most of time. We are finding good numbers of feeding fish staging just outside of our local tributaries. The kings we have had most success with, have been huddled close to bottom in what we like to call a holding pattern. These schools of salmon are looking for the coolest water they can find, waiting for the right time of the day to feed. As usual, the best time for aggressive biters is the first two and last two hours of daylight. Most all anglers have been doing the bulk of their damage during these hours.

Larger alewife profile jigging spoons like Jonah Jigs and PLine Laser Jigs have worked best in the 2-ounce size. Chartreuse and white glow have been effective colors. We have found that during this time of the year, jigging 5 to 15 ft. off of bottom for suspended fish at low light levels works well. We are also casting crank baits in a fire tiger pattern and having some success. This is a simple cast and slow retrieve technique that can help offer some variation in your presentation when seeing surfacing or high-cruising fish in the water column.

The lake trout bite in Grand Traverse Bay has continued to produce, and does not look like it will be losing any speed until its season close October 1st. The fish have been active and on the move following the cooler water temperatures and schooling bait fish. Steep drop-offs and windblown points have produced good catches as of late. A 1.5-ounce white/glow/grey jigging spoon has been out-fishing most all other jigging spoons. We have also been seeing abundant schools of alewife in all depth ranges. Setting up just next to, or on top of, these schools is a great way to get on a hot bite.

We at SFM have also been having great luck targeting jumbo Lake Michigan perch in Grand Traverse Bay. We have been seeing a significant increase in the perch population over the past two years, and we are really looking forward to targeting these great-tasting fish with our clients. Both East and West Bays have been producing large numbers of perch in 30-50 ft. of water. Rocky and weed-covered bottoms seem to be holding the larger schools of fish. Utilizing your sonar in this situation to tell the difference between baitfish and perch is key, and can be difficult at times. Perch rigs tipped with shrimp and worms and small 3/4- and 1-ounce jigging spoons have been working great.

We wish everyone the best of luck, and look forward to seeing you on the water!

Ben Wolfe – AnglingBuzzTV Fishing Report – First Week of June 2017

Captain Ben Wolfe of Sport Fish Michigan – AnglingBuzzTV fishing report for the first week of June, 2017. Panfish: perch, bluegill. Grand Traverse Bay cisco, lake trout, and whitefish. Bass fishing in Michigan in early June.

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!