Sport Fish Michigan April 2017 Angler Magazine Report


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.

Sport Fish Michigan Ice Fishing Report 2.16.17

The hottest bite as of this week has definitely consisted of perch and northern pike. With a few days of consistent sun and higher temperatures, both species have been on the move in search of baitfish, feeding and staging adjacent to their spawning areas. We are noticing that the perch are really running in size-oriented schools, and each school has its own mood. Some of the smaller schools of larger fish have actually been feeding more aggressively than others. With this in mind, we have not been using a very large presentation like a perch rig or jigging spoon. The most successful technique has consisted of small orange and chartreuse tungsten jigs tipped with wax works and spikes. Using 2lb fluorocarbon main line has been best. All lakes have had different depths that have been producing perch. The most important thing to look for when locating active perch is a soft muddy bottom on a flat that is adjacent to weeds or a drop-off. If the lake you are targeting is mostly shallow, finding isolated weeds with a soft bottom will be key.

Northern pike fishing has been great. The rest of the month will yield some of the best pike action of the year. Both the males and the females have increased their daily travel and really seem to be putting on the pre-spawn feedbag. We have really steered away from steel leaders this season, we have had great success with 15lb fluorocarbon tip-up leaders rigged with a size 12 treble hook. This has allowed the action of the golden minnow to maintain a very active wounded motion. By using lighter line, smaller hook and a ¼ ounce egg sinker we have found that we are getting a lot more action. Depth of water for these pre-spawn fish has been consistent with most lakes. 6-15ft of water close to drop offs, flats and weed beds has been best.

Last ice fishing is right around the corner. With this comes some excellent action for all species, but it also brings sketchy inconsistent ice conditions. We ask that all anglers please use extreme caution when hitting the ice the rest of the season. Good luck and catch them up!

Sport Fish Michigan January 2017 Angler Magazine Report

January in northern Michigan is an excellent time to take advantage of many different angling opportunities. For those who want to get out on the ice, this is a great time to venture out on smaller bodies of water that have just formed safe fishable ice. Another January option is hitting the river for trout and steelhead. Both options will provide anglers with active fish and lower levels of angler competition due to the time of year.

First ice conditions can be an excellent time to encounter active panfish, perch, walleye, and pike. Panfish love the shallower weed flats this time of year. Fishing on top of and adjacent to small depth changes and structure can be very effective. Size 12 teardrops tipped with spikes accompanied by 2-4 lb. fluorocarbon can be most effective. While targeting panfish in the shallows, anglers can go after cruising pike on the edges of weed beds and close to adjacent drop offs. Tip-ups with sucker minnows provide a great bonus option while searching for panfish. Presenting your sucker minnow right above and slightly into standing weeds can produce nice pike this time of year.

Walleye can be found cruising the drop offs at daybreak and dusk. Depending on the lake, most active depths will range from 15-25ft. Jigging Rapalas, Buckshot Spoons, and smaller jig heads tipped with a minnow can be a good rod and reel option at this depth range. Anglers fishing tip-ups in this same zone will have great success as well. Big Blue minnows and Greys on a size twelve treble weighted by a ¼ ounce egg sinker will work for most tip-up rigging. When jigging this depth range, good electronics are critical for finding active fish and interpreting the type of jigging cadence that is most desired for that specific day. Both pike and walleye often inspect offerings for quite a while before striking.

January steelhead fishing can be an absolute riot! If you can get past the cold fingers and frozen rod guides, this is great time to pursue low-pressured fish and not encounter a large number of anglers. The active fish can be found in deeper slower sections of the river mostly keying in on the tail outs of runs and holes. Anglers presenting spawn and beads under floats will have great success. For those who prefer to tackle these hungry fish on the fly, intruder, egg, and leech patterns will produce fish when presented at the right depth.

We at Sport Fish Michigan would like to caution all anglers fishing first ice, to please use good judgment when venturing out and always fish with a friend. Ice doesn’t always freeze uniformly, and weak spots can be common during this first ice period. Good luck, tight lines and we hope to see you on the water this January!

Sport Fish Michigan November 2015 Angler Magazine Report

November is a time here in Northern Michigan where the weather is chilly and much attention is spent in the woods and on the gridiron. With light fishing pressure overall, there are still some wonderful opportunities for anglers, on many bodies of water.

On the inland lakes, walleye fishing is excellent this time of the year, with many of the ‘eyes having moved onto the shallow flats and adjacent weed beds. Crankbaits can draw vicious strikes from hungry walleyes (and pike) that are lurking in the shallows. Similarly, bass will also be on the shallow flats, and blade baits and jerk baits can rule the day when the right cadence can be identified. Perch fishing is generally hot in November, as the big jumbos are gobbling minnows and wigglers in preparation of the colder winter months. Perch rigs tipped with minnows or wigglers, jigging spoons and even jigging Rapala style jigging baits all work at times, and should be in every perch angler’s arsenal. With shorter light periods during the day, feeding peaks are condensed together, and there can be a great bite when the weather cooperates.

For anglers targeting the area’s tributary rivers, there are nice steelhead and lake- run brown trout options to consider. With a slow salmon season, during September, and the peak being in mid-October, things are late this year. But with some cold fronts and heavy winds, things seem to be a bit more back on track now that we are into November. Steelhead and brown trout will readily eat a variety of offerings, both on fly and traditional spinning gear. Both are opportunistic, and aggressive feeders. Salmon eggs, minnows and stoneflies are all on the menu. For fly anglers, streamers swung in the current or stripped in a quartering fashion against the current can lead to some awesome takes. The standard egg pattern can also be highly productive when fished under a float or bounced on the bottom with a chuck & duck rig, although this rig is less reminiscent of traditional fly fishing than it is of a spinning gear technique. Despite which side of the fence one is on this topic, it’s still a great option to pick up steelhead and trout holding near the bottom. For traditional gear anglers, beads and spawn bags are my favorites, and when fished under a float, there’s no doubt when a fish is interested. Small jigs tipped with a waxworm are also a very good option, especially when the steelhead seem to want a bit of meat.

Fall can be a great time to be out on the water. With chilly weather and cold water temperatures, please take care to dress appropriately for the weather and be cautious when venturing out. Let other’s know where you will be fishing and when you plan on returning. With few other anglers around to come to your aid, it’s important to put safety first. Have fun, stay safe and catch lots of fish!

Sport Fish Michigan October 2015 Angler Magazine Report

October’s cooler weather brings in some hot fishing here in Northern Michigan. Anglers have lots to choose from species-wise. Chasing pan fish like yellow perch on an inland lake or targeting walleyes or river fishing for steelhead or Grand Traverse Bays for big smallmouths—lots of options to keep anglers busy. And happy.

Steelhead move into many of the northern Michigan rivers in October, and they feast on salmon eggs. These fall-run steelhead are some of the best fighting steelhead a person could ask for. They often go on multiple runs, jump numerous times and are just plain hard to control. What makes them so much fun is also what leads to lots of break-offs and fish stories. These chrome fish bite patterns like egg imitating flies, streamers, beads, spawn bags, skein, and even spinners and round-bodied crankbaits. They give a little something for both fly fishermen as well as gear fisherman. Steelhead in the rivers this time of year will winter over, spawning in the early spring. Keeping a few for dinner is great, but catch and release of fall fish is really important, as these are the fish that we get to target for the rest of the winter and early spring before the spring-run steelhead move into the rivers.

Big lake fishing in October can be stellar. Most anglers that troll for salmon have put their boats away for the year, turning their thoughts to other species or to hunting. Fishing for 2 and 3-year-old king salmon, steelhead, and brown trout can be spectacular when the weather is calm. Some of the best fishing of the year is seemingly a secret to many, but this is also a time when many of the charter boat captains go out fishing for themselves.

Inland lake fishing is hot in October when the north winds lay down. Smallmouth bass are voraciously feeding, and much of the fishing these days is relatively shallow. Pan fish are on the feed as well. Big jumbo perch let down their guard and feed heavily on many of the inland lakes as well as the Lake Michigan waters. Wigglers and minnows are the primary baits used to take big jumbos.

October’s fishing can be awesome, and with the autumn colors peaking in mid- October, it’s always a pleasure to be out on the water. Get out to enjoy the fall fishery that we have up here, and as always, stay safe and dry!

Sport Fish Michigan September 2015 Angler Magazine Report


September is generally a great time to be out on the water here in northern Michigan as there are many options for anglers. River fishing is stellar, inland lakes are fishing well and the big lake and Grand Traverse Bays are awesome fisheries as well. So many choices, too little time!

For those getting out onto Grand Traverse Bays, salmon is the preferred target for many anglers. On both East and West Grand Traverse Bays, early morning trolling is one of the best ways to get into contact with these awesome game fish. For East Bay, fishing the southern portion of the Bay is often times the most productive, with a big U-shaped troll pattern along the eastern, southern and western corners of the deep water. A faster troll is necessary for picking up king salmon, as opposed to fishing for lake trout. Spoons a long ways behind a planer board with leadcore lines or long copper lines is day in and day out a highly productive way to fish for these early-morning and late-evening biters.

For West Grand Traverse Bay, “the hole” down near the mouth of the Boardman River is one of the most productive spots, and there will be lots of boat traffic to prove it. Salmon congregate along the deep drop-offs near the hole, adjacent to the Boardman River. This a fantastic place to not only troll, as many of the charter boats do, but also to vertically jig for thunderous bites. Salmon become very territorial as they near the spawn, and a big 2 or 3 ounce Jonah Jig bounced in their face is a great way to get an angry king salmon to bite. This is not a snagging technique, as almost all of the fishing is done in 65 feet or more. The proof is in the pudding, because almost 100% of the fish brought aboard Sport Fish Michigan’s boats that jig are caught squarely in the mouth.

Platte Bay, in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is not only a beautiful place to fish, it’s also one of the best options around. When it comes to open water fishing, Platte Bay offers vertical jigging options for lake trout, coho salmon and king salmon, not to mention the occasional school of whitefish that can be caught. It is the salmon, however, that are the main draw to the Bay. Coho salmon and king salmon stage in deep water early in the month prior to coming shallow adjacent to the Platte River mouth. It is here where anglers can cast lures and flies to cruising cohos and kings in water less than 15 feet. This is some of the most stunning visual fishing that can be had in freshwater. There is truly nothing like watching a salmon chasing down a lure in gin-clear water! Sport Fish Michigan is the only fishing outfitter that has permits to guide inside the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and customers have lined up to book a guide trip. With fishing so good, it’s also no wonder that a few television shows have even taped out there with us the past couple of years.

River fishing for salmon is hot in September since this is when the bulk of the fish run into the rivers to spawn. Cured salmon eggs are one of the best ways to get river salmon to bite, whether it’s under a float or side bounced with the current. Long rods help keep the line off the water, giving better line control and contact when that float goes down! Spinners and deep diving crankbaits can also draw vicious strikes, but anglers should keep in mind that every river has different regulations governing the number of hooks and the size of the hooks. Deeper holes and runs hold salmon as they get ready to spawn, and these are prime places to cast spinners and crankbaits as well as to float fish. When float fishing, cast slightly upstream to get the bait to the target depth when coming into the holding areas. When casting spinners and crankbaits, cast slightly downstream. Any upstream cast will likely snag into one of the many woody obstructions that line the area’s rivers.

The weather is often times very mild and pleasant in September, and with such great fishing opportunities, anglers should be able to get out to enjoy what northern Michigan has to offer! Just remember that everybody is out to have a good time, and a little common sense and polite etiquette will go along way in everybody having fun regardless if it’s on the river or an inland lake or out on the bigger waterways. As always, have fun and stay safe!

Sport Fish Michigan August 2015 Angler Magazine Report

August is a great month to fish here in Northern Michigan because with the summer’s heat come high expectations and anticipation for what lies later in the month. August has fish down deep now and anglers fishing for most varieties of fish would do well to concentrate efforts mostly deep.

Platte Bay: Fishing along the reef separating West and East Platte Bay can be tricky, especially for lake trout. Fishing the deep waters of West Bay, however, can be much more productive for king salmon when trolled higher in the water column. Smaller lake trout will be down close to bottom in 100-120, but the big ones seemed to have mostly moved down to 150 plus feet. As August continues, salmon move into both of Platte’s Bays, especially East Bay. Coho salmon are the big draw here, and expectations are that fishing will be better than it was last year. As fish congregate in the deep waters staging to run up the Platte River, the early morning bite and last light bite in the evening are the critical times to be out on the water when targeting salmon.

Vertical jigging for salmon is about as explosive a technique as one can ask for, and late August is when we can do just this. Large jigging spoons anywhere from an ounce to even 3 ounces all get bites from both coho salmon as well as king salmon. The key to vertical jigging in waters ranging from 60-120 feet is to use a good sonar unit to locate break lines and underwater contours that hold fish At Sport Fish Michigan, we use our Humminbird Onix to watch fish chase jigs, and are often able to trigger bites from curious salmon just by knowing how to watch our jig, see the fish and adjust appropriately.

Grand Traverse Bay: Salmon activity picks up as the month goes along, and both West and East Grand Traverse Bays will draw not only salmon, but salmon anglers. For West bay, “The Hole” is the community spot just adjacent to the Boardman River mouth. This is a deep hole that king salmon and lake trout love. This year’s alewives that are in both bays are big, and this means that there is plenty of food to fatten up this year’s salmon. For East Bay, the south bank and along the southwest corner is where most salmon anglers start looking for fish. The evening bite can be surprisingly good as well, and these are fantastic trips for a family to enjoy. A picnic supper right on the boat, watching the sunset on a nice August evening as the boat trolls along is tough to beat, especially when the salmon start to light up the lines right at dusk.

We have high expectations for doing well out on the water, and are anticipating drag screaming runs from the salmon that make their way towards river mouths to spawn. Get out and enjoy August’s hot days and hopefully hot bites!

Sport Fish Michigan July 2015 Angler Magazine Report

Fishing in July is always a fun time to be out on the water here in northern Michigan. Opportunities abound across our northern waters, and anglers can find great success on many of these waters most days.

For trout anglers, the magnum hexagenia mayflies are still hatching, and trout anglers know that these big bugs are like candy to trout – really big trout. Early in the morning, or fishing into the night produce the best results for trophy brown trout, but rainbows and brooks will eat these bugs with abandon as well. Later in the month, once the mayflies have stopped hatching, trout anglers may have to switch gears to fish smaller nymphs, but a well- stripped streamer can still draw vicious strikes.

On the inland lakes, everything it seems also eats the magnum mayflies. Smallmouth bass can be caught on topwater lures early in the day and again at dusk. Poppers and walking style baits seem to do the best when fishing for smallmouths that are looking for bugs up on the surface. Personally, I love using a feathered treble hook on the rear of all of my topwater baits. I think that the feathers more
closely resemble a mayfly just below the surface.

Platte Bay has great lake trout action in July; both
for boats that want to troll as well as those that prefer to 
vertically jig. With the summer water temperatures still
rising, lake trout are down deep, anywhere from 120 to
150 feet. Trolling covers lots of water, and the typical
cowbell and spin-n-glo combination is a tough one to beat.
 Spoons also produce extremely well when fished close to
the bottom where lakers tend to hang. Those preferring to
vertically jig for lake trout will likely need to spend some
time idling over the deep breaks, inside turns and points to
find schools of fish. And when the schools can be located,
action is often hot when using jigs over an ounce. Jonah Jigs have been a staple in my box the past few seasons, as well as large Elk Rapids jigs.

Grand Traverse Bays fish very well in July, and there are lots of places to fish on these big bodies of water. Lake trout action is outstanding, with lots of bites from the slot sized fish as well as larger fish over 34 inches, which must be released as per the new DNR regulations this season. Salmon have begun to show, and charter boats have reported a couple of bites per trip, and a few are being brought boat-side. Vertically jigging is another great option in July, and the lake trout have concentrated in deep waters. The deep break south of Marion Island is a community hole, but for good reason as it almost always produces well. 85 to 120 feet are prime places to start for Grand Traverse Bay lake trout. The standard jigging spoons used for Platte Bay work wonders here, too.

Grand Traverse Bays are so diverse in their fishery; it’s a treat to be able to fish it almost daily. Walleyes, smallmouth bass, pike, muskies, whitefish, yellow perch, rock bass, lake trout, ciscos, burbot, carp, suckers, steelhead, brown trout and salmon all make these waters home. Some months are better than others for certain species, but July is still a great time to fish for many of them.

Sport Fish Michigan June 2015 Angler Magazine Report

June’s fishing may be some of the best spring fishing that we have here in northern Michigan. Seemingly almost every species that an angler would want to target can be caught somewhere, somehow. The cool, late spring has waters still chilly, which is actually a benefit to much of the area’s fishing.

Platte Bay anglers have great opportunities for lake trout, brown trout, and smallmouth bass and even off species like carp and gar! For those wanting to cast the shallows, there are wonderful opportunities in June, before the waters warm enough to push fish deeper. Smallmouths come into the reef systems to feed and to spawn, and can be caught by casting inline spinners, drop shot rigs, jerk baits and crankbaits. For those looking for brown trout, they will be in the rocky shallows feeding on baitfish. Try many of the same tactics used for bass—brownies love to chase a minnow imitation, and will readily pounce on jerk baits, spinners and curly tail grubs. Lake trout anglers can vertically jig the deep breaks, scoring well on these aggressive and tasty fish. Jigs anywhere from ¾ of an ounce all the way up to 2 ounces will work; often times fished right above the bottom. Zebra muscles are everywhere, so accidentally snagging a few of these off the bottom is common, but banging a jig on the bottom also tends to get more bites. When the jig doesn’t feel quite right, it’s very possible that hooks may have a zebra or quagga muscle or two attached.

Grand Traverse Bays are still cold, but the action is hot. Deep breaks, underwater humps and points are all likely spots to find a variety of fish, including lake trout, whitefish, bass and even burbot. The cool waters often have the deep-water fish like lakers and whitefish still relatively shallow, in 50-80 feet. Jigging spoons like Jonah Jigs or Swedish Pimples all will produce well when jigged off the bottom. Making bottom contact seems to be key most days. Suspending fish like ciscos can be caught using electronics when jigs are dropped down to whatever depth the ciscos are holding in. When the waters warm, lake trout and whitefish will slide down deeper, taking up residence in 100 + feet of water. Food is key for lake trout and whitefish, and they will follow bait schools wherever they go. Starting shallow is a good start, but don’t be afraid to keep trying deeper until schools of your target fish can be located.

River Anglers still have cool enough water to target bass and trout, and with June’s bug hatches as well as young-of-the-year minnows, fish will be looking for an easy meal. This lends itself well to fly anglers and conventional anglers alike. Small streamers or dry fly presentations will do well for the fly anglers. Anything minnow like should get attention as well as poppers fished in a stop and go retrieve will also score for the spinning rod crowd.

Big magnum mayflies will begin to hatch towards the end of the month, and this king of all hatches often times makes otherwise wary fish lose their inhibitions, ravenously gobbling anything resembling a mayfly. The first few hatches of the year can produce some awesome trout, bass, walleye and panfish action on not only northern Michigan’s rivers, but also the inland lakes. Late evenings and early first-light are the prime times to be on the water to take advantage of the mayfly hatches and the feeding frenzy that it brings.

With so many great options to fish for in June, sometimes it’s hard to pick what body of water and what species to go after. But whichever you decide, it’s a great time to be outdoors, enjoying some time on the water.

Sport Fish Michigan May 2015 Angler Magazine Report

benwolfe1-1024x683May’s warmer weather has life feeling much more in balance than when compared to April’s chill. Sunny days warm the waters from top to bottom, and this in turn, has fish more active. All of the fish seasons are now open, and anglers can enjoy the nicer weather to get out and target their favorite species.

There are, however, a few changes that anglers in the Frankfort, Traverse City, and Elk Rapids areas should know. The daily lake trout limit has been reduced from three fish down to two fish, with the slot size also changing. Anglers may keep lakers between 15″ and 27″, with one fish over 34″ allowed per angler.

Grand Traverse Bays have some very cold water, but the lake trout and whitefish are active and biting. The fish are still mostly deep, at this time, so anglers should begin looking for these tasty fish in 120-150 feet. Towards the end of the month, fish may roam much shallower, coming in towards 80 feet and sometimes even as shallow as 50. Jigging baits like the BBM Squirrel Jig, Jonah Jigs, or Elk Rapids jigs can all produce well. Play with different sizes and jigging actions to see what fish want on any given day-some days they want large heavy options, and other days, they want more of a finesse down-sized jig. It’s not uncommon to see small groups or single lake trout cruising the shallows on Grand Traverse Bays. Bass baits can tempt these cruisers into biters, and in shallow water, they are a hoot to catch.

Platte Bay is full of life right now, with lake trout, brown trout, smallmouth bass, and late steelhead all being caught on any given day. With water temperatures cooler than the normal because of the extreme cold and ice this past winter, fish that normally might have pulled back out to deeper waters are still relatively shallow. Casting minnow baits can be an excellent choice for both smallmouths and brown trout. The Platte River will still have some steelhead in it, with fish dropping back to Lake Michigan as the month progresses. The walleyes that were in the Platte River in April have now moved back out to the lake, but some may still be shallow around the reef separating West from East Platte Bay.

Inland lakes in May are phenomenal fisheries in their own right, and species like walleye, pike, panfish and, of course, the hard-fighting smallmouth bass are all viable targets this month. Jerkbaits, vibrating blade baits and spinnerbaits can be great options for pike and bass. Jigs tipped with minnows, and slowly-trolled crankbaits can land walleyes as well as bass and the occasional pike. Weedlines, deep drop-offs and points are all areas worth spending some time on.

May is one of the favorite times of year for most of the Sport Fish Michigan Captains and Guides. Waters are warming, but still be cautious and stay safe out on the water. And make sure that you remember to put the drain plug in when you launch!