Sport Fish Michigan Fishing Report 05.22.17

It’s hard to believe that May is already coming to an end. Fishing in northern Michigan has been spectacular this month, and things looks great leading in to June. The weather has created many of the good fishing opportunities in the area – we have had some warmer days and colder nights, building a gradual increase in lake temperatures. This is exactly what we wanted for our area!

Grand Traverse Bay has been incredible for cisco, trout, and whitefish in 25-60 feet of water. If you haven’t yet gone fishing for these species this year, you should! We are having great results casting gold-colored blade baits in a 3/4 ounce size along the steep breaks of East Grand Traverse Bay. Water temperatures in the bay have been bouncing back and forth between the mid- to low-40s. This is an optimal temperature zone for lake trout and cisco to cruise the shallows in search of alewife and gobies. Salmon fishing has also been fairly decent in Grand Traverse Bay. Anglers are finding active fish in 50-100 feet of water, high in the water column. Trolling lead core and slide divers with spoon presentations has been a productive technique. Trolling smaller spoon presentations at a speed of 2.4-2.7 mph is a good way to target the multiple available species available.

Bass fishing on most northern inland lakes is on fire! Due to the way water temperatures are setting up, the prospect of a longer spawning season is very good. Smaller inland lakes are maintaining temps in the mid- to upper-50s, with some even reaching into the low-60s. The last full moon brought a good push of males in to make beds, and females searching for the right spot to settle on for spawning. A lot of fish are being caught on the shallow flats adjacent to spawning grounds, and fish are very active both in and around beds. The larger inland lakes are still in an excellent pre-spawn condition with larger fish being found on weed- and rock-covered flats and drop-offs. Swim baits on darter jigs, drop shot rigs, and tubes have been working very well, but don’t hesitate to try covering some water with a spinner bait when the water presents the right opportunity.

Get out and enjoy the awesome fishing Michigan offers, it will not disappoint!

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!

Sport Fish Michigan August 2016 Angler Magazine Report

Northwest Michigan Report


Sport Fish Michigan has had terrific fishing this summer; water temperatures have gradually increased providing a consistent bite for most big water species. August is a great month for anglers to target some very willing trout and salmon in the Northwest region of Lake Michigan.

Grand Traverse Bay is fishing very well this August. Water temperatures have been varying with wind direction from 68-70 degrees on the surface. Anglers that have successfully found the thermocline have been producing good catches of Lake Trout in 80-100 feet of water. Jigging and trolling have produced good catches of trout. Ciscos have been feeding above the thermocline attacking higher in the water column. Both east and west bay have been blessed with a fairly high density of alewife over the course of the spring and summer. This has provided a fishable salmon population for anglers willing to troll. Most of the salmon being caught have been 2-3 years old with the occasional adult encounter. Flasher and fly combinations, lead core, spoons, and even cut bait rigs have been productive.

Platte Bay is setting up very nicely for this fall. With the warm temperatures in August, the thermocline will be found 80-100 feet depending on the wind direction. This provides an excellent depth range to target aggressive lake trout that have been biting very well all spring and summer. Larger dodgers, cowbells, and small spoons trolled at 1.9-2.4 mph have been best for most anglers. Pockets of baitfish have been found near and around the rocks and steep breaks.

Frankfort has offered some spectacular fishing all spring and summer. Warm August temperatures have brought heavy south winds forcing most of the fish deep with the thermocline ranging from 80-120 feet. Lake trout fishing has been very consistent with most schools of fish gathering along the steep breaks and under water points. Anglers that have fully committed to salmon fishing have been producing some nice fish. Salmon numbers have fluctuated with the wind direction; however most anglers are reporting a very fishable population.


Grand Traverse Bay Report


Summer time bass fishing in and around the Traverse City area is in full swing now that we are in August, and that means fishing deeper water. With the incredible amount of wind that we experienced in July, the water temperatures aren’t super hot, which is helpful in keeping oxygenated water and fish active.

For those fishing on Grand Traverse Bays, the smallmouth fishing has been excellent at times, and spotty at times. For the most part, anglers should target deep structure in 20 feet or more. A good sonar graph will help to pinpoint these structures. Deep weed beds will also hold fish, as this is where baitfish, crayfish and bugs will all congregate. Drop shots are a staple for us here at Sport Fish Michigan and Traverse City Bass Guide Service. When there is wind, a spinner bait fished on the shallower flats can lead to some thunderous bites! For the early-morning risers, a top water fished early in the day or late in the evening can be a great way to target fish orienting on the shallow side of deep drop-offs.

For inland waters, the bass are relating to deeper water that also have weed edges associated with them. Top waters are a great way to locate fish early in the day, or again later in the evening, although smallmouth will readily bite top waters all day if there are slick overcast conditions. A soft plastic jerk bait can be another fantastic option this time of year.

While the bass fishing may be in its summer patterns, the opportunities to have a great day on the water still abound. With lots of summer boating traffic to contend with, make sure to have the necessary safety equipment onboard. Have lots of fun, and just as important is to stay safe!


Michigan River Fishing Report 11.15.14


Michigan River Fishing

Muskegon River

Steelhead fishing has been pretty good lately with some nice-sized chrome fish coming boatside. Anglers finding the most success have been using cured salmon eggs tied into spawn bags. With all of the recent rains, larger bags have been the key to getting steelhead to bite. Spawn fished under a float, or back bounced through deep holes and the tailout runs have been the most consistent.

Capt. Kyle Buck

Big Manistee River (Lower)

Anglers fishing near Tippy Dam have seen the best action on the lower stretches of the Manistee River. Along with the steelhead bite, lots of trout are still being caught. Anglers are still catching fish on beads pegged a couple of inches above the hook, so those that don’t want to mess with spawn are still getting bites. This has been the best option for fly anglers. Those that are inclined to use spawn are seeing slightly better fishing, as the added attraction of scent tips the odds in their favor. Colder water temperatures have fish holding a little deeper and less willing to travel to take offerings. This is where spawn or small steelhead jigs tipped with wax worms have been paying off–both for steelhead, and for the resident brown and rainbow trout. Float fishing behind spawning gravel has been the best option, although bottom bouncing has produced good results as well. Lots of rain, and even quite a bit of snow, lately has water levels higher than normal, which means that caution should be taken when venturing out. Anglers wading near Tippy Dam should take extra precaution as there can be slippery conditions with the snow. Water temperatures were 41-42 degrees right up at the dam.

Capt. Ben Wolfe

Betsie River

The Betsie River near Frankfort has had some nice steelhead come into the system with the recent rains and snow. While there haven’t been a ton of fish in the system to target, the fish that are there are big. Covering lots of water has been key to locating them. A recent trip saw fish over 12 pounds come to net, with a couple of other bites from what appeared to be large fish. The best options right now are below Homestead Dam. Lake run brown trout should be coming into the river system any day now. Spawn bags that are larger than normal have been the ticket to getting bites, as the water is off-colored due to the rain and snow. In fact, the water is high enough that getting under the bridges in a boat has been impossible.

Capt. Ben Wolfe

Michigan River Fishing Report 11.03.14


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


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.

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

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 08.01.2014

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

Michigan River Fishing Report 03.25.14

It’s true!  The recent warmer weather brought a small push of steelhead into the rivers, and this is just the beginning!    The cold nights and warmer days are melting snow at a great pace to keep the rivers fishing well without flooding.

Steelhead this year are running larger on average, thrilling anglers and our guide customers alike.   Bobbers have been the better way to go so far this spring so far, but Backbouncing spawn along the bottom has produced great results as well.

Word has gotten out that there are steelhead in rivers like the Big Manistee, and as a result, more and more anglers are showing up to take advantage of the angling opportunities.   Coupled with the brutally cold weather the winter through at northern Michigan, soft water anglers are itching to get back on the water.

Waters like the Manistee have anglers fishing up by Tippy Dam, for not only steelhead, but for the brown and rainbow trout that find their way up to the dam to take advantage of the food supply that clusters close to the dam.   Anglers have found fish downriver at Highbridge, Bear Creek and even Rainbow Bend.   With fish spreading out throughout the river, this bodes well to spread out the angling pressure as well.

Smaller rivers northward haven’t seen as many fish returning yet, but with as much ice as there is still on the lakes, and even on Lake Michigan, the run is just in its beginning stages.

Michigan March Steelhead

It may be cold out there, but big Steelhead are biting in the rivers!