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!

Michigan River Fishing Report 08.26.14


Salmon and Lake Trout Trolling


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’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