Captain Chad Dilts of Sport Fish Michigan – AnglingBuzzTV fishing report for mid-July featuring inland lake perch fishing.
As late fall gives way to early winter, there are a lot of things that we are excited for here at Sport Fish Michigan. After an incredible salmon and steelhead season for us guiding on the northern Michigan area rivers, we are still plying the waters for a variety of species and gearing up for another busy season on the ice, guiding customers from all over the country.
For river anglers, late fall/early winter can be a tremendous time to be on the water steelheading. The crowds are low, and the fish often bite several different presentations extremely well. For traditional gear anglers, spawn bags can really ignite a bite during the chilly, dark days as the scent from salmon eggs can get fish into a feeding mode. Beads presented under a float or indicator can also pay huge dividends: smaller presentations can often be the ticket if fish are fussy. Brown trout in river systems will often prefer these smaller bead presentations when fished along holding waters and seams in the river currents. As the waters cool, fish are less apt to move far to take baits, and thoroughly working a run or hole can be crucial to finding where the fish are holding. Fly anglers fishing streamer or egg patterns can do very well this time of year as fish are still looking for a pre-winter meal.
A funny phenomenon occurs on the rivers at this time of year to which many steelheaders can attest: some days, a sunny afternoon can lead to some incredible action as just a degree or two of temperature rise can get a bite going, in contrast, sometimes a snow squall with near-blizzard conditions can yield the better bite.
Open waters still have some excellent fishing opportunities during this pre-ice period, and anglers willing to brave the cold can be rewarded with some outstanding catches. Yellow perch both on Grand Traverse Bays and area inland lakes are heavily feeding, and having a variety of baits can be the difference in getting bites from the jumbos or just catching the smaller biters. Perch can switch from one offering to another more easily than we would like, but having everything from minnows to wigglers, small pieces of shrimp, and even small jigging spoons can be crucial in figuring out what the jumbos are willing to bite.
Walleye fishing this time of year can be dynamite as well. While many anglers troll, looking for active fish, don’t be afraid to cast reaction baits like a Rapala Jigging Rap or Flat Rap. Near dusk, or on dark days, a rattling rattle-trap style bait like the Rapala Rippin’ Rap can be deadly, calling fish in from a distance. Fished in a yo-yo retrieve, fish will actively chase down and crush these baits when seemingly nothing else will work. And, of course, a big minnow under a slip bobber can also do its share of damage as fish are on the prowl looking for an easy meal.
Pulling out the ice fishing equipment at this time of year for a pre-ice inspection is often much more comfortable than looking over shanties and running augers when the temperatures are bone-chilling and the snow is flying. Charging electronics batteries to ensure that they will hold a charge is another good thing to check when taking stock of ice equipment. Before our boats are winterized and put away for the season, one thing that we at Sport Fish Michigan like to do is to transfer GPS waypoints that we have from our Humminbird electronics to our Humminbird ice electronics. Waypoints that we find during the warmer months can often produce well for us through the ice, and transferring these now is just one of the things that we try to do as we prepare for our guide season.
Late fall and early winter fishing can be exceptionally rewarding and fun. Get out, have fun on the water. Most of all, stay safe!
Northwest Michigan Area Fishing Report
As the waters cool, opportunities still abound for some spectacular fall fishing. While many are taking to the woods for the fall hunting season, anglers willing to brave the chillier weather can be rewarded for almost every species.
For inland lakes, walleyes, yellow perch, and smallmouth bass are prime targets as they put on the feedbag for winter. With the shorter days, the feeding windows are condensed, giving anglers some great chances to intercept the active fish. For walleyes, pulling minnow plugs behind planer boards adjacent to steep break lines remains a great option right at dusk. Anglers wanting to cast shouldn’t overlook the mid-day feeding window with baits like a leadhead jig tipped with a paddle tail soft plastic. Perch anglers can score big with nice jumbos using perch rigs tipped with wigglers or even small perch flies tipped with a small piece of cocktail shrimp. Another favorite option that can really call in some nicer fish is a small jigging spoon with a dropper chain. For some reason, big jumbo perch really like the action of a jigging spoon and will sometimes take this offering when few other things seem to be working.
Inland lake bass fishing can be incredible, and the fish on the inland lakes come up to the shallow flats to feed before heading deep for winter. Swimbaits, crankbaits, and even spinnerbaits are all great options to throw this time of year. Don’t be afraid to try skinny water at times if there is sunny weather. It’s not uncommon for smallmouths to roam into water as shallow as four feet or so during the fall feed. This is a time of year when bronzebacks famously “wolf pack”, and locating one in an area generally means that there are many more around.
Grand Traverse Bay Fishing Report
Fall bass fishing in Northern Michigan can be just as good as the spring pre-spawn fishing, but with lots less angling pressure. True, the fall gales can be an issue when planning a trip, but when we have the weather, the fishing can be awesome!
The Grand Traverse Bays cool much slower than the inland lakes, meaning that the fish are down in deeper water later into the year, and deep water tactics are the way to go here. Very often, fishing the steep breaks are the way to locate smallmouths as they will venture up onto the breaks to feed, retreating down deep during periods of inactivity. Drop shot techniques, swimbaits and crankbaits are great fall options and are some of the go-to options for Traverse City Bass Guide Service and Sport Fish Michigan.
For anglers looking to put some meat into a cooler on the Bays, yellow perch schools are roaming around in huge numbers not seen in years! While many of these schools have 4-6 inch perch, there are some bigger fish around. What is exciting is to see the number of smaller fish, meaning that we should have some outstanding jumbo perch fishing in the years to come if we are careful about not overharvesting this fantastic and tasty fish.
Another stellar option is the cisco aka lake herring. With a change in diets over the past several years, they are incredibly good table fare now, and are now exciting more and more anglers. They are extremely plentiful in Grand Traverse Bays, and are super aggressive feeders as well, hitting seemingly anything that comes close to them. Jigging spoons in a 1 ounce or 1-1/2 ounce size are perfect for these fish, as are blade baits. Ciscos these days are running much larger than they ever have, and 4 pound plus fish are common on guide trips this past year for Sport Fish Michigan. Trolling is another productive way to target these fish, but smaller hooks may be the ticket to a higher landing ratio. Cisco fishing is an absolute hoot, and anglers who like to reel in an incredibly hard fighting fish won’t be disappointed! And being outstanding to eat is only a bonus!
The Bays are big water, and the fall’s north winds can churn the waters up quickly. Take care when heading out onto any body of water this fall, and make sure to have the proper safety gear aboard. Equally as important is to let others know what your fishing plans are, and where you plan to be. Stay safe, enjoy the fantastic fishing out on Grand Traverse Bays, and catch lots of fish!
December is upon us, and our hard-water ice fishing season is still seemingly a far way off for many bodies of water. With a much milder El Nino winter, it seems that there is still be much more open-water fishing to be had here in northern Michigan. Rivers will stay open, unlike the past two winters, and big bodies of water like Grand Traverse Bays will almost assuredly remain open as well.
Grand Traverse Bays in early winter can be an awesome place to wet a line when the weather cooperates. Lake trout season is still closed out on the Bays, but there is still some great yellow perch action to be had, and whitefish will be moving shallow as well. For perch anglers, Deep Water Point on East Bay is always a go-to spot. Wigglers or minnows are the top choices out here on the Bays, but sometimes a jigging spoon can really help to attract fish that are spread out. Personally, I like a jigging spoon with a dropper chain tipped with a couple of wigglers or a small piece of minnow to call in fussy fish. Very often it’s a small jigging cadence that gets fish to move in closer, and then a dead-stick approach to tempt bites. Many perch anglers opt to use their ice fishing electronics for this style of fishing because it is immediate feedback on how a fish is reacting to our offerings. And don’t be surprised when a big Grand Traverse Bay whitefish or lake trout gobbles up your perch rig. Whitefish love a vertically jigged Swedish pimple or a small Jonah Jig. Wigglers work well at times, also, but whitefish can be so tricky in hooking when using wigglers, that sometimes it’s better to look for other techniques.
Steelhead on the rivers are still a great option in December, before the dead of winter truly sets in. Last year, winter hit us in November and didn’t let up. This year, water should be flowing well throughout the winter if we do indeed have the El Nino year that is predicted. Spawn bags can work wonders on Lake Michigan tributary steelhead, but don’t forget about small jigs tipped with wax worms. The old Jig and wax routine can be truly deadly on winter steelhead when fished under a float. And if there are trout in the system? They love a good wax worm too!
Inland lakes probably won’t see too much ice in December, with the exception of the smaller lakes in the middle of the state. Lakes closer to Lake Michigan will be protected by the big lake, tempering air temperatures. This means that anglers can still get out in a boat on many bodies of water. Yellow perch are the target of choice for many anglers, and the techniques that work on the Bays work well here too. The flash of a minnow can really trigger aggressive feeding responses from big perch this time of year, and with fishing pressure low, these fish are often very willing to bite.