Big Kings, More Kings: Fish Algoma!


There is nothing better than setting your lines pre-dawn, and as you are reaching for your next rod, you hear your drag screaming, the familiar shouts of “Fish on!” and the battle begins. That first king of the morning, long before the sky turns a crimson orange, blending into yellow, and then showing the bright sun creeping up on the horizon, is a spectacular jump start to your day. Ah yes, Chinook salmon, the largest and most sought-after of the Great Lakes gamefish, mostly commonly called king salmon or “kings.” Looking to catch more and bigger kings? You may want to look at the area that historically produces the most kings and the largest kings—fish Algoma!

This small lakeshore community has one of the nicest sand beaches, many shops, fine restaurants and lots of lodging opportunities, all geared towards welcoming their largest tourist activity—fishing! Billed as the “Salmon Capital of the Midwest,” Algoma has done its share to live up to that reputation over the years. Located near the base of the Kewaunee/Door Peninsula, Algoma is close to the center of the most productive fishing waters on Lake Michigan. The ports of Algoma and Kewaunee have been among the leading areas for king salmon and steelhead catches year after year.

I also mentioned big fish. Algoma has them, too. Since the first salmon were planted in the Ahnapee River in the mid-60s and the reported first salmon was caught aboard then Algoma Mayor, Art Dettman’s fishing boat “Pirate, Algoma has held or does hold almost every fish record for Wisconsin on Lake Michigan. They currently hold the pink salmon, pinook salmon (pinkChinook cross) and steelhead records. After holding the king salmon record for over 12 years, the current record was caught aboard a Sturgeon Bay charter only 12 miles to the north of Algoma.



I am often asked why this area is so known for producing not only big fish, but large numbers of fish. The simplest explanation I can give is—food. Salmon and trout are eating machines and they really just swim and eat. If the bait is there, so will be the salmon. And, if there is enough bait, the salmon will get big! Unlike some other species that relate to structure and cover and wait for bait to come to them, the salmon relate to one thing—food.

For some reason, or a combination of several reasons, the bait seems to find the west shore of Lake Michigan a bit easier that the other side. It may be prevailing winds or currents, but they seem to get pushed on our side during the summer months and, more often, the shoreline along the Kewaunee/Door Peninsula with its structure will tend to hold the bait and provide productive fishing for our visiting anglers.

Adding to Algoma’s charm and fishing production is one of Wisconsin’s largest charter fleets. This group of dedicated anglers has not only built a business that brings thousands of anglers to our shore side community each summer, but they have bought into the theory that helping each other catch fish for all of their customers has only increased each of their businesses. This is a totally positive and unique aspect for all of the private anglers as well. There has been a trickle-down effect of information that shows up in local fishing reports and information shared with many of the regular private angers. All this adds to making the Algoma harbor very “salmon productive.”

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Knowing the kings are there is one thing; putting them in the net is another. Sometimes, the difference between a couple of fish and a cooler-full is in your equipment and paying attention to detail. Clear water means that daytime kings will come more often off planer boards run wide from the boat. Running braided lines like Sufix 832 Braid will help telegraph bites and allow planer boards to run wider and straight. Fluorocarbon leaders are a must. I use Sufix Advanced Fluorocarbon 25-pound leaders on all setups. When the water gets warm and fish go deep, drop some 18-pound weights on the Traxstech riggers and switch the mono to braid with fluorocarbon leaders and watch the deep action heat up from 150 to 250 feet.


Tip of the month

During the hottest days of August, we can see warm water sometimes reach depths of 80 feet or more. When that happens, the kings will be active early, higher in the water column, but drop to the cooler water temps down deep once the sun comes up. Having downriggers with faster, heavier motors will enable you to fish greater depths effectively while using heavier weights. Traxstech make a downrigger that meets the need with speeds of over 200 feet per minute pulling 24-pouand weights. Match this up with a good rod like the Ugly Stik GX2 7-foot medium-light and run some 50-pound Sufix 832 Braid and Sufix Advanced Fluorocarbon leader. This will keep your line from blowing back, which is common with running deep. Run down 150 to 200 feet where you see the marks and run a white/glow Pro-Troll flasher and aqua/glow Howie fly and watch the big kings come!



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