Lake Michigan Serving up another Great Season

Every morning as I leave the dock I look forward to a different adventure, with this morning as no exception. The morning routine does start in a similar fashion: coffee for guests, opening up the boat and getting the lights on. My experienced deckhand Trevor and I formulate a tentative game plan and then set up our rods and prepare to leave. Once out of the harbor, things can sometimes change, and we like to pick an area that has the least amount of traffic and watch in the graph for temperature breaks and baitfish. We may need to adjust where we start fishing, even in the early moments of a morning bite.

This morning started with a switch of plans—changing our direction out of the harbor and the starting point. The temperature was slowly rising. Then, temperatures suddenly fell, and the graph lit up with bait. I slowed the boat and locked the autopilot and jumped down quickly to help Trevor set lines. He had his corner downrigger set and was letting out a leadcore. I started setting my deep Slide Diver.

Then it started.

“Fish! Fish! Corner rigger! Fish on!” screamed Trevor. “Keep your rod tip up! …Another one! Grab the deep diver rod!”

The rods were screaming out drag and the rest of the fishermen got busy.

“Guess we made the right move, Trev!” I shouted, enthusiastically.

There have been many mornings this season that have started this way. All in all, it has been a pretty good season at that. The morning sun was then just starting to paint the sky with streaks of canary yellow, orange and soft pink.

Trevor eventually flopped the second of two nice kings on the back deck, and the day would only get better.

“Leadcore. …Fish on! Fish on! Who’s up?!” Trevor screamed. “Other side…3-color. Fish…steelhead! Look at him jump! Grab it! Keep the tip up!”

Trevor continued to bark out instructions to the customers—this is what I get up for every day!

Yes, 2016 has been a great season so far. While fish numbers fluctuate each year, talks of baitfish vs. no baitfish dominate and possible stocking cuts surface each year, the bottom line is that the fishing has been pretty consistent with decent amounts with some pretty nice-sized fish.

The K-D Salmon tournament the last week in July saw one of the largest-winning fish in over a decade; to see one go over 35 pounds is quite impressive. Yes, it takes bait to make a fish get that large, but how did it come to be? My thanks go out to the DNR agencies from all states around Lake Michigan. Their management efforts have made a difference.

The DNR and other groups keep a trained eye on the naturally reproducing salmon that enter this system. Now, I usually don’t talk doom and gloom. One thing I do understand is that if we overstock and totally deplete the forage base, there may be no turning back, and it is likely game over for the fishery. But I do have confidence in the fishery biologists. I have read the reports and studied the biomass of the forage base over several years. I’m confident that protecting this great fishery is their goal. If there is a continued increase in the natural reproduction, that’ll be a good thing. And, I do see more “naturals” in my catch all the time, which is a positive sign for the long-term health of any fishery.

Over the past decades, every time fish plantings were cut though, the fishery only got stronger and the fish size increased. This is just one more reason to believe the professionals in fisheries agencies have the right diagnoses for the long-term sustainability of these waters and the right plans for keeping it productive well into the future.

This year may go down as one of the more windy seasons too. And one filled with definitely a lot more current. This proved to be very good for our side of the big lake. The strong currents and constant wind shift changes kept us in cooler waters for most of the summer. After a near-record warm winter, I was expecting much worse with the midsummer possibly bringing us very warm surface temperatures and potentially seeing warm water piled down to the depths of 100 feet or more. Not only did this not happen, but the cold water also was kept close to shore and the majority of summer kept baitfish and gamefish closer to the shoreline where all anglers could reach them.

As fall continues, I anticipate more of the same, good, honest fishing with fair amounts to be had. The steelhead, kings and occasional lake trout are a virtual smorgasbord awaiting the anglers of Lake Michigan.

 

     Capt. Lee Haasch is a charter captain out of Algoma, Wis. Capt. Lee has over 40 years of Great Lakes angling experience and has been instructing anglers for over 25 years with education seminars and timely freelance articles in outdoor publications.For current fishing reports or information on charter fishing check out Capt. Lee Haasch’s report page at FishAlgoma.com.

Tip of the month:
One of the things you often hear fishermen saying about bait is “match the hatch,” just like fly fishermen. What they really mean is match the bait the fish are after. This has been prevalent on Lake Michigan this year. There was a pretty good year- class of alewives in 2015. The alewives were about 3 to 4 inches, and are part of the diet of the salmon, steelhead and lake trout. This is largely why we have seen a predominant “spoon bite,”—the smaller spoons vs. the flasher/fly of magnum spoons that we used in the past. I like to pay close attention to the stomach contents of the fish when cleaning them and try to use as many lures as possible to match up with what the fish have been eating.