Summertime Kings: Go Deep this Year


I turned to Trevor and let him know we would run just a bit farther today and start in 150 feet and go out from there. It was going to be a warm one, sunny with temperatures in the 90s and little wind. Typical July mornings on the Lake Michigan coast usually start a bit cooler than the balmy 78 degrees recorded at 3:45 a.m.

This might be normal at times for central Wisconsin, but Algoma is the place most folks go to escape the heat. Also, the La Niña pattern this summer should have an impact on our weather and how and where we fish. After having extra precipitation fall in the Great Lakes, water levels have greatly improved and surpassed average levels. Now, a hotter, drier weather pattern this summer may affect the waters. Last winter’s mild temperatures kept Lake Michigan’s surface from cooling significantly too, so following with a warm summer may show us some surface temperatures we haven’t seen in a while.

How will this affect the fishing? It will change on how and where we find active fish, and, we will just need to think of going outside the normal spots to find active kings and trout.

Yesterday, we had noticed that the kings seemed a bit deeper and that the steelhead were 250 feet out—a bit early, but not surprising. As we slowed, Trevor was already getting his Slide Diver rigged with a Pro-Troll flasher in Chrome and an Aqua Howie fly ready to hit the water. With the fish deeper in these warmer waters, using the magnum weights and big rings on the Slide Divers will let us get them down below 100 feet and keep them in the “zone” for the active kings. Using the Slide Divers also lets me use longer leads to stretch the baits back a little farther from the boat and get more strikes. Today, Trevor set the flasher/fly combo about 50 feet back before setting the Slide Diver and let it down 100 feet to start. It was still dark and the marks were still a little higher, but we’ll drop the rigs deeper as it starts getting light.

The 15- and 17-pound weights on my Traxstech downriggers will get us down deeper later on, but as Trevor set his corner at 65 feet, his Ugly Stik hosting his Slide Diver rig bent sternly back and the drag of his Alphamar started screaming.

“Fish! Fish! Fish!” he shouted. “It’s a big one too—who’s up?!”

Just then, the Ugly Stik on my center rigger popped and just bent down to the water.

“Another one! I knew that Wonder Bread would go! It was hot yesterday too!” Trevor screamed.

I kept setting the poles on my side and moved a few out of Trevor’s way as he scooped the first king. I moved to his side to set the Slide Diver rig back down.

“Can’t catch ‘em if the baits are not in the water!” I exclaimed, while chuckling to the rest.

The next 45 minutes kept the back deck pretty busy and I tried to keep adding a pole or two to our spread in between bites whenever I could. Trevor kept busy grabbing the pounding poles, handing them to fishermen and directing traffic to keep the multiple fish attacks from crossing lines.

In between, if a rig went without a bite, we dropped it a little deeper every 10 minutes or so. It wasn’t long, and the Slide Diver on my side—now down to 150 feet of line—started pounding.

“Grab that Diver!” shouted Trevor, to one of the fishermen. “That’s the Chrome/Green E-chip and Aqua/Glow Howie fly that worked yesterday—just needed to be a bit deeper!”

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He was right, and as we kept lowering the baits, the kings kept biting.

It eventually would slow, but for now action was hot.

As the warm summer kept easing up the surface temperatures of Lake Michigan, the fish seemed to stay out farther and down a bit deeper—something I kind of expected with a mild winter and some early spring-like weather. This was a little premature for this tactic, but we felt we could still capture fish because we knew where the active fish were hiding out.

Just then, Trevor jumped up.

“High Bird! See the steelie jumping!”

We didn’t keep all the baits low.

To keep more baits in the “fish zones,” I rigged up my combos with Trilene 100% Professional Braid in a 65-pound-test. I was now using 10- and 12-ounce weights and running them 120 to 250 feet back behind large Yellow Bird planer boards to get them down 80 to 150 feet to keep my flasher/fly and spoons down deep where kings were hanging out. My Slide Divers have the magnum weights and magnum rings to get those well below the 100-foot mark, and I’ve spooled my Traxstech downriggers with 300 feet of cable, running 15- and 17-pound weights. If the fish go deeper yet, they will easily handle up to 26-pound weights. I also spooled my downrigger Ugly Stick/Alphamar combos with 50-pound Trilene Braid and 60 feet of Trilene Professional Fluorocarbon line. I can run my riggers very deep without seeing my line bow way back and also the braid telegraphs every bite back to the rod well when running deep riggers.

Steelhead will often stay near the surface where they can target bugs on the surface and still attack swimming alewife that are higher. While my larger, inside planer boards are pulling 10-ounce weights with varying long lengths of line to reach the deeper kings, I like to keep at least one or two smaller planers on the outside of my spread, pulling a brightly-colored spoon with orange or red on silver to entice a steelhead strike. Some midsummer days, several higher baits per side are very effective in capturing those roaming steelhead.

As we enjoy the warm summer this season, don’t forget to look deep for the kings as the surface temperature heats up. Running flasher/fly combos and glow spoons near thermoclines setting up and down deep can entice hungry king action. I also try to keep a few spoons near the surface to tease some tail-dancing steelhead. And, there’s nothing like a mixed bag in the cooler.

       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.

Lake Michigan has become cleaner and clearer in recent years, due to Zebra mussels, fewer nutrients washing into the lake, and other factors. Anglers have adapted to the conditions. The clear water enables the fish to see the boat and other objects that may cause them to hesitate to take your baits. The best way to entice the bite is to keep your baits farther away from the boat, using weights or divers. Use planer boards to keep rigs wide of the boat and capture fish that shy away wide from the boat. Next, I use Slide Divers to allow me to stretch my leads behind them 50 to 75 feet back. When a fish hits, they slide down to about 3 feet in front of the fish to allow easy netting. Finally, to keep my downriggers working I spool my Alphamars with 50-pound-test Trilene Braid and attach a 75-foot leader of 25-pound Trilene Fluorocarbon leader using an improved Albright knot. The knot will reel right up and I can run deep downriggers and stretch my lead back 60 to 75 feet behind the ball and reduce the bow in the line so the braid can telegraph every little bite to the rod tip.

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