Fall is one of the best times of the year to fish the Grand River in Grand Rapids, Michigan for salmon and steelhead. The hot days and warm nights turn to warm days and cool nights. The green leaves turn to oranges, reds and yellows and the salmon start their annual pilgrimage into the Muskegon, Grand and White rivers as well as and other tributaries. Smallmouth bass and northern pike become even more aggressive as they fatten up for the long winter.
With the salmon pilgrimage the fall steelhead follow as they find a food source, salmon eggs, in the rivers along with other aquatic insects and smolt. They stay in the systems until they migrate back out into Lake Michigan in the spring after they spawn. Trout are on the prowl as well, fattening up for winter on the abundant biomass in the area river systems.
During this time, at least on the Grand River, it’s important to use multiple techniques to maximize your success. There are various techniques that can be used but here are some that we prefer.
- Chuck-n-Duck: The Chuck-n-Duck method can be used for salmon, trout and steelhead. With salmon, once they enter the upper river systems and start to spawn, they no longer feed. As a result, they will no longer eat your presentation. At this point, the goal of this technique is to “line” the fish in the mouth as the flies drift into their path to hook and then land them. With steelhead and trout this method can be effective in the deeper holes and pools. If you see fish spawning, please remember to not target the females on their redds and to fish the pocket water. The pocket water typically will hold trout, and male salmon and steelhead. If you remove the female off her redd she will be exhausted and stressed from the fight and may no longer have the energy to spawn, thus effecting future populations
- Streamers: Streamer fishing involves using either floating or sink-tip lines tied to leaders with descending strength to a fly that looks like a smolt, minnow, or another form of baitfish. With this method the fly is “stripped” through the water and as it is stripped imitates a moving baitfish. Typically the predator fish will instinctively react to the movement and strike the streamer in an aggressive bite.
Indicator / Bobber:
- Indicator / Bobber: This technique involves using floating line tied to leaders with descending strength to tippet. In order to get your fly/flies down, various size split shot is used. The bobber is positioned on the leader so it can be adjusted to the changing river depth. If the bobber goes down you have a bite. The bobber don’t lie. This form of fishing is much more subtle than streamer fishing and is used when the water temperature is much colder and the fish are lethargic.
- Centerpin fishing, also called float fishing, is a fishing technique which uses a centerpin rod, a centerpin reel, and spawn, skein, an artificial fly or bead coming off of a leader of various descending strengths to tippet. Centerpins are designed to freespool line off the reel and allow for a natural downstream drift of your float presentation without any interruption. In order get the line down, various size split shot are used to keep the line vertical in the water column for a natural presentation of the fly, bead or bait.
Crankbaits & Plugs:
- Plugs are a popular type of hard-bodied fishing lure. They are widely known by a number of other names that include crankbait, wobbler, thundersticks, minnow, shallow-diver and deep-diver. The term minnow is usually used for long, slender, lures that imitate baitfish, while the term plug is usually used for shorter, deeper-bodied lures which imitate deeper-bodied fish. Shallow-diver and deep-diver refer to the diving capabilities of the lure, which depends on the size and angle of the lip, and lure buoyancy. These lures are used when an anchored boat is positioned upstream and the lures are dropped off the back of the boat about 60 to 120 ft depending on the depth of the hole. The current will take the lure back and once the the line set, will “dive”/ wobble to trigger a strike.
- Crankbaits are another deadly technique for catching fish. This technique involves casting toward the bank and positioning your rod downstream and slowly retrieving the lure. During the first stages of the salmon run in the lower sections of rivers this can elicit and violent strike.
What ever method or technique you use, make sure to get out on the river and enjoy this time. It only comes once a year and life is way to short to not enjoy it and catch fish. Tight lines all.