Spring has finally started to show its face in west Michigan and that means large numbers of steelhead are entering the river systems. Here’s our river report for March 12, 2020.
Water temps are anywhere between 38-42 degrees. These temps mean fish are on the move. Good numbers of chrome and dark fish are being caught which means this is just the first sign of our spring run.
Spawn and large beads have been bringing the most fish to the boat. Sizes and colors are all dependent on water level and clarity. Pink and chartreuse spawn bags with 5-10 eggs in them are the biggest producers. Fireball orange, chartreuse, and glow roe in sizes 8mm-12mm are the best beads from this past week. Number 4 hooks are what I prefer to run with for both bags and beads.
We are still targeting areas with 4-6 feet of water dept as well as transition water in search of moving fish. Transition water is defined as travel corridors or pinch points. These area are where you can intercept migrating fish.
This is the week when our spring run will start so give us a call to get in on the action.
Fishing dirty water can be a challenge. Use these techniques and you’ll find success. I’m not going to lie. So far, this spring on the Grand we have seen below normal temps with above normal precipitation. The Grand River watershed is the second largest in the state of Michigan and when it rains that means higher flows and dirty water. Don’t fear it but rather embrace it for the challenge. Just because the river is high and dirty doesn’t mean the fish stop eating. The smallmouth bass and northern pike that call the Grand home are use to living in these river conditions.
High and dirty water means targeting the feeder creeks and fishing tight to the bank and structure. We have been using size 10 X-Rap’s in white, orange and perch color. When retrieving, jerk them slowly while keeping slack in your line. Once the you have jerked the X-Rap 2, 3, or 4 times reel the slack and repeat. This way the smallmouth bass and northern pike can hear the rattle, have time to hone in on it and right before they strike, see it.
Once you pick up a smallmouth on the search bait, switch to dredging with a 1/2 oz bullet weight and 3/O hook with a creature bait. We have been having success on black. The bigger the creature and the slower the bounce along the bottom the easier it is for them to see it. With a 1/2 oz bullet weight bouncing off the bottom that will create enough noise for the fish to hear it coming in these high and dirty water conditions. Remember to cast up river at a 45 degree angle and then let it bounce off the bottom down until the line is parallel with the current. Reel it in and repeat. Be patient and pick the area apart using a grid as a template.
Don’t let high and dirty water keep you off the river. Embrace your fear of it and you’ll be rewarded.
The good news is spring is here on the Grand River and so are the smallmouth. The bad news is, so is a proposal to the dredge the Grand River. which has nothing to do with the Grand River Restoration project. I’ll get to the dredging in a minute. The Grand right now is high, dirty and moving fast. The crowds at the dam in Grand Rapids are gone and we have the river back to ourselves. It’s finally nice to enjoy the quiet solitude of this river. There are still some steelhead in the system but for the most part they are far and few in-between. We have been seeing steelhead roll back over the dam, moving as fast as they can out to the big lake.
We have been transitioning over to smallmouth and northern pike and it feels good to be back in the warmwater game. Water temps are running between 48 and 50 degrees depending on the day and the fish are hungry. The river is high and dirty. However, with that said there is about a foot and half of clarity, not to bad for the Grand.
When targeting smallmouth your allies, in these conditions, are going to be lures that create vibration and noise. Success for us has been the 3/8 oz. double bladed willow leaf spinnerbait in both black and white. Use leaders with 15 lb fluorocarbon tied to 30 lbs hi-viz Power Pro braid. In these conditions, the best places to fish are going to be the feeder creeks and right up against the bank. Fortune favors the bold and you’ll need to cast as far up those feed creeks as you can. Don’t be afraid to lose a some hardware along the way.
Grand River Dredging Update:
For those you that don’t know, there is a developer, Dan Hibma, that would like to dredge the Grand River from Fulton Street in Grand Rapids to the Bass River Outlet in Eastmanville. That’s 23 miles. He feels that there are powerboaters that would like to take their boats from Lake Michigan all the way up to Grand Rapids. In addition, he wants to put a marina right by Johnson Park in Grandville. I wonder how they would get to the marina after last years flooding event when the Grand peaked at 42,000 cfs.
In the 12th hour, during the republican lame duck session last year, then Senator Arlen Meekhof slipped into legislation over $3.0 million for dredging. He thought that no-one would see it. There has been no public meetings on it, no citizen involvement and no input. Seems all shady to me. Oh and did I mention that the developer owns 200 acres of land on the Grand River. Oh, he has also offered up his property as a site to put the dredge spoils, so he can develop it.
Thankfully, there is a group called Friends of the Lower Grand River that has organized to stop this. Through their efforts, and the turnout of Ottawa County citizens, it appears that the Ottawa County Commissioner’s will vote to oppose the dredge. In addition, a number of local municipalities have also passed resolutions opposing it. However, like all things that are environmentally destructive, projects like this are like zombies, they never die. The only way this gets stopped is through the legislature. Mr. Meekhof, when he added the appropriation rider did it in a way that if the money is not used in a given year it rolls over into the next and so. Again, shady.
I don’t have to say, if the dredging goes through one of Michigan’s best steelhead runs will be destroyed. If the Grand River is dredged, 50 feet wide by 7 feet deep for 23 miles, all the riffles, runs, holes and pocket water gets ripped out. When you channelize a river it destroys habitat, biodiversity and water quality. If you feel compelled please follow the Friends group on Facebook. There you can get all the latest news and updates on this proposal.
On a recent guide trip I thought about, “what makes a hero shot”. Which lead me to, “what makes an anti-hero shot”. Which further lead me to, is possible you can have an “anti-hero shot” and yet still have the “hero shot?” The answer is a resounding yes.
However, let me explain it better. In order for me to write an ode to the “anti-hero shot”, I have to first define what the “hero shot” is. A hero shot, for those that don’t know, is a picture of someone holding big fish. That fish, for example, could be a steelhead, salmon, northern pike, bass, etc. The hero shot usually gets posted on the different social media channels for various reasons, not the least of which is to get “likes.” That’s all fine and I need to come clean. I am guilty of posting the hero shot and have done it on many occasions.
This past week I did a guide trip on the Kalamazoo River for steelhead. I went there because I wanted to avoid the crowds, which we succeeded in doing. We fished the lower section, where I had been successful many times in the past.
The guide trip was, quite frankly, tough. We used all the tricks, from spawn and beads to back plugging and trolling. We worked hard for seven hours, covering all the usual runs, holes, pockets, seams, timber, etc. No bobber went down, no poles bent and no fish to net.
Finally, after about the seventh hour and near the end of the trip, the bobber went down in a riffle section of the river. Fish on! A dime bright steelhead was on the line, fresh from Lake Michigan. As a result, it jumped, tailed on the water and did a little run. A fight ensued, the fish was netted, unhooked and held up for the “hero shot.”
Certainly you can tell, from the picture, the steelhead was lucky to tip 3 pounds on the scale. Call it what you want, a skippy, dink, jack, whatever, and laugh, but we worked hard for that fish.
After that, the trip ended and we ran down river to boat launch and chatted some more about the day. The clients thanked me for the trip, got in their truck and head back home. We didn’t find any large steelhead that day, as a guide, I was frustrated. I couldn’t give them the hero shot they might have been looking for and it wasn’t for lack of trying. They worked hard and so did I.
The Real Hero:
To sum all this up, I came to the realization the hero of the day, or any day for that matter while on the river, is the client not the size of the fish. That is to say, when the client works hard all day, they don’t give in to frustration, they don’t complain and they keep going during the toughest of conditions, they are the real heroes. To me that defines the “small fish” anti-hero shot with a hero in it.
Ode To The Anti-Hero Shot:
My little skippy, the anti-hero people think you are As an angler I have longed for you My heart has ached through the trials and tribulations of the day fighting snags, wind, snow and rain You come fresh from the big lake all dime bright ready for that mighty big fight my bobber goes down and I set the hook You jump with scorn as I reel you in net in hand and land you You many not be the beast I was hoping for but you’re a steelhead none the least I hold you in my hands for the picture before letting you go don’t be embarrassed of your size for what people didn’t see was I persevered
With the recent warm temperatures in West Michigan spring is on everyone’s mind. With that, steelhead fishing is back. After a long winter of deep snow and polar vortexes the cabin fever can be broke by hitting the rivers. Here’s our fishing report.
After the recent flooding event in West Michigan, over the past few days we’ve been able to get out on area river to do some fishing.
Depending on the day, fishing has been good, but a lot of these fish are still dark, hold overs from winter. We have seen a few chrome ones mixed in, which is a sign that our spring push of fish is just about to arrive.
As the water slowly starts to drop and water temps start to rise into the lower 40’s, the fishing will be getting better and better.
Lately, we have been targeting both spring spots such as buckets and pockets behind good gravel. In addition, we are also targeting the deeper runs and winter holes. We have been finding fish in both areas but most are they are still in deeper runs.
With the first fish of our spring run showing up a lot of these fish have spawning on their minds. That means on thing, eggs. Try using 8mm and 10mm beads as well as egg flies. Colors such as glow roe, peachy king, and peach roe have been bringing fish to the boat.
In the higher flows like we are currently seeing, we like running a bit larger floats. 11-15 gram floats with a shot pattered to match the float accordingly. This will slow your drift down a bit more to give the steelhead a chance to see your presentation.
If you haven’t check out our short film on “Gifts of the Grand” here it is. We partnered with Experience Grand Rapids and Aaron Peterson Studio to showcase the environmental comeback and fishing opportunities that exist on the Grand. The film was shown at the Mountain Film Festival in Saugatuck this past weekend.
Remember to use caution while wading in fast water and while on gravel. Leave spawning fish alone to do their thing so they can make more wild steelhead for all of us.