And The Beat Goes On….

After a deluge of rain a couple of weeks ago, the Grand River has come down nicely with almost perfect stain. As long as we don’t get any major rain events, things are setting up nicely for a banner next two to three weeks.  Here’s the latest from the frontlines of the Grand and its tributaries.

A few weeks ago the Grand River hit flood stage as a result of the watershed getting 6+ inches of rain over two days.  Just because the Grand was blown out, didn’t mean we stopped fishing. Once the rains subsided, we rerouted to the southern tributaries to chase smallmouth.  As the rivers have continued to drop, the fish have continued to come to the dinner table.

With the high water we’ve been using streamers and spinners to cover water.  Those clients that cast right too and almost on the structure have been rewarded with solid fish….but that’s the key, you need to get right up tight to the structure.  If not, you’ll miss the opportunity.  If you’re new to fishing, just listen to the guide and don’t be afraid the get hung up.  If you do, we’ll get you unhooked.  Eventually, you’ll make the cast that hits the zone and you will be on one.  

As we’ve always said, you don’t need to travel hours north to have have a fantastic fishing experience.   With that said, we spent some time with Rachael Ruiz from Eight West showcasing the Grand River.  Take a look.

I cannot say it enough, the next two to three weeks are shaping up nicely for some really good fishing.  If you’ve been putting off giving us a call, now’s the time.  

Capt. Tom Werkman aka "The Old Man"

Summer Patterns

Man holding a walleye caught on the Grand River

After an unusual start to the spring, as a result of wild temperature swings and little in precipitation, the smallmouth are becoming more predicable and we are finding them in their usual summer places.  Here’s the latest from the frontlines on the Grand River and its tributaries.

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Grand River Fishing Report

Grand River Smallmouth Bass

Temperatures have been all over the map, which is not making the fish happy and we need rain. We’ve also been spending some time exploring new water for trout.  Here’s the latest from the front lines.

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Grand River Fishing Report

Grand River northern pike

Spring has definitely arrived in West Michigan and it almost feels like summer.  With said, the steelhead fishing is quickly subsiding on the Grand and the other rivers we fish. 

We find ourselves quickly transitioning to smallmouth and northern pike.  For me, this is the best time of year to fish, no crowds, warmer temps and a lot of actively feeding fish.  

Water temps are in the upper 50’s to low 60’s on the Grand.  This means that whatever steelhead are left the system, they’ll quickly spawn and beeline it back out to Lake Michigan. Both Max and I would like to thank all those that booked with us for the spring run.  Here are just a few highlights.

With the current water temps, we are starting the see both the smallmouth and pike activity picking up.  Many of the fish we have brought to net have been found on the shallower flats, where they are actively feeding.  Try using inline spinners in #4 and #5 blades in the colors of resident baitfish.  It’s a little too early for creature baits, although you can’t rule out a bite or two.  

From here on out, the warm water bite will only continue to get better.  The pre-spawn smallmouth bite will soon be in full force so give us a call to get on our spring, summer and early fall calendar.  

Captain Tom Werkman

Grand River Fishing Report

Grand River Steelhead

Spring has finally started to arrive here in West Michigan and so have the steelhead. Fishing on the Grand River has started to pick up over the last few trips. Fresher fish from Lake Michigan have started to show up in and around Grand Rapids, as well as nice mix of darker hold over fish. 

Water temps are in the mid 40s, which is perfect for beads and spawn. 10mm and 12mm beads have been the ticket in bright oranges and peach colors. Try colors such as Super UV Orange, UV Fireball, and Super UV Peach. Spawn bags around the size of nickels to quarters in pink, chartreuse, and white have also been working as well. 

With waters temps being more on the warm side, try fishing faster speed water around 4-6 feet deep. Some fish will also start to be in pockets behind gravel beds. These will most likely be your darker winter run fish. Warmer water temps mean the fish have need for oxygen and will be in faster water than in their slower winter holes. 

Typically, I like to run 8-11 gram bobbers with according sized split shot to weigh the bobber correctly. Remember that this is the time of year when fish are spawning and to be very concise with harvesting fish, especially females. 

Soon it will be time to start thinking smallmouth bass and northern pike.  With that said, check out our line of handcrafted tackle and lures for musky and northern pike.  

If you’re interested, click on the button below to make sure you’re ready for the spring and summer months. 

We still have some steelhead dates open so drop us a line if you want to get outside and enjoy a Michigan spring in Grand Rapids with us and come and see what the Grand River is all about.  

Pike Fishing The Grand River

Grand River Northern Pike

Of all the fish I like to fish for, my favorite is the northern pike on the Grand River.  Pike are known by many names such as “The Wolf Of The Water”, “Hammer Handles”, “Snot Rockets”, “The Tax Man” and the list goes on. 

I understand that for some anglers, they despise having one hit their lure and for good reason. If they don’t destroy your lures, they will sure mess it up, probably to the point where you can’t use it again. Plus, they can be a bloody mess. With that said, when I run guide trips, of all the warm water species we fish for, the one clients want to catch most, is the northern pike.

Identification:

Northern pike have a single dorsal fin with light colored spots on a darker body.  The upper half of the gill cover and entire cheek have scales, and five to six submandibular pores (underside of lower jaw). The northern pike is a member of the Pike family (Esocidae), with its cousins the muskellunge and grass pickerel. 

Northern Pike Habitat

Northern Pike are commonly associated and prefer the weedy shallows of both the Great Lakes and inland waters. In rivers, they are often found around log jams, fallen timber, slackwater and weed lines next to drop-offs. 

Depending on the time year they are be found in the deeper slack sections of the river or the shallows. Two of the largest pike, that clients have landed on the Grand, where in less than 3 feet of water, with one of those pike exploding out of the river like a tarpon. 

They prefer water temps from 40 degrees up to 72 degrees. Anything above 72 degrees, the fish start to get stressed and we tend to avoid specifically targeting them. 

The ideal temp for big northern pike is when the water temp is under 65 degrees. This typically coincides with the spring and fall months on the Grand and its tributaries.

Life Cycle of the Northern Pike:

Pike in the Great Lakes region spawn in the shallows in April or May, right after the ice leaves. As a result of their eating habits, young pike grow rapidly in both length and weight. Females become sexually mature at age three or four with males at two to three years. Beyond sexual maturity, pike continue to gain weight, although more slowly. Northern pike have an average life span of six to eight years, with some living as long as 15 years of age.

In order to protect Northern Pike, while they are their most vulnerable, the Michigan DNR does not allowed them to be taken from March 15 – the last Saturday in April in Michigan’s lower peninsula’s inland rivers and waters. There is an exaction to that rule and that is the Great Lakes and Lake St. Clair, St. Clair River and Detroit River.

Diet of the Northern Pike:

About 90 percent of the pike diet is small fish.  However, they are more than willing to supplement their diet with any living creature their huge jaws can surround.  Those include, frogs, crayfish, waterfowl, rodents and other small mammals. Their preferred forage fish are yellow perch, sunfishes, minnows and suckers.

Fishing for Northern Pike:

Pike can be taken on live bait (primarily large minnows) and all manner of artificial lures.  They can be caught either by trolling or casting.  Large diving or topwater plugs, spoons, spinner baits, flies and the red and white Dardevle all produce. 

Some of our favorites are the lures we make, Mepps #5, double willow bladed spinner baits in white, X-Raps and large flies in baitfish patterns and colors.

Pike are not leader shy and because of their sharp teeth, therefore, we recommend the use of wire leaders or 40 lbs mono or greater leaders. 

If you handle a pike remember that they have teeth in their gill plates and they can easily leave a mark on you.

Northern pike can be some of the most exciting fish to catch. While the fight is not like that of a steelhead or a salmon, they provide a lot of excitement. The boat can go from silence to violence in a nanosecond. So if you want to get on “the wolf of the water”, then give us call to book your tip.

Capt. Tom Werkman

aka The Old Man

 

Grand River Fishing Report

We have now reached what most consider the coldest time of year, air temps have been in the 20s-30s and water temps have been in the low to mid 30s.

With these cold temperatures, this means the steelhead will be very lethargic and in their winter water. Target deeper water anywhere from 5-10 feet. One helpful tip is to adjust your float every few drift to get close to the fish. They don’t want to move very far for food in colder water.

These fish could be eating a variety of presentations this time of year so mix up your drift by changing out beads frequently. Use 8mm and 10mm bead in peachy, orange, and yellow colors and smaller spawn bags with 4-8 eggs in white, chartreuse, and pink colored bags. Jigs tipped with 2-3 wax worms in pink colors as well will work. Don’t be afraid to mix and match with a bead on top and a spawn bag on the bottom.

Winter is a time of year to enjoy the solitude and how pretty the river can look. High numbers of steelhead aren’t common with cold water temps but it’s hard to beat having the river to yourself most days.

We are starting to full up our prime time dates for the spring steelhead run in March and April, so give us a call to get on the calendar.

Captain Max Werkman “The Kid”

The Other Fall Fish

Let me start off by saying we do salmon trips. Landing one of these bruisers can be the thrill of a life time. They can be big, powerful and full of chaos and attitude

But with the change of the season also comes a change in the river. The summer filled solitude, quietness and lazy floats can, at times, bring crowded rivers and bumper boats.

With that said, there are still pockets of solitude for the angler who is looking to get away from it all. This time of year the northern pike start to get more aggressive. As the water cools, the pike bite comes alive as they start to put on weight for the coming winter.

Right now, the water temp in the Grand River is in the low 60’s and we are seeing these “advocates of the devil” appear more and more in their traditional waters. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to specifically target these guys you’ll need to hunt for them, cover lots of water. Like salmon, you’ll have good days and not so good days.

Why pike you ask? While the salmon can easily get you into your backing, the pike won’t. But the visualness of a pike take is something you won’t forget. As you strip the streamer you’ll be able to see the pike come out of nowhere and smack, with all the aggression of a salmon, your fly.

It seems our best action comes on stripping streamers. We have been using Schultzy’s Sculpin patterns and have found good success with them. For some reason the way they flow through the water as they’re stripping has an enticing affect on the pike that they cannot resist. Casting is key during this time as you’ll need to get tight to structure. Use a good pair of sunglasses, I like Costa’s, so you can see the underwater logs, root balls, and rocks as a lot of times the pike will hide under and close to those. Mix up your strip, from quick and long too slow and short, even during the same retrieve.

Fall is really on of the best times of the year to get on the river. There’s so much opportunity for the angler to catch multiple species of fish. From salmon and steelhead to northern pike and smallmouth bass. We still have availability this fall, so give us a call and book your trip.

  • Captain Tom Werkman

Grand River Fishing Report

Condition Of The Grand River

The Grand River, in downtown Grand Rapids, is starting to see the beginning of the fall steelhead run and is in great shape. Right now the river is flowing at 5,000 cfs with a water temp in the upper 40’s to low 50’s depending on the day. With the recent rain and cold coming, this will only drive more steelhead into the system.

Steelhead Update:

The steelhead that are coming in are dime bright and fresh from Lake Michigan. The majority of the fish are moving up the river and on into the tributaries. They are not holding as of yet. With that said, we are fishing the choke points and tradition zones to get on them versus the deeper winter holes.

These early steelhead pack a punch and as we’ve said before, they can move at speeds of up to 26 feet per second. As a result of this, we are using 12 lbs mono main line to 12 lbs leader. Anything less and you’ll lose them. Anything more and they’ll shy away as a result of seeing the leader. We been using 10 mm and 8 mm beads with number #4 wide gap hooks. Try using Mottledbeads in Glow Roe and Peach Roe. The water is somewhat stained so If you’re going to run two beads, add a Chartreuse to get their attention.

If you want to hook into these silver bullets under the skyscrapers of downtown Grand Rapids the rest of October, November and into the first part of December are a great time to fish. So give us call today.

Captain Tom Werkman

Ode To The Anti-Hero Shot

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.”

Man holding a skippy steelhead from the Kalamazoo River
Skippy steelhead

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

and for me that was the real prize

Captain Tom Werkman