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.
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.
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
Hamlin Lake is in the middle of a creel survey, with the last one being done in 2009. The DNR has been talking to anglers everyday through the month of February. It’s always interesting to talk with a biologist as you can get a lot of information. He said most anglers are struggling but that we were doing quite well.
With that said, Hamlin Lake for the past week has been tough. If your looking for gills, crappie or perch you’re going to have to move around to find them. Walleye has been slow but the pike and largemouth bass bite has been decent as we have brought a number to ice.
Upper Hamlin Lake
We’ve been fishing on upper Hamlin in 9 to 13 feet of water. Most of the pike have been taken on the jig and they seem to come in waves, with stretches of no action, to all of a sudden you’ll get a hit while jigging and a tip-up will go off as well. That’s when the fun begins.
We’ve had the best action jigging Rippin Raps, with no added bait, by Rapala in Hot Steel and Glow Hot Perch. Most of the action was on the up-take of the jig. What I like about these lures is the rattle noise they create while jigging. The nose is an attractant and if there are pike or walleye in the area they will come to check it out.
When ice fishing, electonics are helpful. We have been using the Vexilar FL-8SE and as we mark the fish we tend to slow the aggressiveness of the jigging down to more of a twitch. They seem to prefer that. Once the fish comes up to the the jig we slowly went back to a more aggressive up-take, be ready as the pike are aggressive.
We did take a few pike on the dead stick with a shiner attached to a Swedish Pimple. If you’re going to attempt this method us a 24 inch medium action rod, 8 lbs test, loosen the drag so it can almost fee spool. If you don’t and the fish hits it you will lose your rod. Once the drag starts clicking, open the spool so the fish can take more line, then tighten the drag, close the spool and set the hook. There is nothing like having a pike take drag out on these small ice rods. Let the battle begin.
Ice is still solid at about 12 inches. Our gas auger had some problems and broke down so we went to our backup hand-auger. The ice is mostly black and the handheld cut through the ice just fine with little effort.
Ice fishing can be one of winter’s best activities. You can do it in large groups, it’s family friendly and in a heated shanty you have all the comfort needed for a day on the ice.
For me the best part of fishing is when you hook a fish and lose it. Probably all of you reading this think, “that’s a stupid thing to say.” I have been fishing for the better part of 40 years and here’s why, for me, I believe that to be true.
It’s All Very Public
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy catching fish as much the next person. There is nothing like bringing a fish to the net, holding it for the quick hero shot, releasing it, then posting the pictures to social media. If it’s big enough, you’ll get all kinds of likes and comments and feel like a rockstar. Over time, you’ll show the pictures on your social media pages to friends. They’ll all be like “Wow, that’s big fish”. It’s all very public and people respond instantly to pictures.
Until It’s Not Public
Last spring I was fishing on a mid-Michigan river during the steelhead run. It had been a tough day with one fish brought to net and a few pictures taken.
We drifted downstream to about one river mile from the takeout when we came across a log jam pushed up against a high bank where we stopped. The person I was fishing with asked “have you fished this before.” My reply was “No, but it just looks fishy.” “No it doesn’t” he said and proceeded to walk a little further back up river to fish.
I took my rod, walked down to just above the log jam and cast my bobber into the seam that would run it next to the log jam. I waited. The bobber started it’s drift right next to the first log, went past it to the second log, and was about to enter the take out zone when it went down……
I lifted the rod and set the hook knowing that the steelhead would run, with all it was, right into the logs. For about five hot seconds it was on…..and then off. I quickly re-rigged. Cast and sent the bobber down the same seam, with the outcome being the same as the first drift. This repeated itself about seven drifts with various lengths of times the fish was on. I sent a few more dirts down the seam and nothing, so we got back in the drift boat and head to the takeout.
As we drove home, the adrenaline left my system and now I felt just plain defeated. Those fish I had hooked where a hot mess, dime bright and of decent size. I had no pictures to post and no hero shots. I would get no likes or comments. One my way back home I decided the call that hole the “Shit Hole” for how I felt.
It’s All About The Story
To this day I couldn’t tell you about that fish we landed that day. It’s just another picture on my Facebook and Instagram page. Over time that picture just gets lost in an endless river of hero shots.
For me, I tend to not have as much of a connect to pictures as I do to stories. Pictures make me see but stories make me feel and it’s this feeling that connects me to a place and time. Stories help me to remember. It seems the stories I remember the most are about the ones that got away.
I won’t forget that day at my named “Shit Hole.” I can still tell that story over and over again just like it happened. Ever time we go by it on the river the story gets told to clients, fishing buddies and even to myself when I’m alone. Yes, I lost a lot of steelhead that day but I also gain the ability to tell a story that I’ll remember for a very long time. Isn’t that what fishing is suppose to the about. Not the pictures but the stories we can tell.
The port of Grand Haven is often known for it’s Lake Michigan charter fishing. These charter boats chase after salmon, steelhead and lake trout from spring through early fall and offer the angler the opportunity to catch the fish of a lifetime. However, this port also provides the angler with a different kind of opportunity. One that lies up river in the bayous and deltas of the Grand River.
The Bayous & Deltas
The Grand River reaches Lake Michigan at Grand Haven. However, just before that the river forms its bayous and deltas which offer the angler some of the best productive waters for northern pike, walleye, bass and the occasional muskie. Here is where much of the fish production happens. As the nutrients flow down the Grand they end up in the lower sections of the river. These nutrients feed plankton and zooplankton which further feed bait fish, which inturn feed the larger predator fish.
Northern Pike and Bass
Spring is the time of year we fish the bayous and deltas for northern pike, walleye and bass. As the water temps begin to rise from ice-out, these fish start to become more active in search of food. They begin moving more into the shallows, patrolling weed and break lines to find and ambush the forage fish.
During the spring the bass enter spawn mode. This is one of the best times to catch the “green trout” as they will aggressively defend their redd from anything that comes near it. The bite this time of year can be fantastic with many sight fishing opportunities. It’s important to remember that once they are hooked to quickly land and release them so they can go back to defend their redd from other predators looking for a quick meal off their eggs.
Because of the stained nature, deep holes and access to Lake Michigan the Grand has a fantastic walleye fishery. Many of these holes can be found between Indian Channel and near the gravel pits up by the Bass River Recreation Area. When targeting marble eyes there will be a lot of incidental catches as the Grand is a very diversified fishery. So just be prepared. Typical techniques include jigging and trolling for them using a variety of lures and rigs.
If you come to Grand Haven consider an alternative to a Lake Michigan fishing charter and try fishing for the Michigan natives that the Grand, its bayous and deltas call home.