Grand River Fishing Report

Grand River Steelhead caught in downtown Grand Rapids
Grand River Steelhead caught in downtown Grand Rapids

With arrival of spring, warmer temperatures are starting to arrive and that means one thing on angler’s minds; steelhead. The Grand has bumped to around 6500 cfs as a result of the melting of what little snowpack we had. This bump in flow is what we need to start our spring steelhead run. Recent trips have shown that the run has yet to start. Not many new fish have arrived to the system yet. Water temperatures have been around the 36 degree mark, which is still a little cold for the fish. All the fish we have encountered over the last few days have been dark, hold over fish that have been living in the river all winter long. Not seeing the new, fresh fish from Lake Michigan has made fishing tough. Next weeks forecast is showing more rain and warmer air temperatures, which will help bring new steelhead into the system.

Right now, larger beads and spawn bags have been what is bringing fish to the boat. With the high and dirty water, these presentations are what works best this time of year. The fish need to be able to see and / or smell what you’re presenting in order to have results. Try presentations with brighter beads such as Super UV Orange, Super UV Peach, UV Fireball, and Chartreuse in 10mm-14mm. Beads are usually the preferred presentation this time of year but larger “Choker” bags with 8-12 or even more eggs in them will work as well. Because the river is running “fast” and the water temp is still “cold” we’ve been running 11-20 gram floats, which slows your presentation down and allows time for the sluggish fish to see or smell your presentation. Remember to use the correct amount of weight to match your float bobber. This will allow your beads or bags to get near the bottom quickly.

Bottom bouncing is also a great technique to use as well. This method allows you to be on the bottom, in the strike zone, at all times.

Remember that this is the spring run. Be selective of fish you’re taking out of the river. Let the females go so they can continue their journey to the tributaries, create the redds, spawn and return back to Lake Michigan. This helps ensure we have a healthy, wild population of steelhead for the future.

Any day now large numbers if fish will be in all of West Michigan’s rivers, so come fish with us and experience what the spring run on the Grand River is all about.

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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”

December….

The steelhead fishing has improved as we received some much needed precipitation. The Grand popped at around 5,000 cfs and has dropped nicely now around 3700. The river is in great shape with some stain to it, perfect conditions for steelhead fishing.

The water temp is around 33 degrees, which means many of the fish are in their winter spots. With that said, however, we are still seeing some fresh fish entering the system. If you stick to it and can tolerate the cold, you’ll be rewarded with fish.

Many people miss out of some of the best steelhead fishing of the year for fear of feeling cold. If that’s the case, then just try a half day. Otherwise, if you’re up to it and want to get outside from all the “stay at home orders” then book a full day.

2021 is just a couple of weeks away and we’ll soon be into the spring steelhead run, which typically starts in March and runs though the end of April. Prime time spots are starting to fill up, so give us call and come and land one of the fastest freshwater fish on the planet.

Captains Tom & Max Werkman

November….

We’re a little behind with our reports as we’ve been busy on the water. While Michigan is under a limited stay-at-home order, we are not affected by it and continue to run trips.

We’ve said goodbye, until April, to the smallmouth and pike and hello to the steelhead. The first part of the month started out slow and has now picked up. Just like the salmon were this year, the steelhead run is somewhat behind. We still need rain and colder weather to get more fish in from Lake Michigan and up into the river system but we are finding fish on a consistent basis.

Right now we finding steelhead, brown trout and rainbow trout in both fall and winter water. Target them in and just outside the seams, cover the pocket water, slack water and transition water. In other words, cover lot of water. Much of the action has been on 8mm beads using 8 lbs leaders as the water is really clear.

The near-term forecast calls for above average temperatures. So if you find yourself getting cabin fever from staying at home, give us a call and come spend a day on the river. We have open dates in December, which can be some of the best steelhead fishing of the year.

Putting On The Pounds….

The Grand River continues to be in fantastic shape for this time of year. Many of its sections are low and gin clear. The gage in Ada has been hovering at 7 feet and the water temps are in the mid to uppers 50’s. As the temps have dropped, so have our tactics as the fish are adding the pounds this time of year.

This time of year the smallmouth are transitioning from their summer water are on the move to their winter water. Along the way, they’re searching for the baitfish to gain weight. You’ll need to cover a lot of water to find them and once you do, you’ll usually find others. When you do, switch to jigs and tubes.

If you’re going to fly fish, use floating line as the river is really shallow and the fish are on the flats looking for bait. We’ve been finding success on articulated flies in natural colors and white. Again, fish the shallow flats, cover a lot of water and don’t over look bucket water, colored bottom and structure.

The pike bite continues to be strong strong on both conventional tackle and flies. As the water temps have dropped, their attitude has become even more nasty and it can go from silence to violence in a nano-second. Expect the unexpected. You can use the same search baits with the pike as you do the smallmouth. In my opinion, if you know how to fly fish, do that as I feel you get a better reaction strike from the pike with a streamer.

Some steelhead are starting to show up in the lower sections of the Grand but it is still early. We need more rain to get the stain and flow rates up to get these fish into the river from the big lake.

We still have some dates open for the end of October and the first part of November for steelhead, pike and smallmouth bass. Give us a shout and enjoy a great day of fishing on the Grand in all the color of fall.

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

Hamlin Lake Ice Fishing Report

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.

Jigging

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.

Deadstick

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.

  • Captain Tom Werkman

Fish Grand Haven

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.

Walleye

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.

Steelhead Fishing Report for the Grand River 12/18

This is the Grand River fishing report as of December 2018.  Colder than normal temperatures were the story for the first half of December.  As a result this has put the steelhead into their winter mode on the Grand River.  The steelhead numbers are somewhat down from previous years but the fish seem bigger.  

The water temperature has been cold, mid 30’s and somewhat stained.  Slow things down to get the best response to your presentation.  Remember, look for the slow water and the deeper runs and holes.  You’ll need to float your drift numerous times through, as the fish are sluggish right now.  

Set Up:

Currently, the only method we’ve been using right now is float.  Our main line has been 12 lbs mono dropping to an 8 lbs leader and in some instances 6 lbs.  The reel has been a Daiwa 4000 series with a 10’ 6” Okuma SST rod.  

Try using beads in various orange colors along with chartreuse and mix it up between the 12 mills and the 10 mills.  Remember, if your using 12 mills you should use a #4 hook.  Use a Raven 11 gram bobber.  If the steelhead feel any resistance when they grab, they’ll let it go.  

However, if the runs are short try the chuck and duck method.  This will get your rig down quicker to where the fish are than a float rig normally would. 

If you’re going to use flies, use larger egg patters with some color along with larger stoneflies.   

Weather Shift:

A warmer than normal weather pattern is setting up for the rest of the month, along with some rain this week.  As a results, the water temp will warm up a bit and this should send some fresh fish up.  With that said, keep using the same techniques.  

Don’t be afraid of the cold, this is a great time of year to fish.  Low pressure and if you put in your time you’ll be rewarded with big fish.  

Grand River Fishing Report

September has been an active month for us at Werkman Outfitters.  This is our fishing report for September 24, 2018 for the Grand Rapids to Lowell section.

The annual migration of the salmon has started on the Grand River and the steelhead will be close behind.  In addition, with the cooler air, lower water temps and shorter days, the smallmouth bass and northern pike bite has increased as they start to fatten up for the long winter.

Grand River Coho

The Salmon & Steelhead Front:

One my way to a guide trip this past week, I drove over the I-196 bridge in Grand Rapids and saw what looked like 100 fisherman at the Sixth Street Dam.  Clearly, they were after Chinook and Coho.

I am not sure on whether or not they’re having success but I can tell you that we are seeing small numbers of salmon showing up in the Ada to Lowell section.  If you up there, try fishing wiggle warts, thundersticks, spinners and skein in the deeper holes and feeder creeks, especially the cold water feeder creeks.  Early mornings and late evenings are the best times.  I got to say it is tough up there right now, just with the low numbers we are seeing.  The near-term weather shows rain and temperature drops, perfect for sending more up.  The water temp was still pretty warm with mid-day temps in the low 70’s.

Smallmouth & Northern Pike:

If you want to get in on some of the best jaw fishing of the year, the fourth quarter is your best bet.  These guys are fattening up for winter and are in their fall feeding frenzy mode. The water has dropped and cleared up nicely from the all the rain we had a couple of weeks ago. As a result, we have done some sight fishing along breakpoints and weed lines.  Try fishing everything from streamers, to Mepps and crankbaits.  If streamer fishing, go with 220 sink tip to keep from dredging bottom.  Right now, it’s not unusual for us to land smallmouth in the 16 to 18 inch range with a few near 20.  There is a reason why God made few of these over 21.  They pack a punch.

After a couple months on sabbatical, the pike are showing backup as the water temps cool.  We have been finding them in their normal hunting grounds around the slack water, particularly around rock structure.  Again, streamers, Mepps, deeper diving Rapalas and double bladed willow leaf spinner baits are your best bet.

We still have some October and November dates open so give us call or like us on Facebook and Instagram to get the latest updates.  Fall is here,  so no matter what you do, get outside and on a river.

– Captain Tom