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

 

Fishing for Grand River Steelhead

Grand River Steelhead

The Grand River near Grand Rapids, Michigan has many opportunities to fish. Anglers can target anything from bluegills in the lower river bayous to smallmouth bass and pike in the upper sections of the Grand. However, its fishing for Grand River steelhead that gets many anglers excited.

Life Cycle:

Steelhead will spend around one year in the Grand River after hatching from an egg and return to Lake Michigan as smolt to grow. While in Lake Michigan, they will spend up to three years continuing to mature and eventually coming back to their natal river the Grand to spawn. Unlike salmon, once they spawn, they will then return back to Lake Michigan. These steelhead will continue to return and spawn in the Grand River for up to six years before dying. This gives these fish lots of opportunity to grow to huge sizes, sometimes exceeding 35 inches and 15 pounds.

The Fall Run:

Fishing for Grand River steelhead will depend on many things in the fall. Depending on water levels and conditions, steelhead start their push into the river during the middle of October and continue through December. Typically, we need good amounts of rain to bring these fish into the Grand and up into Grand Rapids. The fall run starts my favorite time of year to fish. There is nothing like watching your bobber float down river and seeing it disappear in the blink of an eye. Before you can even comprehend what happened, you are hooked up on a big dime bright and angry steelhead. You cannot tame these fish. More times than not, they find their way off the hook. With that said, sometimes you win the wrestling match and get to hold onto one of these Grand River steelhead.

Winter Holding:

As the season progresses and we move into winter, this is when we start seeing less and less people in the river. This is solitude season. Bite windows are small and inconsistent but fishing can still be good. Temperatures are cold, equipment gets frozen, and hands go numb. Steelhead start to hold in deep, slow winter time water. Float fishing these spots can be painful, as a result of how slow the current can be, but this is where they live when the water is 35 degrees or colder. The fights aren’t as epic, as the fish are lethargic, in the cold water but they can still pull pretty dang hard. When the days start getting longer and the temperature starts to get warmer, the spring push is on everyones mind.

Spring Push:

Starting in March, we see more pushes of fresh chrome. The spring steelhead coming in are mixed with the more colored up fish from the fall and winter. Grand Rapids sees tons of fish from mid March to mid April. This is the ‘peak’ of our steelhead run but it is also when there is the most pressure on the river. Nothing really beats catching steelhead in a t-shirt with the warm spring sun out in downtown Grand Rapids. Once we start to transition into early summer, the steelhead season is about over. In the early weeks of May steelhead start to return to Lake Michigan. These are what we call “drop backs”. Steelhead that are beat up and exhausted from spawning in the upper section and tributaries of the Grand River. This typically marks the end of steelhead season and the anticipation for the up coming fall run begins.

With Grand Rapids being located so close to the Grand River, this gives many people and anglers lots of fishing opportunity to experience the fight and witness how awesome steelhead truly are through out each season.

Captain Max Werkman

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

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.

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

Low & Clear.

The Grand River is low. The gage in Ada, for a brief period, dipped below 6.75 feet. Even with the recent rains the river didn’t pop all that much and is coming back down quickly. Clarity went from gin clear to slightly stained. With no rain in the near term forecast, it should remain that way for awhile. The river temps remain in the upper 70’s.

The near term forecast calls for below normal temps. Hopefully, that will drop the river temps below 70 degrees. Once that happens, the pike activity should begin to improve as we saw for a brief period a couple of weeks ago when a strong cold front moved through.

Fishing has been good. As the river has dropped the smallmouth start to hold more in the bucket water, near structure and just along the seams. If you find all three of these in one location fish it. Patience and persistence is being rewarded and will bring fish to net.

Salmon are not showing up yet in the middle section. It’s too early and the water is too warm. Steelhead season is just around the corner. The best time to fish for these on the Grand will be starting at the end of October right on through December. For those of you that fish with Max, he will be back from Alaska by November 1 so give us call and get a date booked with him.

I have to say, the last three months have been incredible for us as a business. Thank you! Thank you to all of our clients that have booked and rebooked with us. Yes, I enjoy getting people on fish and seeing the smiles and laughter that comes with a great day on the river. However, more importantly for me, I enjoy the relationships that are being built! Until next month…..

Captain Tom Werkman

Fantastic Fishing!

The Grand River continues to be in great shape and is fishing well. It’s low and water clarity is the best we’ve seen in quite sometime for this river. When we do get rain, the grasses are acting as filer to help keep the clarity in check.

With the recent cold front, water temps are in the low 70’s. The smallmouth continue to be in their summer patter and tight to structure. Lately it seems that the afternoon bite is the strongest, although we are getting fish through out the day.

If you’ve ever wanted to fish an urban river and feel like you’re 1,000 miles from nowhere, now’s the time. So come and Experience Grand Rapids and all the fishing opportunities the Grand River has to offer. Give us call today.

Captain Tom Werkman