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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Things Are Getting Better….

After a slow start to the spring smallmouth and pike season, fishing is improving on the Grand River and its tributaries.    

Water temps are now consistently in the low to mid-sixties and should only get warmer with the near term forecast.  The Grand is currently at it’s mid-summer level and is slightly stained.  This can provide for some excellent fishing opportunities as the spawn winds down and the fish start to move into the deeper holes and stretches.  

In order to get fish to net, we’ve been having to mix things up on a daily basis.  It seems one day they want bait, while next day they want an in-line spinner and we are definitely maximizing the bite windows.

For those of you that follow our adventures, “The Old Man” dropped “The Kid” off at the airport last week for his annual pilgrimage to Alaska.  Each year he guides on the Naknek River for Naknek River Camp and Katmai Trophy Lodge.  Max will back November 1, just in time for the start of the fall steelhead season.   If steelhead is your game, book early as we tend to fill up fast.

Hey, summer is a great time to get on all the smallie and northern pike action.  Warm weather, no crowds and we have the river pretty much to ourselves.  Give us a call, book a trip and get on our calendar.  Come and enjoy all that a Michigan summer has to offer.

- Tom "The Old Man" Werkman

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

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”

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

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.

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