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

Grand River Fishing Report

Here is our fishing report for September 7, 2019 for smallmouth bass, northern pike and salmon for the Grand River, near Grand Rapids, Michigan. We report around the first of each month on the what’s happening on the river. There is definitely a different feel in the air these days. The days are getting shorter and the nights cooler. With that said, mid month will see above average temps with above average precipitation. All good for the salmon as they start to make their way from Lake Michigan into of the Grand River and the Muskegon River.

The gage in Ada is now continues to hover around 7.25 feet, low, with the water temp in the mid 60’s. The Grand continues to be in great shape with fantastic clarity.

Smallmouth Bass Fishing Report

Despite the the cooler night temps lately, the smallmouth on the Grand River are still their summer patterns. The majority of the the bass we’ve been getting into have been found in the riffle sections of the river or holding tight to timber. The best lures continue to be spinners baits. We’ve been using Mepps size 4 with bucktails in back and red with a copper blade. If you fish the riffle sections remember the bass can be anywhere, so cast everywhere. Look to the seams and breaks behind the rocks for your best success. If you fish timber, use creature baits, rigged weedless and drop the creature smack into the wood and work the whole structure. It may take a some tries to elicit a strike, so be patient. The best color and size for creatures are the 4 inch “Bama Craw” rigged to a 3/O hook and a 1/4 bullet weight.

Northern Pike Fishing Report

As far as northern pike on the Grand River is going, it has been tough. We usually get one per trip. The water temps are up so if you hook one, don’t play it, get it to the boat quickly, keep it in the water, take your hero shot and release it. This will help reduce mortality.

Fall Salmon Update:

Coho are stating to make their way through the fish ladder at Sixth Street in Grand Rapids. We have seen a few in the Ada section but not in any numbers yet.

In about another month we see the kings in the upper section of Muskegon River near Newaygo. Although we aren’t targeting them right now, fishing reports indicate, they are slowly starting to stage in the lower Muskegon. They are big and feisty this fall, with many being caught in the 30 pound + range. If you want to hear your drag scream and feel your rod about to break then give us a call. October is primetime for these freight trains. Here are some pictures from last year in October….but you get the idea.

Fall is really the best time to fish in West Michigan. Warm days, cool nights and a variety of species are in the river at once for the angler to pursue. We still have open dates, so drop us a line and get in on all the action.

Captain Tom Werkman

Fishing High and Dirty Water June 2019

Fishing dirty water can be a challenge. Use these techniques and you’ll find success. I’m not going to lie. So far, this spring on the Grand we have seen below normal temps with above normal precipitation. The Grand River watershed is the second largest in the state of Michigan and when it rains that means higher flows and dirty water. Don’t fear it but rather embrace it for the challenge. Just because the river is high and dirty doesn’t mean the fish stop eating. The smallmouth bass and northern pike that call the Grand home are use to living in these river conditions.

High and dirty water means targeting the feeder creeks and fishing tight to the bank and structure. We have been using size 10 X-Rap’s in white, orange and perch color. When retrieving, jerk them slowly while keeping slack in your line. Once the you have jerked the X-Rap 2, 3, or 4 times reel the slack and repeat. This way the smallmouth bass and northern pike can hear the rattle, have time to hone in on it and right before they strike, see it.

Once you pick up a smallmouth on the search bait, switch to dredging with a 1/2 oz bullet weight and 3/O hook with a creature bait. We have been having success on black. The bigger the creature and the slower the bounce along the bottom the easier it is for them to see it. With a 1/2 oz bullet weight bouncing off the bottom that will create enough noise for the fish to hear it coming in these high and dirty water conditions. Remember to cast up river at a 45 degree angle and then let it bounce off the bottom down until the line is parallel with the current. Reel it in and repeat. Be patient and pick the area apart using a grid as a template.

Don’t let high and dirty water keep you off the river. Embrace your fear of it and you’ll be rewarded.

Captain Tom Werkman

Spring Smallmouth and Grand River Dredging Update

The good news is spring is here on the Grand River and so are the smallmouth.  The bad news is, so is a proposal to the dredge the Grand River. which has nothing to do with the Grand River Restoration project.   I’ll get to the dredging in a minute.  The Grand right now is high, dirty and moving fast.  The crowds at the dam in Grand Rapids are gone and we have the river back to ourselves.  It’s finally nice to enjoy the quiet solitude of this river.  There are still some steelhead in the system but for the most part they are far and few in-between.  We have been seeing steelhead roll back over the dam, moving as fast as they can out to the big lake.

We have been transitioning over to smallmouth and northern pike and it feels good to be back in the warmwater game.  Water temps are running between 48 and 50 degrees depending on the day and the fish are hungry.  The river is high and dirty.  However, with that said there is about a foot and half of clarity, not to bad for the Grand.

Grand River Small
Grand River Smallie

When targeting smallmouth your allies, in these conditions, are going to be lures that create vibration and noise.  Success for us has been the 3/8 oz. double bladed willow leaf spinnerbait in both black and white.  Use leaders with 15 lb fluorocarbon tied to 30 lbs hi-viz Power Pro braid.  In these conditions, the best places to fish are going to be the feeder creeks and right up against the bank.  Fortune favors the bold and you’ll need to cast as far up those feed creeks as you can.  Don’t be afraid to lose a some hardware along the way.

Pre-Spawn Smallmouth
Pre-Spawn Smallmouth

Grand River Dredging Update:

For those you that don’t know, there is a developer, Dan Hibma, that would like to dredge the Grand River from Fulton Street in Grand Rapids to the Bass River Outlet in Eastmanville.  That’s 23 miles.  He feels that there are powerboaters that would like to take their boats from Lake Michigan all the way up to Grand Rapids.  In addition, he wants to put a marina right by Johnson Park in Grandville.  I wonder how they would get to the marina after last years flooding event when the Grand peaked at 42,000 cfs.

In the 12th hour, during the republican lame duck session last year, then Senator Arlen Meekhof slipped into legislation over $3.0 million for dredging.  He thought that no-one would see it.  There has been no public meetings on it, no citizen involvement and no input.  Seems all shady to me.  Oh and did I mention that the developer owns 200 acres of land on the Grand River. Oh, he has also offered up his property as a site to put the dredge spoils, so he can develop it.

Thankfully, there is a group called Friends of the Lower Grand River that has organized to stop this.  Through their efforts, and the turnout of Ottawa County citizens, it appears that the Ottawa County Commissioner’s will vote to oppose the dredge.  In addition, a number of local municipalities have also passed resolutions opposing it.  However, like all things that are environmentally destructive, projects like this are like zombies, they never die.  The only way this gets stopped is through the legislature.  Mr. Meekhof, when he added the appropriation rider did it in a way that if the money is not used in a given year it rolls over into the next and so.  Again, shady.

I don’t have to say, if the dredging goes through one of Michigan’s best steelhead runs will be destroyed.  If the Grand River is dredged, 50 feet wide by 7 feet deep for 23 miles, all the riffles, runs, holes and pocket water gets ripped out.  When you channelize a river it destroys habitat, biodiversity and water quality.  If you feel compelled please follow the Friends group on Facebook.  There you can get all the latest news and updates on this proposal.

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

The Spring Steelhead Run Update

With the recent warm temperatures in West Michigan spring is on everyone’s mind. With that, steelhead fishing is back. After a long winter of deep snow and polar vortexes the cabin fever can be broke by hitting the rivers. Here’s our fishing report.

After the recent flooding event in West Michigan, over the past few days we’ve been able to get out on area river to do some fishing.

Grand River

Depending on the day, fishing has been good, but a lot of these fish are still dark, hold overs from winter. We have seen a few chrome ones mixed in, which is a sign that our spring push of fish is just about to arrive.

As the water slowly starts to drop and water temps start to rise into the lower 40’s, the fishing will be getting better and better.

Lately, we have been targeting both spring spots such as buckets and pockets behind good gravel. In addition, we are also targeting the deeper runs and winter holes. We have been finding fish in both areas but most are they are still in deeper runs.

With the first fish of our spring run showing up a lot of these fish have spawning on their minds. That means on thing, eggs. Try using 8mm and 10mm beads as well as egg flies. Colors such as glow roe, peachy king, and peach roe have been bringing fish to the boat.

High Water Tactics For Michigan Steelhead

In the higher flows like we are currently seeing, we like running a bit larger floats. 11-15 gram floats with a shot pattered to match the float accordingly. This will slow your drift down a bit more to give the steelhead a chance to see your presentation.

If you haven’t check out our short film on “Gifts of the Grand” here it is. We partnered with Experience Grand Rapids and Aaron Peterson Studio to showcase the environmental comeback and fishing opportunities that exist on the Grand. The film was shown at the Mountain Film Festival in Saugatuck this past weekend.

Remember to use caution while wading in fast water and while on gravel. Leave spawning fish alone to do their thing so they can make more wild steelhead for all of us.

Captain Max 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

The Best Part of Fishing Isn’t the Pictures But the Stories

Fighting A Steelhead

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.

Captain Tom Werkman


Ice Fishing Report for Hamlin Lake

The Polar Vortex

Well like I’ve been saying and posting for the past month, the Polar Vortex has arrived in west Michigan. It’s about time. The area lakes are nicely freezing up. However, to be safe check with your local tackle shop to make sure. Here’s our fishing report.

Hamlin Lake Fishing Report:

We’ve been fishing on Hamlin Lake up near Ludington, Michigan and have been doing very well. Ice is a solid 7+ inches.

If you’re going to head up to Hamlin Lake, then you’ll want to hit the 10 to 15 foot range out from the boat launch off of Bugg Point.

Use crappie or perch minnows dead sticking. We have been using 2 lbs to 6 lbs mono with a Swedish Pimple, silver, to get fish on the ice. Make sure that you connect the pimple or jig to a snap swivel to prevent the line from getting all crazy as a result of the minnow swimming around. If you don’t, that will definitely effect your presentation.

Northern Pike:

If you want to target northern pike on tip-ups use shiners. But watch out, the pike have been theives. We’ve had many a flag only to see our shiners stolen. Try using smaller treble hooks placed horizontally along the shiners lateral line and remember to puncture the swim bladder. This will help create better bait movement and keep your bait at the desired depth.

With that said, we’ve been finding the best way to catch pike right now is using a jig tipped with a shiner or blue minnow deadsticking. We’ve been having alot of action and success with this method. Be ready, as they smack with a vengeance and let me tell you there is nothing like bringing in a pike on a 24 inch medium action ice rod on 6 lbs test. The fight is incredible.

Trip to Hamlin Lake

Crappie:

The crappie bite has been coming at dusk. If you’re going to target slabs use either a bobber rig or a jig. Just make sure to tip it with a crappie minnow.

The best part of fishing in Ludington is after you get off the ice head into town to Ludington Bay Brewing for a round of beer and great food.

Mid- Range Forcast

The rest of January will continue with sub-freezing temps and the climate models right now are calling for a colder than normal February. I believe that will be the case. Good news for ice fishing. Stay tune for more ice fishing reports.

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.