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


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.

Grand River Fishing Report

Grand River Fishing Report from Grand Rapids to Lowell, Michigan:

This summer has been great for smallmouth bass and northern pike on the Grand River and the action only continues to be hot.  With the lack rain, the river remains low and clear, perfect for bronze-bomber action.  It seems the hotter the weather and the bluer the skies the better bite is on this river.

Man-Bear-Pig Fly

The name of the game has been “throw the kitchen sink” to keep the action moving.  Just when you think you have the right lure or fly you’ll need to change it out.  It seems the smallmouth pick up on your game right away.  Try using bigger flies and double-bladed spinner baits.  Remember, if that isn’t working or you have caught a few, switch up your streamer game or move to dredging a wacky worm off the bottom.

With the warmer temps the northern pike have gone deep but there are still some lingering around structure.  If you happen to hook into one of these river gators, remember to not play the fish, land and release it as quick as possible.  These warmer temps are not good for the fish as they prefer cooler water.

Grand River Northern Pike

On the salmon front, they are slowly trickling in but not in any great numbers.  Lake Michigan did turn over, couple that with the rain means a few kings have entered area systems.  As the nights get cooler and we get more rain look for more to slowly come in.  If you do go, go low, find the deeper holes and throw cranks up against the bank or drift skein through the hole to find success.

The summer action still remains strong and the smallmouth and pike action will continue to remain strong well into the fall as they start to go into their fall feeding mode for the winter.

The salmon action will also start to pick up and they will be big this year.  Many charter boat captains have been catching 30 lbs. kings out in Lake Michigan and it’s a good bet some of those will show up in the rivers we fish this year.

There is nothing like fishing the Grand River during the day, then heading out into downtown Grand Rapids to grab dinner and beer after the trip.  Fall is the best time year to get out and fish.  We have availability so call, email or text us about your trip and let’s get on the river.

Captain Tom

 

Grand River Fishing Report between Grand Haven and Lowell

Fishing report for July 2018:  With the lack of rain over the past month the Grand River is in great shape.  From Grand Haven to Lowell it has been some of the best fishing we’ve seen so far this year.

The river is low and clear and as a result the smallmouth have been stacked in the deeper holes and right up next to structure.  Early morning is perfect for sight casting as they tend to hunt between the weed lines and subtle breaks in water depth. Temperatures have been running in the mid to upper seventies to near eighty degrees, perfect for those smallies.  No worries on the stressing these guys, they prefer warmer water compared to the trout.

We’ve been fishing conventional tackle lately as that has been producing the best action.  Make sure you’re covering a lot of water as you’re casting to these bronze bombers to get the greatest success possible.  Try using spinners and swimbaits.

 

If your going to fly fish use streamer patterns.  Try the “Off the Shneid Fly” or anything with white in it.  With the river being this low, make sure to use floating line either with or without a intermediate polyleader.  Anything more and you’ll making sacrifices to the river gods.

As the water has warmed and become low the northern pike action has slowed.  We are still getting some but just not in the numbers we saw in the late spring and early summer.  If you want to target these guys, look to the deeper holes, rock gardens and slackwater.  Same thing, use spinners and larger swimbaits to provoke a strike.  Remember, that pike are ambush predators so you’ll need to cover a lot of water to find them.

We still have a lot of summer left so if you want to fish one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the state then give us a call or send us a message.

– Captain Tom

 

 

 

The Green Trout

I often get asked why do I run guide trips for bass.  I’m mean come on….bass, really?  Typically my response is, “You mean the Green Trout”  They look at me with a bit of confusion, like when a steelhead is lost at the boat.

Let me start by saying that I enjoy fishing for all species of fish.  Each species has its own set of unique challenges and enjoyments.  It’s really hard to compare one species of fish to another.  The best analogy I can used to express that statement is, as a father I am, I love all my children equally, not one over the other.

Many of our clients want to fish for the migratory species such as salmon and steelhead. These are excellent fish to target, they can put one hell of a bend in your rod, you can hear and feel the drag scream and they can challenge and frustrate even the most seasoned angler. They are the Floyd Mayweather’s of the Great Lakes and her tributaries.  Lighting fast, they pack a punch, and they can be difficult to control.

With that said, here is why I run guide trips for bass:

While the salmon and the steelhead may be the Floyd Mayweather’s of the Great Lakes, bass are the Mike Tyson’s.  They are the heavyweight gangsters of the bayous, inland lakes and rivers.  Trust me when I say there is nothing like reeling in a 5 pound bucketmouth out of the Grand River or one of its bayous. To watch them go airborne and pull like a semi truck has its angling rewards.

Unlike their cold water cousins, their range is pretty much most lakes and rivers of North America and they can tolerate water temperatures up into the 80’s before they move into deeper sections.  This make them ideal to target without having to worry too much about their stress levels when water temps are in the 70’s like a trout.

Whether on a fly rod or with light spin gear and tackle, they are just as challenging as trout and can test even the most seasoned angler through all the stages of bass season, the pre-spawn, spawn and post spawn.

Like trout, they have some cool ink.  Depending on their environment their colors can range from light green to dark green and even some black with yellow and orange mixed in their fins.

Lastly, there is that gangster look.  Their signature underbite where the lower jaw extends beyond their upper jaw, that says don’t mess with me.

I’m sure there are many more opinions why people pursue bass.  In the end, however, it comes down to them being the most targeted species in the nation.  There are professional bass tournaments through FLW and Bassmaster, not to mention local tournaments all with cash money to win.

Bass are the working man’s brown trout.  They are both simple and complex.  Easy and difficult to target.  They are the green trout and are so popular in our culture that real trout should be green with envy.

Why Fish the Grand River

The Grand River can arguably be called the best steelhead, smallmouth bass and northern pike rivers in the state.  There is also plenty of opportunity to catch other species of fish.  Those species include salmon, largemouth bass, walleye and the occasional muskie.

It’s Michigan’s longest river at 252 miles.  There are several major tributaries that include, the Thornapple, Maple and Flat Rivers.  In addition, there are several minor tributaries that feed into the system as well.  Those include, Sycamore Creek, Looking Glass, Rogue, Plaster Creek and the Red Cedar River.  The river starts in Hillsdale County, flows to Grand Rapids and to its outlet at Grand Haven on Lake Michigan.

Above all, many sections of the river offer solitude from crowds, boats and other fisherman.

THE HISTORY OF THE RIVER

The history of the Grand River is one of Ruin and Recovery.  Unfortunately, there is still this stigma that the Grand that is a polluted wasteland.   Quite the contrary, much focus and money has been dedicated to cleaning up Michigan’s largest and most iconic river.

Its watershed is massive and covers 5,572 square miles with nineteen counties draining into it.  Overall, 13% of Lake Michigan’s total watershed falls within it.  Because of that, a lot of federal, state and private dollars have gone into cleaning it up and restoring fish habitat.

All of this coordinated focus continues today.   As a result, the Grand River’s water quality has improve over the years.  The most recent Grand River Assessment from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources dated June 2017 proves this.  

TODAY ON THE RIVER

Today, there is a world class fishery that exits on the river.  That is to say, it’s one of the best steelhead, smallmouth bass and northern pike fisheries in the state.  It now holds over 95 native fish species with a total 108 fish species inhabiting the watershed.

Many anglers have received their Master Angler Awards from fish caught in the Grand.  Those include, carp and flathead catfish, rainbow trout (steelhead), brown trout, lake trout and chinook salmon.

THE FUTURE OF THE RIVER

Coordinated focus has helped bring the Grand to where it is today.  A lot of money is being poured into its continued restoration, particularly with dam removal.  Currently, there are over 232 dams on the Grand River and is tributaries.  The removal of dams has started with Sixth Street Dam in downtown, Grand Rapids.  Efforts are underway to raise $45 million to make this happen.  As a result, migratory routes will open up for salmon, steelhead, trout, sturgeon, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, northern pike, walleye and a variety of other species to quality spawning habitat.  Hopefully, over time, other dams can be removed which will open up even more migratory routes to more spawning habitat and improve the fishery even further.

So if you want to take advantage of all the Grand has to offer, give Werkman Outfitters a call or send us a message.

Getting Ready for Fall Fishing

Fall is one of the best times of the year to fish the Grand River in Grand Rapids, Michigan for salmon and steelhead. The hot days and warm nights turn to warm days and cool nights.  The green leaves turn to oranges, reds and yellows and the salmon start their annual pilgrimage into the Muskegon, Grand and White rivers as well as and other tributaries.  Smallmouth bass and northern pike become even more aggressive as they fatten up for the long winter.

With the salmon pilgrimage the fall steelhead follow as they find a food source, salmon eggs, in the rivers along with other aquatic insects and smolt.  They stay in the systems until they migrate back out into Lake Michigan in the spring after they spawn.  Trout are on the prowl as well, fattening up for winter on the abundant biomass in the area river systems.

During this time, at least on the Grand River, it’s important to use multiple techniques to maximize your success.  There are various techniques that can be used but here are some that we prefer.

Fly Fishing:

Chuck-n-Duck:

  • Chuck-n-Duck:  The Chuck-n-Duck method can be used for salmon, trout and steelhead.  With salmon, once they enter the upper river systems and start to spawn, they no longer feed.  As a result, they will no longer eat your presentation.  At this point, the goal of this technique is to “line” the fish in the mouth as the flies drift into their path to hook and then land them.  With steelhead and trout this method can be effective in the deeper holes and pools.  If you see fish spawning, please remember to not target the females on their redds and to fish the pocket water.   The pocket water typically will hold trout, and male salmon and steelhead.  If you remove the female off her redd she will be exhausted and stressed from the fight and may no longer have the energy to spawn, thus effecting future populations

Streamers:

  • Streamers:  Streamer fishing involves using either floating or sink-tip lines tied to leaders with descending strength to a fly that looks like a smolt, minnow, or another form of baitfish.  With this method the fly is “stripped” through the water and as it is stripped imitates a moving baitfish.  Typically the predator fish will instinctively react to the movement and strike the streamer in an aggressive bite.

Indicator / Bobber:

  • Indicator / Bobber: This technique involves using floating line tied to leaders with descending strength to tippet.  In order to get your fly/flies down, various size split shot is used.  The bobber is positioned on the leader so it can be adjusted to the changing river depth. If the bobber goes down you have a bite.  The bobber don’t lie.  This form of fishing is much more subtle than streamer fishing and is used when the water temperature is much colder and the fish are lethargic.

Center Pin:

  • Centerpin fishing, also called float fishing, is a fishing technique which uses a centerpin rod, a centerpin reel, and spawn, skein, an artificial fly or bead coming off of a leader of various descending strengths to tippet.   Centerpins are designed to freespool line off the reel and allow for a natural downstream drift of your float presentation without any interruption.  In order get the line down, various size split shot are used to keep the line vertical in the water column for a natural presentation of the fly, bead or bait.

Crankbaits & Plugs:

  • Plugs are a popular type of hard-bodied fishing lure. They are widely known by a number of other names that include crankbait, wobbler, thundersticks, minnow, shallow-diver and deep-diver. The term minnow is usually used for long, slender, lures that imitate baitfish, while the term plug is usually used for shorter, deeper-bodied lures which imitate deeper-bodied fish. Shallow-diver and deep-diver refer to the diving capabilities of the lure, which depends on the size and angle of the lip, and lure buoyancy.  These lures are used when an anchored boat is positioned upstream and the lures are dropped off the back of the boat about 60 to 120 ft depending on the depth of the hole.  The current will take the lure back and once the the line set, will “dive”/ wobble to trigger a strike.
  • Crankbaits are another deadly technique for catching fish.  This technique involves casting toward the bank and positioning your rod downstream and slowly retrieving the lure.  During the first stages of the salmon run in the lower sections of rivers this can elicit and violent strike.

What ever method or technique you use, make sure to get out on the river and enjoy this time.  It only comes once a year and life is way to short to not enjoy it and catch fish. Tight lines all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fishing Report

July 22, 2017:

The Grand River continues to run stained in the middle sections but it is coming down. Hopefully, if the rain can hold off for awhile, clarity should improve.  Water temps were in the low 80’s this past week but with the rain we had last night and couple of cloudy days the water is now back in the upper 70’s

River traffic is next to nothing.  As a matter of fact, many days we are the only boat on the water and only share it with a few bald eagles, osprey, king fishers, herons and some deer.

With that water being as stain as it is you’ll want to use streamers, articulated ones are working best.  Color combinations include, yellow brown, orange and green.  300 grain sink tip on an 9 ft 8 wt with a 4 foot 10 lb. leader has been working the best to get the fly down to where the fish are.  It’s a bit aggressive, and you may get lodge in some wood or rock, but it’s what’s producing right now.

When stripping, use slow, irregular retrieves so the fish has time to see the streamer as it goes by.  It’ll be difficult with the stained water but look for contours, seams and pockets to find fish.  You may have to make a few casts before one hits.  Remember, be patient, you want to cover as much water as possible and move as much water as possible to get the fish’s attention in these conditions.

FullSizeRender (6)

As the day progresses toward early evening switch to poppers.   Us a 4 ft. leader with floating line on a 6 wt with a fighting butt as your combination.  Yellow and green poppers seem to be working the best.  You’ll want to cast right up to the bank with these, as many of the fishing are tight up against it.

 

The Grand River has many different fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and northern pike.  At Werkman Outfitters, we take full advantage of that by chasing after multiple species using multiple techniques.  So come join us on the river and fish different.

(Edit)

Werkman Outfitters Expands into Big Lake Charters

Werkman Outfitters has partnered with JJ Sportfishing Charters to provide their clients a one stop shop for guided fishing trips to include Lake Michigan charter fishing out of Holland, Michigan.  Werkman Outfitters is owned by Tom and Max Werkman and JJ Sportfishing Charters is owned by Jim Swanzey

“We are excited about this partnership” says Tom Werkman.  “Jim and his crew bring a wealth of knowledge and experience with big lake fishing that few can duplicate.  To me it just made sense.  Our clients now have the opportunity to pursue salmon, steelhead and trout year-round from the river to Lake Michigan and back again.”

Salmon, steelhead and trout are migratory species and spend part of their life in Lake Michigan and then annually migrate into the river systems to spawn.

“There are times that our clients would like to try something different and now we can work with Werkman Outfitters to make that happen.” Swanezy stated.  “We are very happy with Tom and Max and what they offer.”

Werkman Outfitters is a full service guide company in Grand Haven, Michigan whose home waters include the Grand River, the White River and the Muskegon River.  Werkman Outfitters not only pursues salmon, steelhead and trout but also large and smallmouth bass, northern pike and walleye using multiple fishing techniques and gear.

Swanezy has been a charter boat captain since 1995 and has over 35 years of experience fishing Lake Michigan.  He and his crew have many top finishes in fishing tournaments through out the Lake Michigan basin.

JJ Sportfishing’s home port is Yacht Basin in Holland, Michigan.  Jim uses a 34 foot Pursuit that is fully equipped for the ultimate fishing experience.  He pursues salmon, steelhead and lake trout from April to September.