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.Continue reading
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
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.
Who ever said that steelhead fishing was easy, never went steelhead fishing. Right now the steelhead fishing has been slow. With that said, here’s our fishing report for December 7, 2019.
Steelhead Fishing Report:
The Grand River has been having its ups and downs, literally. Rain continues to make fishing difficult. We have been seeing flow rates at 6th Street drop to fishable levels only to spike back up to unfishable levels…. all within the same week. In addition to the rain, we have snow that comes and then melts, cooling the river down and subsequently the fishing. This same event has held true for the more intimate northern rivers we’ve been fishing as well.
With all the said, we are still managing to bring steelhead to net, albeit, not every trip.
The fish we have been finding are in the slower, deeper, dark holes. You’ll need to float these winter sports several times, adjusting you bobber depth and switching out your beads to find what the fish like.
If you want to catch steelhead, take advantage of these last few days of “warm” temperatures before the rivers freeze over.
Ice Fishing Report:
Although winter is literally knocking at the front door, as of this report, there is no safe ice. Most lakes are open and if there is ice it won’t support anyone walking it.
Right now the Climate Prediction Center is calling for below average temperatures for the Great Lakes and above average precipitation for the months of January, February and March. For the month of December the Climate Prediction Center is calling for near normal.
Winter can be a great time to enjoy fishing. We have all the gear, electronics and heated shanties so you can have a comfortable and successful day on the ice.
We are starting to take reservations for the ice fishing season. If you want to book now, look to do your tip starting in January, as lakes Cadillac and Mitchell tend to be the first to freeze, followed closely by Hamlin Lake in Ludington. These lakes are excellent for northern pike, walleye, crappie and bluegills.
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Grand River Update:
Here’s the latest from the frontlines as of November 11, 2019 for steelhead on the Grand River and the 2019 / 2020 ice fishing season. The Grand River is slowly becoming fishable again after the heavy rains form a couple of weeks ago. Right now, the Grand us running at 8,620 cfs., down from a high of 16,000 a week ago. Clarity is improving and the water temp is in the upper 30’s to low 40’s.
Even though the Grand was “blow out” we continued to run guide trips on other river systems and continued to find find steelhead. With the early winter and the cold temps we’ve been finding steelhead in their normal winter spots. Try fishing the slower dark water. When you find seams, fish both the inside and outside for the best results.
For us, beads continue to produce and we’ve picked up a few on the swing as well. If you’re going to use beads, try using non-straight colors such as MottledBeads and Blooddot Eggs. Most of the steelhead have come on 8 mm with some browns taking 10 mm. Try everything from chartreuse as the top bead to Glow Roe, Mango Egg, Peachy King Roe or Oregon Cheese on the dropper bead. If a pair isn’t working, remember to mix the combinations up.
On the spin gear we’re using 12 lbs. mono mainline to either 10 lbs. leader or 8 lbs leader with a Raven 8 gram or 11 gram bobber and #6 hooks with the 8 mm beads and #4 hooks with the 10mm beads.
Right now the winter forecast is calling for a cold and snowy winter for Michigan. Ideal for ice fishing. As a reminder and as safe ice dictates, we offer guided ice trips. We provide all the ice gear, heated shanties, electronics and tips ups you’ll need for a successful day on the hardwater. If you book a full day, we even cook you a hot lunch in the shanty.
Just because it’s cold out, doesn’t mean you need to stop fishing. Ice fishing can be a ton of fun with your family and / or your friends. Whether it’s on a river or on the hardwater book your trip with us an get in on all the angling action that Michigan and Grand Rapids have to offer.
Captain Tom Werkman
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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