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

The Grand’s In Great Shape

We’ve hit the summer fishing patterns. After a wet spring that postponed some of our fishing trips, as a result of high river flows, the Grand has dropped to around 8 feet in Ada. Clarity is great right now at around 3 feet. Remember, the Grand River is the second largest drainage system in Michigan so there will always be some stain to it.

Smallmouth are now in their summer mode, sitting tight to structure and in the deeper holes. We’ve been finding them in 5 to 8 feet. You’ll need to make a number of passes through the holes and against the structure to entice the larger ones to take your lure.

Dredging continues to produce. We’re using creature baits in black with blue and red flicking. 1/4 oz bullet weights and 4/0 hooks. Line is 20 lbs Power Pro High-Vis Yellow tied right to the hooks. This allows us to get right into the structure without fear of losing the fish after there take.

Pike action has been good, however, with water temps approaching near 80 please don’t play them very long, take a quick picture and return them back to the river quickly. At these temps, the pike are stressed and any prolonged play and extended picture taking will increase mortality.

Double willow bladed spinner baits and Mepps Muskey Killers are our goto’s. Fish the slack water and sloughs. Make several casts, keep your eye on the water and watch for the follow. Many times, pike will follow your lure to the boat. After the follow, if the take doesn’t happen, then cast right back out and be ready.

Summer time is one of the best times to be on the Grand and right now we have almost perfect conditions. If you want to catch smallmouth on Michigan’s largest river give us a call.

Grand River Fishing Report

With above freezing temperatures for most of December the area rivers have opened up to fishing. Over the past few weeks steelhead fishing has been decent.  Here is the Grand River Fishing Report as of January 1, 2020.


A few fish have been hooked and landed throughout the day. We’ve been catching a mixed bag of dark hold-over steelhead with fresh chrome.

We continue to use beads but have been mixing it up with spawn for the best action.  Try running nickel to quarter size bags with pink and chartreuse netting. As far as beads go, try the more pale and milked out colors to entice the fish. Mottled peachy king and peach fuzz in 8 and 10 millimeters have been working best.

Water temps have been between 32-34 degrees. We’ve been targeting slightly deeper and slower runs where the fish will lay this time of year. Rain, wind, sleet and snow, it’s all in the future forecast,which will hopefully bring in new fish before it gets too cold to river fish. 

On the flip side, colder temps in the future will help with our ice growth. As of now, very few if any of the area lakes have ice. Because of that, we have moved our ice trips into February.  

While the rivers are open, get out and enjoy some steelhead fishing before the the ice takes over, or start thinking of spending the day on the hard water and give us call to book a trip in February.

Grand River Fishing Report

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.

Ice Fishing:

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

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

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

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