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

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.

Yes, It’s an Ice Fishing Report!

In west Michigan it sure looks like you shouldn’t have put your boat away in winter storage. The warmer than average temps have made the lakes essentially ice free and those that have it, you shouldn’t attempt to go on. Which leads to the question, where in Michigan do you go ice fishing these days?

Lakes Cadillac and Mitchell

If you have the time to drive head up to Lakes Cadillac and Mitchell in Michgan. These lakes are in great shape for ice fishing and have around 6 to 8 inches of ice.

Look for crappie in the 6 foot to 10 foot range of water. The bite the past few days has been light so make sure you are using lighter and more sensitive gear. Use tear drop jigs in bright colors, tipped with spikes. A fish finder such as a Vexilar helps. Drill and fish lots of holes to help increase your chances of success.

If your looking for bass or northern pike, as usual, find the weeds. Small Cove has been producing the best action. Set your tip-ups in 6 to 10 feet of water around weeds and tip your hooks with suckers. If your going to jig, you’ll want to use crappie minnows. These minnows are a little larger and help create more movement in the water to attract these fish.

Speaking of attracting fishing, also trying using Rippin Raps in natural colors with medium action rods and 8 lbs test. The water is stained and these lures have the action and vibration you’ll need to attract the fish from further away.

If you need bait make sure to swing by Pilgram’s Village Bait Shop. They have all you need to make your time on the water more successful.

Possible Polar Vortex?

It seems we have been hearing this for awhile but there are some weather models that are saying and continue to say we could be due for some arctic air toward the end of January, with February being below normal temps. Let’s hope so.

On January 19th we’re going to be at the Cabela’s Outfitters Expo in Grand Rapids from 12 to 4. If you have the time, swing by and see us. Until then we’ll leave you this. “If you fish all day, you’ll never miss the bite window.”


Werkman Outfitters Offers Guided Ice Fishing Trips

Just because winter sets in doesn’t mean you have to stop fishing.  For the months of January – March, as ice conditions allow, we will offer guided ice fishing trips on Hamlin Lake, Muskegon Lake, White Lake and the bayous of the lower Grand River as well as a few other other west Michigan lakes near Grand Rapids.  

Ice fishing is an excellent way to get outside during the winter months.  It’s family friendly and a great way to introduce kids to the sport.  

We provide all the ice fishing gear, hot lunch and heated shanties to make your day on the ice as fun, successful and comfortable as possible.

A typical day will include fishing for panfish, such as bluegill, perch and crappie as well as northern pike.  We will clean and fillet your catch for you so you can bring it home for a fish fry.

Lakes We Ice Fish:

Hamlin Lake is located in Ludington, Michigan and is a great pike and walleye destination spot. It is also know for it’s night time crappie fishing.

Muskegon Lake, located in Muskegon, Michigan  is known for it walleye, yellow perch, blue gill and northern pike.  

White Lake located in Whitehall, Michigan is known for its northern pike, yellow perch and blue gill.

For more information check out the our website link on ice fishing

 

 

 

Grand River Fishing Report

September has been an active month for us at Werkman Outfitters.  This is our fishing report for September 24, 2018 for the Grand Rapids to Lowell section.

The annual migration of the salmon has started on the Grand River and the steelhead will be close behind.  In addition, with the cooler air, lower water temps and shorter days, the smallmouth bass and northern pike bite has increased as they start to fatten up for the long winter.

Grand River Coho

The Salmon & Steelhead Front:

One my way to a guide trip this past week, I drove over the I-196 bridge in Grand Rapids and saw what looked like 100 fisherman at the Sixth Street Dam.  Clearly, they were after Chinook and Coho.

I am not sure on whether or not they’re having success but I can tell you that we are seeing small numbers of salmon showing up in the Ada to Lowell section.  If you up there, try fishing wiggle warts, thundersticks, spinners and skein in the deeper holes and feeder creeks, especially the cold water feeder creeks.  Early mornings and late evenings are the best times.  I got to say it is tough up there right now, just with the low numbers we are seeing.  The near-term weather shows rain and temperature drops, perfect for sending more up.  The water temp was still pretty warm with mid-day temps in the low 70’s.

Smallmouth & Northern Pike:

If you want to get in on some of the best jaw fishing of the year, the fourth quarter is your best bet.  These guys are fattening up for winter and are in their fall feeding frenzy mode. The water has dropped and cleared up nicely from the all the rain we had a couple of weeks ago. As a result, we have done some sight fishing along breakpoints and weed lines.  Try fishing everything from streamers, to Mepps and crankbaits.  If streamer fishing, go with 220 sink tip to keep from dredging bottom.  Right now, it’s not unusual for us to land smallmouth in the 16 to 18 inch range with a few near 20.  There is a reason why God made few of these over 21.  They pack a punch.

After a couple months on sabbatical, the pike are showing backup as the water temps cool.  We have been finding them in their normal hunting grounds around the slack water, particularly around rock structure.  Again, streamers, Mepps, deeper diving Rapalas and double bladed willow leaf spinner baits are your best bet.

We still have some October and November dates open so give us call or like us on Facebook and Instagram to get the latest updates.  Fall is here,  so no matter what you do, get outside and on a river.

– Captain Tom

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