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

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.

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