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
With arrival of spring, warmer temperatures are starting to arrive and that means one thing on angler’s minds; steelhead. The Grand has bumped to around 6500 cfs as a result of the melting of what little snowpack we had. This bump in flow is what we need to start our spring steelhead run. Recent trips have shown that the run has yet to start. Not many new fish have arrived to the system yet. Water temperatures have been around the 36 degree mark, which is still a little cold for the fish. All the fish we have encountered over the last few days have been dark, hold over fish that have been living in the river all winter long. Not seeing the new, fresh fish from Lake Michigan has made fishing tough. Next weeks forecast is showing more rain and warmer air temperatures, which will help bring new steelhead into the system.
Right now, larger beads and spawn bags have been what is bringing fish to the boat. With the high and dirty water, these presentations are what works best this time of year. The fish need to be able to see and / or smell what you’re presenting in order to have results. Try presentations with brighter beads such as Super UV Orange, Super UV Peach, UV Fireball, and Chartreuse in 10mm-14mm. Beads are usually the preferred presentation this time of year but larger “Choker” bags with 8-12 or even more eggs in them will work as well. Because the river is running “fast” and the water temp is still “cold” we’ve been running 11-20 gram floats, which slows your presentation down and allows time for the sluggish fish to see or smell your presentation. Remember to use the correct amount of weight to match your float bobber. This will allow your beads or bags to get near the bottom quickly.
Remember that this is the spring run. Be selective of fish you’re taking out of the river. Let the females go so they can continue their journey to the tributaries, create the redds, spawn and return back to Lake Michigan. This helps ensure we have a healthy, wild population of steelhead for the future.
Any day now large numbers if fish will be in all of West Michigan’s rivers, so come fish with us and experience what the spring run on the Grand River is all about.
Of all the fish I like to fish for, my favorite is the northern pike on the Grand River. Pike are known by many names such as “The Wolf Of The Water”, “Hammer Handles”, “Snot Rockets”, “The Tax Man” and the list goes on.
I understand that for some anglers, they despise having one hit their lure and for good reason. If they don’t destroy your lures, they will sure mess it up, probably to the point where you can’t use it again. Plus, they can be a bloody mess. With that said, when I run guide trips, of all the warm water species we fish for, the one clients want to catch most, is the northern pike.
Northern pike have a single dorsal fin with light colored spots on a darker body. The upper half of the gill cover and entire cheek have scales, and five to six submandibular pores (underside of lower jaw). The northern pike is a member of the Pike family (Esocidae), with its cousins the muskellunge and grass pickerel.
Northern Pike Habitat
Northern Pike are commonly associated and prefer the weedy shallows of both the Great Lakes and inland waters. In rivers, they are often found around log jams, fallen timber, slackwater and weed lines next to drop-offs.
Depending on the time year they are be found in the deeper slack sections of the river or the shallows. Two of the largest pike, that clients have landed on the Grand, where in less than 3 feet of water, with one of those pike exploding out of the river like a tarpon.
They prefer water temps from 40 degrees up to 72 degrees. Anything above 72 degrees, the fish start to get stressed and we tend to avoid specifically targeting them.
The ideal temp for big northern pike is when the water temp is under 65 degrees. This typically coincides with the spring and fall months on the Grand and its tributaries.
Life Cycle of the Northern Pike:
Pike in the Great Lakes region spawn in the shallows in April or May, right after the ice leaves. As a result of their eating habits, young pike grow rapidly in both length and weight. Females become sexually mature at age three or four with males at two to three years. Beyond sexual maturity, pike continue to gain weight, although more slowly. Northern pike have an average life span of six to eight years, with some living as long as 15 years of age.
In order to protect Northern Pike, while they are their most vulnerable, the Michigan DNR does not allowed them to be taken from March 15 – the last Saturday in April in Michigan’s lower peninsula’s inland rivers and waters. There is an exaction to that rule and that is the Great Lakes and Lake St. Clair, St. Clair River and Detroit River.
Diet of the Northern Pike:
About 90 percent of the pike diet is small fish. However, they are more than willing to supplement their diet with any living creature their huge jaws can surround. Those include, frogs, crayfish, waterfowl, rodents and other small mammals. Their preferred forage fish are yellow perch, sunfishes, minnows and suckers.
Fishing for Northern Pike:
Pike can be taken on live bait (primarily large minnows) and all manner of artificial lures. They can be caught either by trolling or casting. Large diving or topwater plugs, spoons, spinner baits, flies and the red and white Dardevle all produce.
Some of our favorites are the lures we make, Mepps #5, double willow bladed spinner baits in white, X-Raps and large flies in baitfish patterns and colors.
Pike are not leader shy and because of their sharp teeth, therefore, we recommend the use of wire leaders or 40 lbs mono or greater leaders.
If you handle a pike remember that they have teeth in their gill plates and they can easily leave a mark on you.
Northern pike can be some of the most exciting fish to catch. While the fight is not like that of a steelhead or a salmon, they provide a lot of excitement. The boat can go from silence to violence in a nanosecond. So if you want to get on “the wolf of the water”, then give us call to book your tip.
Capt. Tom Werkman
aka The Old Man
We have now reached what most consider the coldest time of year, air temps have been in the 20s-30s and water temps have been in the low to mid 30s.
With these cold temperatures, this means the steelhead will be very lethargic and in their winter water. Target deeper water anywhere from 5-10 feet. One helpful tip is to adjust your float every few drift to get close to the fish. They don’t want to move very far for food in colder water.
These fish could be eating a variety of presentations this time of year so mix up your drift by changing out beads frequently. Use 8mm and 10mm bead in peachy, orange, and yellow colors and smaller spawn bags with 4-8 eggs in white, chartreuse, and pink colored bags. Jigs tipped with 2-3 wax worms in pink colors as well will work. Don’t be afraid to mix and match with a bead on top and a spawn bag on the bottom.
Winter is a time of year to enjoy the solitude and how pretty the river can look. High numbers of steelhead aren’t common with cold water temps but it’s hard to beat having the river to yourself most days.
We are starting to full up our prime time dates for the spring steelhead run in March and April, so give us a call to get on the calendar.
Captain Max Werkman “The Kid”