If you're thinking only hunting this fall, you're making a big mistake!
Michigan's Fall Walleye And More...
October 01, 2007
You can't blame Michigan sportsman if they have a hard time putting down the bow or gun to sample some of Michigan's great fall fishing. Michigan has some exceptional year round fishing opportunities, so when fall does roll around the state's outdoor enthusiasts naturally want to take advantage of the great hunting too. But, if your mindset is only on hunting in the fall you're making a big mistake.
Some of the absolute best fishing of the years takes place when the leaves start to turn. I know it's a difficult decision, but here's a list of fall fishing venues that might change your mind.
Big Manistee River Kings
Mature Chinook salmon begin moving up the Big Manistee River in mid-August and their ranks reach fishable numbers in early September. The salmon are bright silver with just a tinge of bronze. The kings are aggressive when they first enter the river and can be caught using a variety of methods.
One technique is to anchor above a run or hole and drop back wobbling plugs, like Flatfish or Kwikfish. The plugs block the upstream movement of the salmon and they get irritated or threatened by the lures and strike. Hot fluorescent colors work well. Depending on the strength of the current, Flatfish work best in the slower runs and more animated lures, like Hot-N-Tots, are perfect for faster, deeper runs. There is no doubt when a king decides he doesn't want the lure in his face anymore.
Another technique involves casting in-line spinners. Large #5 spinners are cast across the current and retrieved slowly so they swing across the run. The vibrating blade triggers aggressive strikes from following salmon. The key is to fish the spinner slow and deep. 5- to7-foot runs with plenty of logs and cover are ideal. The spinners are especially effective early in the morning when fresh fish move in and are positioned on the edge of runs.
Back-bouncing with skein spawn may be the most productive methods for fall kings on the Big Manistee. Although salmon on their spawning run are not feeding, for some reason they will engulf a big hunk of spawn. The trick is to use just enough weight to get the spawn on the bottom and then slowly "walk" it downstream behind the boat while keeping a slight tension on the line. The bite is often just a subtle tap, tap, tap, but set the hook and you'll know you're hooked to 8 to 25 pounds of silver furry.
For more information on catching fall salmon on the Big Manistee River contact Gnat's Charters at (231) 845-8400 or online at www.gnatscharters.com.
Lake Skegemog Muskies
Part of the Elk River Chain, muskies can move freely between Torch, Elk, Intermediate, Bellaire, Clam, Skegemog and several smaller lakes. During the warm, summer months gargantuan muskies seek out the cooler recesses of the deeper lakes. But as fall sets in muskies put on the feedbag and head for the shallower lakes to feed. The ideal muskie habitat and bounty of forage found in 2,561-acre Lake Skegemog makes it a natural for fall muskies.
Lake Skegemog is relatively shallow so it cools quickly. Muskie activity usually starts to pick up with the cool nights in September, improves steadily through October and peaks in November. The muskies pig out on suckers and panfish, both of which are plentiful in Skegemog. Although muskies can be caught anywhere throughout the lake, known muskie hangouts are just out from the entrance of Elk Lake and a 15-foot hole out for the public access on the lake's south shore.
The lake gives up the occasional muskie topping 50 inches. Big fish like big lures and trolling giant crankbaits or chucking oversized bucktail spinners and jerk baits is a proven tactic. A more passive approach is to soak a lively sucker under a big float, layback and wait.
|Some of the absolute best fishing of the year takes place when the leaves start to turn. Mike Gnatkowski photo|
For more information on Lake Skegemog muskies contact Jack's Sport Shop in Kalkaska at (231) 258-8892. More information on lodging and accommodations in the area can be had by contacting the Elk Rapids Chamber of Commerce at (231) 264-8202 or online at www.elkrapidschamber.org.
Saginaw River Walleye
The Saginaw River is known for producing excellent winter walleye action, but during wet, rainy falls walleye begin moving into the river as early as September and provide exciting autumn action.
The walleyes follow schools of gizzard shad up the river. The best runs occur when heavy fall rains raise the water levels. The walleyes concentrate in the deeper holes near downtown Saginaw all the way to the river's mouth at Bay City. Some years the walleyes move all the way up tributaries like the Tittabawassee, Shiawassee and Flint rivers. Most anglers vertical jig with a 1/8- to ľ-ounce lead head jig and minnows or plastic, but many 'eyes are caught by trolling upstream with crankbaits. Many of the walleyes will be smaller, sub-legal male fish, but there are enough 3 to 5 pounders mixed in to make it interesting.
Anglers will find good access at Wick's Park, off Rust Ave. and at Veterans Park off M-13. For more information on Saginaw River's fall walleyes contact the MDNR's Southern Lake Huron Management Unit at (989) 684-9141.
Lake Mac Walleyes
Big walleyes sense that leaner times are ahead as fall approaches. As waters cool a walleye's metabolism goes into high gear and 'eye go on an all-out feeding binge just before winter sets in. Fall is the best time to catch a trophy walleye on Ottawa County's Lake Macatawa.
Stealth trolling at night is a proven tactic for big walleyes on Lake Mac. The biggest walleyes move into 7 to 9 feet of water under the cover of darkness. Lake Macatawa is relatively featureless when it comes to structure, so even subtle changes in the lake's contours can collect hungry walleyes. Use an electric trolling motor to move slowly along while pulling stickbaits, like No. 11 or 13 Rapalas. Add two or three No. 7 split shot above the lure to get it down so it's close to bottom. Hot colors are gold/orange, silver/black and gold/black. Good locations for night 'eyes on Lake Mac are near the Heinz pickle plant, off Superior, Lodge and Telling's points and near the mouth of Pine Creek Bay. Fish topping 10 pounds are fairly common.
For a fishing report, lake maps and tackle contact American Tackle Outfitters at (616) 392-6688.
K-Zoo River Steelheads
Fall rains trigger excellent runs of bright, silvery steelheads up the Kalamazoo River in October. Many of the rainbows are the result of 20,000-plus fish that are planted in the Kalamazoo and its tributaries.
A focal point for anadromous species on the Ka-zoo River is the dam at Allegan. Steelheads that make the 22-mile run from Lake Michigan congregate there, but there is lots of productive water in between. Good public access can be found at M-89, 126th Avenue, at New Richmond and near the mouth of the Rabbit River, which is a good steelhead stream in its own right.
Anglers rely on spawn, either in bags or in chunks, for the bulk of the fall steelheading on the Kalamazoo. The idea is to position across or above a likely run and drift the spawn though the run. Aggressive fall steelhead will grab the bait on the first drift or two usually if they are there. As the river cools, plugs are another option. The animated action of a crank bait triggers violent strikes from rainbows that routinely top 10 pounds. The fall steelhead fishing usually peaks around Thanksgiving.
For information on tackle shops, guides and accommodations in the area contact the Allegan County Tourist & Recreation Council at 1-888-4-ALLEGAN or online at www.visitallegancounty.com.
Lake Erie Perch
Both Lake Erie's walleye and perch have enjoyed banner years the last few years for reproduction. There are several strong year classes of both walleye and perch in the lake. While summer is the best time to catch the walleye, perch fishing gets hot during early fall. And this fall should produce some unbelievable catches.
The perch move into the shallows to pig out and catching a bucketful is pretty simple. Most anglers just use a perch spreader or Bear Paw Connectors and a couple of snelled hooks and minnows. Use a bell sinker to get the rig quickly to bottom and drift or anchor. Look for concentrations of boats that indicate active schools of fish. The perch can usually be founding 15 to 20 feet of water. Doubles of 8- to 12-inch yellow bellies should be very common this fall. Michigan's perch limit is 50 fish. Ohio's limit is 40. The state line is very close when you launch from Michigan. You might want to purchase licenses for both states.
Anglers will find good access to Lake Erie at several locations. Launches are available at Bolles Harbor, Otter Creek, Luna Pier, and Sterling State Park. For more information on accommodations and lodging contact the Monroe County Convention & Tourism Bureau at (800) 252-3011 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lake Erie Smallmouths
Lake Erie's smallmouth move shallow for one last feeding binge in October. The window of opportunity is small, but hit it right and you can enjoy some fantastic fall bassin'. "The smallies just pig out for about two weeks," claimed bass guide Gerry Gostenik. "When exactly is hard to predict, but hit it right and the fishing can be fantastic."
Lake Erie smallies move into the available structure as fall approaches. The bass are there to gorge on their favorite delicacies - gobies and crayfish. Rocks and clam beds off the mouth of the Raisin River attract schools of smallies. The bass will average 2 to 4 pounds and the chance for a real trophy is very good. Motor oil- and pumkinseed-colored tube jigs are standard fare when the bass are chasing craydads and gobies. Drop shotting, where a sinker is tied to the bottom of the line and a tube is tied about a foot above it, is a killer rig. 30 and 40 fish days are common.
To sample Lake Erie's hot fall bassin' contact Gerry Gostenik at (313) 277-8002 or online at wwwgreatlakesbassfishing.com.
Shakey Lake Largemouths
Look at any one of the nine lakes in Menominee County's Shakey Lakes Chain and you immediately think "largemouths." The lakes are fairly shallow with lots of weeds. There are plenty of blowdowns and stumps for bass to hide in and schools of minnows can be found in the shallows. The lakes are a bustle of activity in the summer months. But come fall the vacationers are gone and the bass are on the prowl.
The lakes are formed by the impoundment of the Shakey River, which runs into the mighty Menominee River. The impoundment forms Resort, Long, Bass, East, Becher's and several other lakes. Most are less than a couple hundred acres, and although there is a campground in the middle of the chain you'd think you were on some remote Canadian lake.
A good tactic on Shakey Lakes is to pick a calm day, put down the trolling motor and cover water by working the edges. Chuck spinner baits, top water baits or stick baits for bucketmouths that will occasionally reach 5 pounds. Big pike are and added bonus.
The Shakey Lakes Chain is located west of Stephenson off County Road 352. Contact the Menominee County Chamber of Commerce at (906) 863-2679 for more information.
Presque Isle River Steelies
Fall steelhead fishing on Gogebic County's Presque Isle River is "short and sweet." Winter comes early in the western U.P. so the opportunities for fall steelhead fishing don't last long. In addition, steelhead can only go a short distance upstream before they are blocked by Manabezho Falls. Falls rains are needed to trigger steelhead movements into the stream. One day the river can be barren; the next day it might be loaded with fish.
Anglers can access the river via South Boundary Road. The river sees a fair amount of fishing pressure, but in the fall most Yoopers are off chasing deer and grouse. Dime-sized spawn bags made from fresh salmon eggs will interest the trout. The 'bows average 3 to 5 pounds, but are full of fight.
For more details on fall steelhead fishing on the Presque Isle River contact the Baraga MDNR office at (906) 353-6651.
Lake Michigammee Walleyes
Lake Michigammee is one of the U.P.'s premier walleye lakes. Located in west-central Marquette County, 4,360-acre Lake Michigammee is dark, tannic-stained with lots of rock and gravel - perfect walleye water.
Walleyes can be caught throughout the lake, but fall finds the 'eyes concentrated off the Peshekee River and near a cluster of islands in the center of the lake. A proven tactic for Michigammee's walleyes is to troll a gold/orange Rapala near the river mouth. 'eyes can also be caught using a jig and minnow or suspending a minnow under a slip bobber. A bonus for walleye anglers is the jumbo perch the lake is famous for. Foot-long yellow bellies are common and can help fill in the slow time between walleye bites.
Van Riper State is located on the east end of the lake near the mouth of the Peshekee River. The park features both rustic and modern camping facilities. For more information on camping availability contact Van Riper State Park at (906) 339-4461.
Fortune Lakes Bluegills
Not many anglers are going to travel to the U.P. to fish for bluegills in the fall. That's exactly why you'll probably have the entire Fortune Lake Chain all to yourself if you're willing to go there. Bewabic State Park on the shores of the lake will be pretty much devoid of campers.
The Fortune Lakes Chain is famous for producing big bluegills. Located just off US-2 near Crystal Falls, the lakes see a lot of fishing pressure in the summer months. But come fall the lakes are all but deserted. The lakes range in size from 200 to 20 acres and all contain big 'gills plus walleye and perch. Hedge your bet by drifting with a leech under a slip bobber and you're likely to catch just about anything. Fall bluegills can be found in the shallows in 5 to 10 feet of water and love teardrops baited with wax worms.
For more information on campgrounds hours and availability call Bewabic State Park at 1-800-447-2757. For bait shops, amenities and lodging in the area contact the Iron County Tourism Council at (906) 265-3822 or online at www.tryiron.org.
I know it's hard to convince yourself that fall isn't just for hunting. But sample some of Michigan's great fall fishing and you'll be glad you did.