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Michigan's fall hotspots for salmon and trout


Don't Miss Out On Some Great Fishing...



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August 01, 2008
While many think of hunting in the fall, autumn is also a great time to get in on some hot trout and salmon fishing. Pacific salmon species like coho, chinook and pink salmon begin converging on river mouths and pier heads in late summer prior to their spawning runs. Depending on the specie, salmon numbers peak sometime in early September through October.

Steelheads are hot on the heals of the salmon runs. Although steelheads are spring spawners, the over-grown rainbows take advantage of the glut of salmon eggs in the river to pig out in the fall. Usually, fall rains trigger runs of fall-run steelies. Lake-run brown trout are an added bonus. Browns are fall spawners too, and their numbers peak in October and November. Add to this lake trout, splake, Atlantic salmon and the odd coaster brook trout and you have all the makings of a fall salmonid cornucopia.

Following are a sampling of locations where you stand a great chance of tying into a variety of trout and salmon this fall.

St. Marys River

The St. Marys River near Sault Ste. Marie offers a fall salmonid smorgasbord not found anywhere else in Michigan. It begins with Atlantic salmon and offers a hodge podge of trout and salmon that are available right through the fall until it becomes too cold to fish.

"The Atlantics actually show up in May," said Lou Hank of Hank's Sporting Goods in Sault Ste. Marie. "They show up at Detour about 40 miles down river in May and then work their way upstream. Once they're in the river, they stay until late fall."

Pink salmon make an appearance in mid August. "When the pinks show up depends on weather," said Hank. "Usually there are good numbers of pinks in the river by early September." Hank said the pink salmon run in the St. Marys is not what it use to be. "Originally they ran every other year and then they started running every year," claimed Hank. "Now it seems like they're running every other year again and there's not nearly as many as there use to be." Pinks like pink lures, said Hank. "Pink Cleos, pink Swedish Pimples, pink spoons."

Hank said that a few cohos show up in the upper river and near the power plant on the St. Marys, but it's the kings that draw most of the attention in the fall. "There'll be kings in the river by mid August, but the peak is usually around the first of September." Hank said the peak coincides with a salmon derby held at the Sault each fall. "J-plugs are big for the kings," said Hank. Hank said that those that target kings under the cover of darkness prefer glow-in-the-dark Bombers. A hot technique is to run the body baits off a three-way swivel and a dropper so the lure rides just off the rocky bottom. Kings pushing 20 pounds are common and anglers often catch bonus walleyes.

Besides the usual potpourri of trout and salmon found in the St. Marys in the fall anglers occasionally catch lake trout, coaster brook trout and brown trout in the Rapids too. If variety gets your fishing blood pumping check out the St. Marys River this fall.




Don't be too quick to pull out that gun or bow this fall. If you do, you're going to miss out on some great trout and salmon fishing. Mike Gnatkowski photos
For more information on baits, maps and guides on the St. Marys contact Hank's Sport Shop in Sault Ste. Marie at (906) 632-8741. For more information on lodging and accommodation in the area contact the Sault Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 647-2858 or online at www.saultstemarie.com.

Marquette

While many Yoopers are getting their bow ready and training their favorite grouse dog, others are taking advantage of the great angling opportunities off Marquette in early fall.

"The trolling fishery between Marquette and Munising can be really hot in the fall," said Dan (who refused to give his last name for fear of repercussions from his fellow Yoopers) of the Gander Mountain fishing department in Marquette. "It's mostly cohos that are naturally reproduced in the area," he said, "but there are kings and trout and steelhead- a little bit of everything."

Our contact said that it's mainly a downrigger fishery. Baits include a hodge podge of flashers and flies, plugs and spoons. "Hot colors are purple, chartreuse and fire tiger colors in whatever lures you choose," he said. The fish can be found right on the beach out to 200 feet so cover all the bases and watch your graph. While downriggers are a mainstay, supplement your spread with divers and flat lines. Many fish are keying in on area streams like the Chocolay, Carp and Little Garlic. You don't have to go far to find fish. A known hangout is around White Rock at the tip of the Presque Isle peninsula. Other landmarks are the Sand Hole, Granite Island and Little Presque Isle Point. Fishing pressure will be moderate, but nothing like you'll find at more southerly ports.

For hot baits, maps and fishing information contact the Marquette Gander Mountain store at (906) 226-8300.

Green Bay

Most of the angler effort at Green Bay's Cedar River is for spring brown trout, splake and walleyes. But Northern Lake Michigan fisheries supervisor Mike Herman said you're missing a good bet if you forget about the areas outstanding late summer and fall salmon fishing. "Salmon fishing in the Michigan waters of Green Bay is a real bonus the most anglers don't take advantage of," said Herman.

Herman said that kings begin amassing in the bay around July 1 and as a thermocline develops up until early fall the fishing only gets better. "It's really no different than fishing at Ludington or anywhere else," said Herman, "except there are a lot fewer people." Herman said that finding baitfish is key. Usually, 100 feet is a good starting depth 3 to 4 miles offshore. The area around Whaleback Shoal and Chamber Island has excellent structure for holding summer kings. Herman said it's then just a matter of putting out your usual compliment of downriggers, divers and lead core and go on the hunt. The usual stuff that interests kings in other parts of Lake Michigan gets their attention in Green Bay too. Flashers and flies, plugs and spoons all take fish on any given day. Herman said the fishing remains good all the way to the Ford River and beyond.

There is an excellent boat launch facility right at the mouth of the Cedar River. For more information on amenities and accommodations in the Menominee contact the Marinette/Menominee Chamber of Commerce at www.mandmchamber.com or call (906) 863-2679.

Fairport

"Fairport is a sleeper for late summer and fall kings," claimed fisheries supervisor Mike Herman. Most anglers have no idea where Fairport even is. Fairport is located at the tip of the Garden Peninsula in Big Bay De Noc. The area is more famous for its walleye fishing, but schools of pre-spawn kings stage in the structure found off the peninsula.

"You don't have to go very far to find deep water off the Garden," explained Herman. "It's a tremendous small-boat fishery." Herman said schools of silvery kings stack into the 80 to 150 foot depths suspending near pods of bait found 50 to 100 feet down. "The beauty of fishing out of Fairport is that you can get to 100 feet of water a mile and a half out," offered Herman.

Like kings anywhere, structure is a big draw. "You'll find great structure around Summer, Poverty and Gull islands," claimed Herman. "Then it's just a matter of covering water until you find fish." Herman added that usually doesn't take too long. Many of the kings are fish headed for the Cedar and Ford rivers. Others are headed for other northern Lake Michigan streams.

Herman said that kings off Fairport are suckers for a variety of proven lures fished off downriggers, divers and lead core. Herman said that a full core trailing a plug or spoon was one of his deadliest combinations last year.

For information on bait shops, lake access and amenities contact the Delta County Tourism & Convention Bureau at (906) 786-2192 or online at www.deltami.org.

Rogers City

Even though the salmon fishing has been depressed on Lake Huron in recent years there's more than enough salmon returning to Swan Bay near Rogers City to make a trip there more than worth your while.

A good portion of the hundreds of thousands of Chinooks planted in Swan Creek home in on the area from late August through late September. Salmon first stage and feed near structure found one mile south of Adams Point. The reef there extends out about a half mile from shore and rises to within 15 feet of the surface. All around the structure is deep water that kings stage on prior to converging on Swan Bay. Flasher and fly combinations and plugs take limits of kings then.

Another hotspot is between Adams Point and Quarry Point across the structure found at the mouth of Swan Bay. Similar fishing can be found to the north off Forty Mile Point and P.H. Hoeft State Park. Deep water can be found within a mile or two of shore near Rogers City so the fishing is ideally suited to the anglers with a small boat. You can start in as little as 20 feet of water at first light and then work your way deeper very quickly.

Once the Chinooks enter the bay trolling in small boat and surfcasting excels. The salmon can be stacked like cordwood in the bay. Chucking glow-in-the-dark spoons and plugs can produce arm-wrenching strikes.

For information on bait shops, charters and accommodations in the area contact the Rogers City Chamber of Commerce at (800) 622-4148 or online at www.rogerscity.com.

Frankfort

Many Michigan sportsmen put away their boat and fishing tackle once October arrives. After a long summer of fishing many are eager for the hunting seasons to start. But if you put your big lake gear away too early you're missing out on some spectacular fishing. The port of Frankfort is a great place to take advantage of the late season bonanza.

Thousands of coho salmon converge on Platte Bay beginning in early September. The cohos are returning to their rearing site at the Platte River hatchery. In between, they amass off Point Betsie where sport fisherman do well enticing the silvers with an array of dodgers, flashers, flies and squids. Cohos have a penchant for hot colors, so it's no surprise that red and orange flashers and dodgers are favorites when cohos are the target. Black and blue flies seem to be good trailing lures.

The cohos round the corner sometime in September to school in Platte Bay before heading up the river. Anglers with small boats launch at the mouth of the Platte River at M-22 and work the structure found between East and West Platte Bays. Plugs seem to do a good job of drawing the ire of pre-spawn cohos then along with the flashers and flies. Some old timers swear by slow trolled Flatfish. The cohos will average 6 to 8 pounds, but 12 pounders are fairly common.

As the waters of Lake Michigan cool steelheads that have spent the summer in deep water begin inching closer to shore and into shallower water. Anglers who are brave enough to keep their boats in the water through October can cash in on some spectacular fall steelhead action. Indian summer days with warm temperatures and calm seas are best. 500 feet of water is not that far off shore at Frankfort. Look for temperature breaks, put out a spread of inline planers and divers and cover water until you make contact. When you do, you're likely to find lots of steelies up to 15 pounds and immature king salmon that can be caught on downriggers. Limits are very common when the stars align and anglers can get on the lake.

For more information on fall fishing opportunities at Frankfort contact the Frankfort Area Chamber of Commerce at (231) 352-7251 or online at www.frankfort-elberta.com.

Manistee

Oodles of kings that have spent the summer in Lake Michigan converge on the Big Manistee in September. The concentration of salmon draws plenty of anglers from surrounding states, but there's fish enough for everyone.

Once thought to be non-biting when on their spawning run, anglers have learned that spawning salmon do definitely bite and can be caught using several methods. A favorite technique is to anchor above a hole or run and let Flatfish or other wobbling plugs work in the current blocking the path of migrating salmon. The kings take exception to the roadblock and lambaste the plugs.

Another technique, called back bouncing, utilizes sizable chunks of salmon spawn anchored by a sinker or suspended below a bobber. The spawn is allowed to slowly work its way back through the hole or run. Salmon, even though they are non-feeding, pick up the spawn for whatever reason. The technique is deadly and accounts for many limits on the Big "M." Still others cast stickbaits, crankbaits or spinners for salmon holding close to cover. The salmon often chase and lash out at the pesky baits. Strikes are often at rod's length and up close and personal.

The salmon bite best in the lower reaches of the river. Anglers can gain access in Manistee and farther up river at Rainbow Bend and Bear Creek public accesses.

To sample the Manistee River's exceptional salmon fishing contact Gnat's Charters at (231) 845-8400 or online at www.gnatscharters.com.

Muskegon

The trolling fishery off Muskegon has slowly but surely gotten better and better the last few years. Part of that is because the Muskegon River is pumping out so many naturally reproduced fish. Imprinted to the Muskegon River, these salmon provide a very dependable fishery come September.

"The fishing in Muskegon Lake usually peaks right around Labor Day," said avid Muskegon angler Matt Schalk. "It can get downright crazy in Muskegon Lake when the fish first get in there." Schalk said exciter type plugs are needed to trip a Muskegon Lake king's trigger. "A number 4 or 5 green or chartreuse scaly J-plug has been pretty hard to beat the last couple of years," claimed Schalk. Flashing green glow and chrome/redhead J-plugs are close seconds. The plugs produce off downriggers and divers. Schalk claims it's key to keep the plug within 3 feet of bottom, which means having someone pay close attention to the back of the boat.

Salmon typically stage from the channel all the way to the Muskegon Yacht Club. Other hotspots include a hole in front of the paper mill and the Muskegon Clipper and off the conversation club. Jigging right off the opening to the channel is another option, but not for the faint of heart.

Once in the river, anglers do well on the fresh-run kings by anchoring and dropping back plugs and back bouncing with spawn. Good areas include Old Woman's Bend, Bridgeton, and Maple Island and near Mill Iron Drive.

For more information on Muskegon's brand of salmon fishing contact the Muskegon County Convention & Visitors Bureau at (231) 722-3751.

Don't be too quick to pull out that gun or bow this fall. If you do, you're going to miss out on some great trout and salmon fishing.

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Black Widow
Country Smoke House
09 - 24 - 17
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