A Pure Michigan Spring Fishing Preview

Today, Elyse Walter from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources previews the spring fishing season ahead in Pure Michigan.

It’s been a long, hard winter this year – there’s no denying that! But in just a few short weeks we’ll hopefully start to see glimpses of spring. As the snow and ice start to melt, many anglers will be readying their boats, rods and tackle as they itch to get out on the water. Here’s what they’ll be looking for this coming April and May.

Panfish (Bluegill/Crappie/Yellow Perch)
Inland lakes will provide ideal locations to target these species. For lakes that have a darker stained color (from dissolved organic material) they’ll warm up quicker and see earlier fish feeding activity. When on these waters anglers should pay attention to areas of the lake where the sun is beating the most as these areas will warm more quickly. At this time of year fish will gravitate to these warmer areas.

Muskellunge/Northern Pike/Walleye
These predatory species can’t be fished until the season opens on Saturday, April 26. Both muskie and pike can be tough to catch when temperatures are very cool, anglers should use smaller baits and fish with a slower retrieve until things warm up.

Photo by Celeste Thompson near Grand Haven, MI

Photo by Celeste Thompson near Grand Haven, MI

For predatory fish, pay close attention to drop offs in inland lakes. Often times these species will hang out in deeper water and come in to feed on the bait fish swimming in shallower areas.

Anglers will flock to the Detroit River starting in mid-April to target walleye. They’ll make a run through this body of water as they head upstream from Lake Erie looking for a place to spawn. Lake Erie walleye will travel throughout the Lake St. Clair and St. Clair River system with some traveling as far as Saginaw Bay.

Trout/Salmon
In April, steelhead will start to move through the lower tributaries of Lake Michigan. Visit any pier (such as the St. Joseph River) and you’ll have a good chance of landing one of these popular sport fish!

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Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Coho salmon will be one of the first to arrive on the scene as the temperatures warm up as well. Anglers will often troll near shore or high in the water column off shore to find these salmon.

Keep in mind the excessive snow and ice experienced this year could cause high or cloudy water in many parts of the state this spring – particularly if the thaw comes fast. Stream fishing is not very productive when flows are fast, water levels are high and waters are cloudy.

Don’t forget to purchase your license before you head out! The 2014 Michigan Fishing License went on sale March 1, 2014. You can buy your 2014 Fishing License here.

Don’t miss your chance to experience the endless spring fishing opportunities in Michigan.

The next Free Fishing Weekend is June 7th-8th! Start planning your next fishing trip at www.michigan.gov/fishing  or visit michigan.org for mor information.

Do you plan to do some fishing in Michigan this spring? Where are you headed? 

Elyse-Walter-150x150Elyse Walter is a communication specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. She specifically works with the DNR’s Fisheries Division to help educate and promote the state’s fishing opportunities and aquatic resources.

Take to Michigan’s Lakes and Rivers this Summer

Fishing is a popular sport in Michigan year-round, especially in the spring and summer when the warmer weather makes it the perfect time to spend your days out on the water. And with Michigan’s annual Summer Free Fishing Weekend happening this weekend, June 8-9, there’s no better time to experience fishing in Pure Michigan.

For those heading out for the first time or if you’re just looking for tips on reeling in the best catch, we spoke with Captain Denny from Fish N’Grin Charter Service for his insight. Read from him below and learn more in the following video on fishing in Michigan from the Pure Michigan Summer Video Series.

Variables and information

Sky color, water color, surface temperature, thermocline, wave height, wind direction, current, time of season, time of day, moon phase and type of fish available are all variables that impact your ability to catch fish on any given day.

Besides the usual sources of information from local tackle shops, news media or someone that has been out recently, today’s technology can provide real time, useful information. Web sites such as GLOS, NOAA and Coastwatch can provide real time information on offshore temperature breaks, surface temperature, water column temperature, currents, wave height, wind and speed direction. Keep these sites in your favorites, learn how to use them and keep records for future reference.

You will never control all the variables, but sound information can make most of them work for you.

Troll angle and speed

Troll angle and speed may be the two most important things to pay attention to. I believe it’s more important than bait or gear selection.

A GPS and a downrigger speed and temp probe are a must. Changing troll angle (boats heading) by as little as 5 or 10 degrees may make all the difference in the world in your hook up rate.

A speed of about 2.5 to 2.8 MPH is a good starting reference using a variety of baits and gear, and pay attention to speed when you get a strike.

Also, try to match your GPS speed with the speed indicated at the cannon ball and see that all you lines run straight behind the boat. GPS speed is important in that you want to cover as much ground as possible in the shortest period of time.

Monkey see, monkey do

Ever go out early in the morning and see a group of boats all trolling a congested area? You may think that must be where the fish are. They may be or they might not.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Imagine that the first couple boats go out and set up, and then several other boats coming out see them, soon everyone is fishing in a pack for no other reason than “this must be where they are”.

You can do just as well, and often times better, by avoiding the pack and trolling a path that no one has cut yet, with a lot less aggravation.

The first bite

Chinook salmon are notoriously veracious feeders just as the sun comes up, while running out look for suspended bait or bait near the bottom.

Set your gear just outside and slightly above the bait and troll along that edge, then prepare your crew for the upcoming frenzy.

Bites off!

Or is it? On a clear morning the bite slows or stops entirely, usually around 8 or 9 a.m.

This is a critical decision time. Do you stay where you had your bites, move in or head out?

If you time your out troll as the fish begin to move offshore you can stay right with them and continue to get bites.

Don’t leave fish to go fish

An old cliché, but it’s still true.

You are catching fish, you see them on your fishfinder, but your buddy is doing better (so he says) or you hear that other boats are doing well at a different location.

Moving away from your fish seldom works; you cannot be certain of what the other boats may be using or even if the information is accurate, their fish may turn off by the time you arrive.

Meat rigs

Using live bait or cut herring strips is not a new concept. It has gained wide popularity on the Great Lakes in recent years – and for good reason, it will catch fish when nothing else seems to work and usually catches bigger ones.

A variety of meat rigs are now commercially available, along with frozen herring. A sturdy roller guide rod, a line counter reel filled with braided wire and a magnum dipsy diver are essential. I use an 8 inch paddle ahead of the meat rig because it seems more speed friendly. Chose UV colors on both rig and paddle, set the diver at 1 for a two to one depth ratio. For example, if desired depth for your bait is 100 feet, let out 200 feet of wire.

Captain Denny Grinold is a Michigan native and accomplished fisherman who currently owns Denny’s Auto Diagnosis and Fish ‘N’ Grin Charter Service in Lansing, Michigan. Grinold is a United States Coast Guard Licensed 100 Ton Master Operator on all U.S. Waters, USPS Advanced Pilot, United States Advisor to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, chosen as Outdoor Life’s “Top 20 anglers on the Planet” and most recently was the recipient of the Michigan Steelhead Salmon & Fishermen’s Association’s annual Howard A. Tanner Award for dedication and contribution to Michigan’s sport fishery industry.

Are you heading out for Free Fishing Weekend? Share with us below and learn more at michigan.org.

Looking for a “reel” good time in Michigan this winter? Try going fishing!

Love fishing but never thought to do it in the winter? Elyse Walter of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources tells us why winter could be the perfect time to explore fishing in Michigan. Read her thoughts below and let us know in the comments section where you like to go ice fishing in Michigan.

For more on Michigan’s fisheries, visit michigan.org or the Pure Michigan Fishing tab on Facebook.

Michigan’s world-class fisheries are known throughout the country, if not the world, with many anglers pursuing them throughout the year. These fisheries are even on proud display during the state’s legendary winter months – a time of year many anglers proclaim to be the best time to go fishing.

If you’re new to ice fishing, don’t be intimated by the idea of heading out in the cold! The DNR has lots of information online to educate you about the kind of equipment you’ll need and the various safety precautions you’ll need to take.

If you already go ice fishing each winter, consider taking on a new challenge by targeting a different fish. Popular winter species include bluegill, crappie, smelt, walleyes and yellow perch (among others).

Learn about these fishes and gain some tips on how to catch them in the winter by checking out the “Michigan Fishes and How to Catch Them” section of the DNR’s website.

Still not convinced winter is a great time to head outdoors to go fishing? What if you didn’t have to purchase a Michigan fishing license to test the waters?

That’s the case this February as the 2013 Winter Free Fishing Weekend arrives Saturday, 16 and Sunday, February 17. During those two days anyone – residents and non-residents alike – can fish all waters without purchasing a license, although all regulations do still apply.

The DNR coordinates the Winter Free Fishing Weekend each year (and has since 1994) as an opportunity to showcase the great angling opportunities available in Michigan, but alleviating some of the financial investment needed to get involved. It’s the perfect time to discover the state’s winter water wonderland.

Consider exploring the wealth of fishing opportunities Michigan offers this winter. Start planning your next fishing trip at www.michigan.gov/fishing!

Elyse Walter is a communication specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. She specifically works with the DNR’s Fisheries Division to help educate and promote the state’s fishing opportunities and aquatic resources.