From summer to fall in 10 seconds—that’s what it felt like when it went from sunny and ninety-plus degree heat over the Labor Day weekend to barely making the low 60’s the day after with rain. That can only mean one thing, though… The catching will improve as the waters cool.
Before delving into the NW Lower Michigan report, I’ll tell you of my trip to Munising, Michigan, in da Central Upper Peninsula, over the Labor Day weekend.
We hit nearby AuTrain Lake a couple times over the weekend and caught an array of fish. Only four walleye were landed with one keeper in the bunch, caught by my dear wife, Carol (see photo). All the walleye came on a 1/4-ounce jig/4-inch rubber worn combo fished in 8 to 14 feet of water. The walleye bite might have been better had it not been dead-calm and blue-bird, high skies.
As for northern pike, you couldn’t have kept them off a spinnerbait or metallic-colored crankbait if you tried. Half of the 30-or-so pike we caught were in the keeper size range. One smallmouth bass of about 3-1/2 pounds also came on a crankbait.
My bud and I did hit Munising Bay for salmon and trout one evening. We landed one under-size lake trout while trolling a Rapala Deep Tail Dancer behind 5 colors of lead core in 60 feet of water. We also marked a few fish up high at dusk, which I would guess to be salmon, but never had a hit from them. I ran spoons behind small diver disks for salmon but to no avail. That fishery will heat up, soon.
As for NW Lower, the salmon fishing here has been real hit and miss.
Just last night a bud and I cast spoons in Lake Michigan off the Elberta pier. The fishing was slow, to say the least. An east wind blew and rain fell in the leftover Hurricane Gustav system. There were a couple salmon caught in the late afternoon by anglers using live alewife (I personally saw these fish) but nothing in the evening - by anybody. I watched what few boats were trolling in the harbor and out front of the pier heads, intently, and saw no fish hooked. It seems the majority of the pod of fish that were hanging here the past couple weeks either went up the Betsie River (saw many fish rolling downstream of the M-22 Bridge between Elberta and Frankfort) or out in the abyss of Lake Michigan with the colder water. As always, though, this scenario will change with the weather and will, more than likely, improve.
On a side note: The salmon weir is in on the Boardman River, downtown Traverse City. And as of September 1, there is NO FISHING below the Union Street Bridge down to the mouth. Fishing is allowed from the Union Street Bridge to a point 300 feet below the weir. The lower Boardman River will open back up on November 1.
As for East and West Grand Traverse Bays, there’s plenty of fish to be had. As par normal in the bays, the average catch is 3 to 5 salmon. Most fish are coming on plugs. Just this morning (Friday, September 5), for example, Captain John VanDusen of Reel Fun Fishing Charters on West Bay landed 3 nice kings, all on plugs.
As for the bass and walleye scene, the catch has been the same to what it was all summer.
South Lake Leelanau has been the best place to catch numbers of walleye, with up-to 30 fish per day not uncommon. The sizes of the walleye, however, are small and you need to catch that many to squeak out a 3 to 4 keeper-size fish day. Long Lake’s been producing fish, too, and there are plenty of under-size fish being caught here. In both lakes, this under-size fish thing is a good thing as this means there’s been plenty of natural reproduction going on.
The smallmouth bass fishing’s been good as well. The Grand Traverse Bays have been seeing more salmon anglers than bass anglers as of late, meaning there’s more than enough room for you bass anglers here.
Crayfish have been the main forage so brown or green tube and natural-colored crankbaits worked along weed bed edges have been producing the best. Any rock structure in nearby Crystal Lake has been good with the aforementioned lures, too.
Well, that’s about it for now.
As always: BE SAFE ON THE WATER! And take the time to take someone fishing this fall.
Dave ~ WildFishing