Little Manistee River Fishing

Salmon fishing

Salmon at Little Manistee River Weir

The Little Manistee River is one of those storybook trout streams in Michigan. It is a smaller Northern Michigan stream that is shallow and gravelly, yet has the deep 6-8 foot holes at many bends. Walking along it’s banks or kayaking it’s you can feel complete seclusion. There are several stretches of river that you will only see a couple private cabins while the rest is Public Land with low lying cedar swamps.

The “Little Man” or “Little River” as known by most, is famed for it’s trout fishing and early king salmon runs. The Michigan DNR has a weir off Old Stronach Road. The weir is in place each spring to collect Steelhead eggs and each fall for Chinook and Coho eggs. The river is closed downstream of the weir to Manistee Lake from September 1st to November 14th and from January 1st to March 31st. I know that sounds like a lot of time, but like I mentioned before, early salmon run.

Depending on weather, most northwest Michigan salmon streams don’t flood with fish until October. But, the Little Man has a fishable king salmon population in early August most years. The nice thing, you don’t get the crowds like October. From August 15th to September 1st you usually can’t find a day when the weir doesn’t have fisherman traveling the legal 300 feet downstream, but there are several access points below the weir that hold salmon.

Upstream of the weir, there is very little fishing pressure. Most people see the weir and the huge stacks of salmon and just assume the fish aren’t upstream of the gates. You won’t be getting the fresh run fish that come at every rainy day, but there are fishable numbers that have swam upstream before August 15th.

The river is small compared to the standard river in northern Michigan and very clear. This makes stealth the most important fishing tool. The big salmon and trout are found in the numerous log jams that can be found at about every turn in the river. The key is patience and stealth. If you see the fish swimming, it most likely has already seen you. There are many big fish to be caught all summer long, but the salmon can be tricky to land with the many log jams I mentioned. When hooked, the large kings will immediately head for the cover, peeling line off your reel. If you’re skilled enough at the fight, you can pull in quite a fish for a small stream. Otherwise, rainbows, browns, and brookies can be found in the same holes.

Whether it’s combat fishing or privacy you’re looking for, The Little Manistee River has it. Kayaking, fishing, wading and swimming are all fun on this river. With its many access points and abundant public land with beaten paths along the banks, the first time visitor can definitely find fish.

If you have any comments on the Little Manistee River, leave them below or go to http://www.fishmich.com/counties/manistee-lakes/little-manistee-river.php and share your fishing knowledge.

Shiawassee River Fishing

Shiawassee River

When somebody from Shiawassee County says “let’s go fishing”, 9 out of 10 times they’re heading to the Shiawassee River. That could be because of the lack of choices in the area, but more likely, because of the great fishing this river provides. It’s better known to residents as “The Shi”. I grew up in the small farm town of Corunna right on The Shi. It is where I fished exclusively until about 14 years old and I still know of many self named holes like “the horseshoe” or “the pike hole”. There are several long stretches with treed banks that feel somewhat remote like from Shiatown to Vernon or Goodall Rd. to Lytle Rd. or several stretches where the river flows through towns.

Now it’s not the cleanest river by any means, but most residents can tell you one time or another that they swam in it as a kid. I can also tell you stories of digging up green worms along it’s banks. With all that said, it’s not a river for somebody looking for a meal, but if you’re looking for an action packed fishing adventure, this river is for you. It’s not really well known around the state, but any local will claim it’s the best river they’ve ever fished. I recently talked to Captain Chris Noffsinger of Northern Adventures Fishing, www.northernadventuresfishing.com, who has gained notoriety as a great smallmouth bass guide and tournament angler. Chris said he started off fishing the Shiawassee as a kid and commented on the great smallmouth bass fishery it provides.

From catching big carp on a hook and night crawler to a nice pike on a Rat L Trap to a fighting smallmouth on a tube jig or spinner, this river has it all. It’s not uncommon to take a 2 hour float trip and hook into 20+ fish. It is easily accessed in many places by shore or easily floated in a canoe or row boat. The most common fish species targeted are Smallmouth Bass, Pike, Carp, Suckers, Panfish, Catfish, Largemouth Bass  and walleye. There are many parks and dams that allow fishing including Shiatown, downtown Vernon, downtown Corunna and several in downtown Owosso.

The best part is, The Shi just keeps getting better. With several dam removals the spring walleye run continues farther and farther upstream. The river has been getting cleaner over the years and with better management will continue to clean up.

If you have fished this river in the past, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t yet, give it a try next time you’re in the area. Check out www.fishmich.com/counties/shiawassee-lakes/shiawassee-river.php for more information on Shiawassee River Fishing or leave a comment there to help out new fisherman visiting the river.

Fishing, Fire and Seclusion

Every summer Michigan residents pack their vehicle to the gills and head to their favorite campground. Some, in their deluxe R.V. equipped with satellite television and air conditioning and others in ginormous tents the size of their master bedroom with king size air mattresses. Most campers, I’ve noticed, have everything possible to make the woods as much like their homes and to keep themselves as clean as they can. I’ve camped every summer for as long as I can remember and in just about every situation. I have no problems with anyone’s idea of camping, but would like to remind people of the traditional sense of camping.

Life in today’s world has become so fast. With cell phones ringing constantly, internet everywhere we look and the kids glued to the television, a camping trip is the last place I want technology. Most people go camping in an area with a lot of attractions. I go camping to be outside and get the family back to nature. We all need to slow down once in a while and be reminded of the peacefulness of the outdoors. You can sit by a campfire for hours doing nothing without getting bored like while watching T.V. or playing video games.

Here’s my family’s idea of a great camping trip.

First and foremost is location, location, location. If you can’t see another person, there is no electricity or running water and staying there is absolutely free, you’ve got a great camping site. The only thing that would make me sacrifice any one of those features is water. It doesn’t have to be great water frontage, but it does need to be close. Whether it’s a trout stream, a sandy beach or a frog pond, water can keep anybody occupied for hours and hours.

Next is camping equipment or lack there of. With a propane camping grill and a cast iron skillet supplemented with a good camp fire, you can cook practically anything. We take one cooler filled with enough food to last two days unless it’s more remote. Then we add another cooler with dry ice for a deep freeze. We sleep in a tent on the ground with blankets, but I truly miss a sleeping bag next to the fire. That’s how I grew up camping with my dad. If it started to rain, I would get the truck cab and he would sleep underneath the truck. Just make sure you’re parked at the top of a hill.

That’s it food and shelter and the all important fishing gear. Our fishing gear will typically take up more room than the rest of the gear. This type of camping isn’t for everyone, but we are out there to get away from life and show our kids the true beauty Michigan has to offer. At 6 and 4 years old they have caught 100’s of frogs, turtles, lizards and snakes while camping and now have began asking if we can sell our house and live in the woods. When my kids ask if they can be homeless, it makes me proud. To me, camping in the woods is a great type of homelessness.

Thanks for reading and be sure to leave us a comment or check out www.FishMich.com for more Michigan Fishing information

Slamming Spring Walleyes

walleye

Walleye Fishing

Walleye can be an elusive fish many times of year, but spring time is definitely the easiest time to catch trophies. Many people flock to Michigan rivers as walleye enter to spawn for that chance at a big female. But, what about those walleye filled lakes that don’t connect to rivers. That’s one place that doesn’t get as much pressure.

As water temperature reaches 40 degrees walleye move to the shallows just like many other species. They typically spawn in 1-3 feet of water in sandy or gravelly areas of the lake. Submerged islands and feeder creeks are hot spots this time of year, but so are sandy beaches. During the warmth of daytime the large females typically head to deeper water and then return to beds at night, but the smaller males tend to stay in the shallows all day. Like bass, walleye will protect their beds aggressively and attack anything that comes close. After done spawning, they move to deep water and rest for about a week. Next is feeding time. Post spawn walleyes will move back to the shallows and feed constantly to replenish their lost energy.

Knowing all this will help come up with a plan to catch these tasty fish. I prefer to leave the boat at home this time of year. The docks typically aren’t in yet and you’re going to be fishing close to shore anyways. I’ve done well at public beaches that are shallow  and then have a sudden drop off to deep water. On the right day fish can be caught all day long, but the bigger ones are easiest at night. Put on your waders and head out, casting back towards shore. Spring time walleyes will hit a lot of bright colors. Try jigs with twister tails in many colors or live minnows or night crawlers. Small crank baits also work, but they have to be shallow divers. Whichever presentation you chose, make sure it is fished slowly. The fish are active this time of year, but the water is still cold, which slows down the fish.

This is a great time of year for Michigan Fishing. There are many fish available and choosing which to target can be hard, but I recommend you give Spring Walleyes a shot.

If you’re interested in spring walleyes leave us a comment below and get on www.FishMich.com for reports and tips in our Fishing Forum

 

Spinning Reel Vs. Baitcaster

Reels

Baitcaster vs Spinning Reel

The two most popular fishing reels are the Spinning and the Bait caster. A lot of fisherman learn on the spinning reel first and never try a bait caster. Everybody can identify the two by looking at them, but we’ll talk about the differences while fishing.

Spinning reels are easy to use and don’t take very much practice for beginners. The spool spins while being reeled and stays still while casting. Basically the line comes off the reel in hoops and when the lure hits the water, the line stops. One of the problems with these hoops is line rubs on the eyes of your pole and slows it down. Another is memory. Those hoops can remain after casting which leaves slack in the line. It allows casting into the wind and is very forgiving with tangles. The spool itself is larger than a bait caster which allows for more line. The bigger spool and more line creates a faster retrieval speed. Gears play a big part of this, but the spool size and amount of line is usually overlooked.

Bait casters function completely different. When casting, the spool actually spins releasing the fishing line in a straight line. This helps the line go evenly through the eyes of the pole. The line will release as fast as the weight on the end will pull it. This means a large weight can be thrown very far with little resistance. The problem is stopping that spool from turning. As anybody that has used a bait caster knows, when your lure hits the water or any other object the spool keeps turning and the line binds up. This is called a bird’s nest and can be very irritating. A lot of anglers become discouraged with it and stop using them completely, but learning the reel’s braking system is key to casting.

Now for the advantages and disadvantages of both. Bait casters are superior for pulling big fish out of thick cover. Spinning reels are better for light tackle and sensitivity. They are more accurate for long casts, but bait casters are more accurate in short flipping situations. Getting precise casts in heavy cover or under obstructions the bait caster wins. They also win for long casts with baits over 1/4 ounce. Newer spinning reels with one finger trigger systems have made them the easiest and most popular for all around fishing, but the newer braking systems on bait casters have helped anglers add them to their fishing arsenal. Whichever one you prefer, adding the other technique can help catch more fish in certain situations. I suggest practicing with both on land first and stick with it.

For more advice on fishing reels check out our forum at www.FishMich.com

Choosing The Best Fishing Line

fishing line

fishing tips and techniques

Fishing line is one of the most important tools for fishing any species, but unfortunately the most overlooked. You can see the importance in how many choices are on the shelf at your local bait shop. Companies are putting a lot of money these days into developing new and better lines and marketing all of the benefits to the angler.

When I was a younger fisherman, I went to the store and bought the cheapest line in whatever size I thought I needed to catch the fish I was targeting. Then one late night crammed into a dirty hotel room with 5 other fishing buddies, we tested all of our different lines. We took the end of the line and tied it to a fish scale. Whoever’s line made it to the highest weight before breaking (in the middle, not at the knot), won ten bucks. They were all close in the test strength, but none actually came close to the right amount. My cheap 12 lb. test monofilament broke at about 3 lbs. of steady pulling. After that weekend I decided to look into my fishing line a little more.

You should consider a lot more than just strength when choosing a new fishing line. Abrasion resisting, Stretch, Knot Strength, Weight, Visibility, and of course Price all play a role in choice. And, no fishing line is the best choice for all conditions, locations or species. Having said that, I will point out a few characteristics of the most common three fishing lines available, without naming brand names.

Monofilament Fishing Line

This is the most common line used by fisherman. It accounts for 2/3 of all fishing lines sold, but that is probably because of cost. It can be much cheaper than any other choice. It is also a very light line which makes it a great choice for top water presentations. That is about all I can say that is good about mono. It absorbs water, which loosens knots and reduces sensitivity. It stretches quite a bit. Just snag a tree or rock with it and pull. You’ll see how far you can pull your pole before it actually snaps. Mono also starts to degrade and become brittle when left in the sun. You should replace it often. After talking bad about it, I still use it. I spool all my reels with mono first and then tie on a different choice for about the last 50 yards. This saves money and helps keep other lines tight to the reel with no slippage. Like everything in life, remember that the cheap monofilament lines are far worse than the more expensive.

Braided Fishing Line

In the old days, this was the only thing available and they were highly abrasive and had low knot strength. Nowadays, Superlines or Microfilaments have progressed braids into a much more user friendly and popular option. The smaller diameter compared to other types makes it less visable and allows more line on the reel. It also has very little stretch, which gives the angler high sensitivity and more hook ups. It’s weight allows lures to dive quicker and deeper and provides longer casts. The biggest problem with Braid is a palomar knot is required. It’s not that big of a deal to some, but the novice angler can get discouraged by this. It also is highly abrasive. You will notice the frays in your line if fishing in thick cover or rocky rivers. Today’s Braided fishing lines have come a long way and will continue to improve. It is a very good one to pair with mono because of price and slippage on a reel.

Fluorocarbon Fishing Line

Fluorocarbon is typically the most expensive of the three, but does have some great advantages. Number one is being nearly invisible. No matter the thickness fluorocarbon is much less visible than the same weight line of other types. It doesn’t deteriorate in the sun or with other chemicals and is very resistant to abrasions. It stretches less than mono, but a little more than braids. It does sink in water so it helps getting baits down quickly, but also can become stiff.

All these lines have advantages and disadvantages. After experimenting with many lines, you will find that you catch more fish with certain ones in certain situations. I’ve actually spooled all three on a reel at once. Mono first to add bulk to the reel, then braid for strength and sensitivity, then a fluorocarbon leader for really clear water. I typically only use fluorocarbon for leader because of my cheapness, but really like using braids for sensitivity. I’ve stood next to a friend fishing mono for bass while I had a superline spooled. He never even felt a bite while I reeled in fish after fish. He was using one of my poles though. (sucker)

Leave any comments on fishing line below. Let us know what you prefer. And as always, check out www.FishMich.com for local reports and conditions.

 

 

Spawning Bass-Michigan’s Forbidden Fish

Bass Fishing the spawn

Bass Fishing the spawn

For Michigan bass fishermen, spring time is unfair. Michigan is one of the best and most popular bass fishing destinations. Yet, it is one of the few states that doesn’t allow bass fishing during the spawn. All spring I watch videos and read fishing articles about the excitement of sight fishing monster bass on their beds and wonder why I can’t take part.

During spring, as the water temps reach 45 degrees, bass move into shallow structure preparing for the spawn. When temps reach 55 degrees they start making their beds. Bass spawning beds are typically 1-3 feet in diameter, in 1-5 feet of water and typically within 10 feet of shore. For a fish that is usually in heavy cover, this is a time when fisherman can troll or walk shoreline and locate them. But, as many anglers know, locating a bass and catching one are totally different stories. Bass are typically more actively feeding during pre and post spawn and don’t eat much while on their beds. Smaller males will be very aggressive, but the larger fish don’t strike. If a bedded fish is nervous enough about your presentation, they will suck it in and spit it out away from the bed. This is where the sight fishing comes in handy. Watch the bass and learn where you need to drag your soft plastic creature bait across the bed. If the bass feels the nest is threatened she will move the bait away. Set the hook!

So why can’t we fish during these times?

I don’t really know. Some believe catching bass during spawning will prevent it. Many studies across the nation have proven this isn’t true. Some fish have been collected from beds, driven 400 miles and transplanted and they still successfully spawned. If a bass is caught and released unharmed (which surveys show 92% of bass are), they will return to their original bed and spawn. Others say it will lower fish populations or populations of large fish. Again, this is easily disproved in the southern states where huge bass are produced year after year during the spawn.

Just one more point. How can we be worried about the population of a fish that is very rarely stocked in Michigan lakes. We stock almost every type of fish in our waters, yet the most fished species doesn’t require it. I think that alone explains what a strong and resilient species the bass is.

Michigan has changed their rules recently to have a catch-and-immediate release season starting April 27th in the Lower Peninsula and May 15th in the Upper, finally. It is a step in the right direction, but why not all year. Many fisherman are out fishing rivers and open water lakes before this. In 2012, with the early thaw, the DNR posted a newsletter warning people that they could not target bass. They had reported seeing a lot of anglers out targeting bass because of the warm weather. I say, with all this proof, Why not leave the possession season alone and have catch and release the rest of the year. Come on Michigan. Everyone else is doing it!

If you have any comments on Bass Fishing during the spawn, please leave them below. And as always check out the forums at www.FishMich.com for local fishing reports.

Michigan Spring Steelhead Fishing

The Spring season in Michigan should be renamed Steelhead Season. It is a large boost to the fishing economy in an otherwise slow time. With inland lake ice becoming unsafe and pike, bass, and walleye out of season on inland lakes and rivers, anglers flock to the rivers for a chance at catching monster chrome steelies.

Growing up in Mid-Michigan, fishing rivers that are blocked from the Great Lakes by numerous dams, I had no clue Steelhead even existed. But, during my first year living in Kalamazoo for college, I began hearing stories from other fisherman. That spring, my roommate and I loaded the poles, grabbed a map and headed west on roads following the K-zoo river. At about the fourth bridge we came to, we pulled off and took a look. On our way to the river we came across a garbage bag full of huge fish with the fillets removed. After complaining about the laziness and lack of decency in people, we decided this was the best place to catch fish.

We headed down with our 6 ft. rods and tied on a #5 Mepps-Aglia, having no idea if it would work. Every other cast we would snag a rock and lose another lure, but then one of the snags started flying through the air doing gymnastics. It was such a short fight, but the most exciting I had ever felt. We ended up hooking into 10 Steelies that day, but landed none. Disappointment didn’t even exist in my mind. I knew I loved Steelhead fishing and wanted to learn everything I could about it.

Some say smallmouth bass are pound for pound the best fighting fish, and I agree, but a nice chrome Steelhead takes a close second and has 3 times the poundage. Combine that excitement, size and great taste and it’s going to draw quite a crowd of fisherman. It’s not that complicated either. Like other species, combine the correct rig, with the correct presentation in the correct place and FISH ON. Knowing the holes, I believe, is the number one key to Steelhead fishing. If you are in the right place and know the depth of that hole, you have a good chance of catching fish. Alternatively, if you have the right bait/rig and you’re not at the right depth or correct spot on the river, you don’t have a chance.

So, let’s start with the right spot on the river. Steelhead enter the rivers to spawn and then return to the big lake. Some enter all winter and hang out until early spring to spawn, but others come in early spring and spawn right away. The winter run steelies usually hang out in deep holes or log jams until spring and always near the bottom. When they do spawn it is in a gravelly bottom, usually a riffle above a pool.

Steelhead typically eat flies, plankton and minnows. Closer to spawning times they are less likely to eat minnows, but they are an aggressive fish and very territorial. They also eat spawn. It’s kind of a survival of the fittest. This gives their own eggs a better chance at survival.

Knowing all this we can now start to put together some fishing techniques. First are lures. I enjoy this fishing the most, but wouldn’t say it is the most productive for me. Spoons, In-Line Spinners and Plugs are the most common. Cast upstream and reel it in as it comes back to you. I usually reel just fast enough to feel it’s action. Steelies are found near bottom so try to keep your lure near bottom.

Steelhead Lures

Cleos, Rapalas, Mepps, Egg Pattern Flies

Next is floating bait down river. This can be done with a bobber/float set to the correct depth or bottom bounced. A typical setup would be to first put a bobber stop on your main line. I usually use 10 lb. test for my main line. Then put a bead and a slip bobber and tie a swivel on the end. On the other end of the swivel tie about a 4′ leader of 6 lb. test. (length of leader depends on speed and depth of river) Now for some weight. There are many variations of this, but the most common I’ve seen is spit shot. Pinch as many as needed to get 4″-12″ off bottom and spread them out. On the end you can tie on your favorite bait. A hook with spawn bags, jig with wax worms, or a fly are all good baits. Cast this presentation up river and let the current drag it downstream. The most important part of fishing this rig is to keep the slack out of your line and keep a natural float.

Steelhead Float Rig

Adjust bobber stop to depth of hole and add split shot for current speed.

These are the simplest ways to catch spring ran Steelhead. My son caught one at 4 years old on a Little Cleo. It does take practice and patience, but once you catch one it will all be worth it.

If you have any other suggestions or methods for catching Steelhead, leave us a comment below and as always jump on www.fishmich.com and check out our forums for fishing reports near you.

 

 

Michigan Fishing Fever

Michigan Fishing

Late Winter Ice

Michigan in late march can feel like Chinese water torture to anglers. Northern Michigan wakes up to a couple more inches of snow each morning and lower Michigan looks bare and frozen. All  winter, cabin fever can be cured by ice fishing the numerous in-land lakes, but come March 15th walleye and pike season ends, the ice is getting water logged and steelies are spotty at best.

It’s this time of year that I start itching to get on an open lake and pitch a worm into vegetation for a big bass or pull the planer boards alongside the boat trolling for walleyes. We all go through it at some point..

The most common way to avoid fishing depression is to start going through your gear. Get the tackle box all cleaned and sorted out. Check all your poles for imperfections. Oil your reels and tune crank baits. I like to start reading spring fishing articles, watching videos on youtube and checking out maps of lakes to plan summer fishing trips. Kind of like making a wish list of lakes that I want to fish this year.

The problem is, I already have all of this preparation done. I did all of this around Christmas when the lakes were just starting to freeze. I’ve been sporadically fishing for winter steelhead, so those rigs are all set to go. So I guess I’ll sit here and be tortured by every new snow flake that falls and keep wishing for that huge spring melt off.

Next blog we’ll be talking Steelhead Fishing in Northern Michigan so stayed tuned to Michigan Fishing Talk.

Thanks for reading if you have any comments please feel free to leave them below or check out FishMich forum to read member fishing reports.

 

Finding time to go fishing

Not too long ago, I gave myself a swift kick in the ass. I just wasn’t fishing as much as I wanted to be. There are many indicators in my life that tell me to get out to the water. Spring time when the air is becoming warm, but there’s still a skim of ice on the lake or summer when the cool nights of northern Michigan just beg you to go drift the lake.

plenty more fish

How To Catch Fish

Fall when you’ve been on the pier every night just waiting for the water to cool off enough for the salmon run or even winter when you drill your first hole to test the ice thickness. Every season I love to fish and some years I just don’t think I have enough time. I  sit around thinking about it, but never go. Then I decided to just make time.

The easiest way to make time is to wake up earlier in the morning, stay up later at night or both. Everyone knows you catch more fish at these times, so even if you can’t stay out very long there is a high chance of catching fish. I found a couple spots close to home and will get up early, go fish for two hours and be back home before anybody else in the house is up. Or I will go after the kids are in bed at night. These aren’t the best fishing holes, but I can manage a couple smaller fish.

Another great way is to always have your poles and tackle in your vehicle. If I have to put something in the bed of my truck, the first thing is to move my poles to the front of my truck. You’d be surprised at the number of new spots you’ll find this way. Got fifteen minutes left on your lunch break, fish the river in town. We can be just heading home from a kids’ sporting event and stop off at a river or boat dock and take them fishing for an hour, but you wouldn’t even think it without the poles in the truck.

My other method is the swift kick in the ass I mentioned earlier. Sometimes I will get in a groove where I just don’t go because either I haven’t been catching a lot, or the weather has been kind of bad. I used to think that I didn’t know any good spots near home so it had to be some big event to go fishing.That’s when I remembered my old man’s saying, “You ain’t gonna catch any fish sitting at home.” This is the simplest, most obvious saying, but it’s also a fisherman’s way of thinking. There is always a chance of catching fish if your line is in the water and if it’s not, there is no chance at all.

Sure you can go on that fly-in trip to a remote lake or hire a charter on Lake Michigan, but in between trips get out and find some quick spots near home. I have a better day if I’ve fished in the morning or if I wake up tired because I was out late.

Feel free to leave a comment on more ways to get out fishing.