The Boatless Fisherman

The Boatless Fisherman has more options than ever to find fishing spots in Michigan. From trout fishing streams to bass fishing a big lake, the opportunities across the state are endless. First off, kayaks, canoes, floating tubes and even small john boats are becoming so inexpensive and made out of plastic that they are hard to pass up. Besides buying a new or used rig, many places offer day rentals to get on the water.

If you still don’t want or feel the need for a boat, the access points keep growing. With Google street maps and satellite imagery it is easy to find a place to access bodies of water. For rivers I usually just pick the area closest to my home and then start tracking the river closely. Look for public lands or bridges. You should also pay attention to the water contours. Follow the curves and watch the vegetation on the shoreline. In many rivers you can actually tell the difference between riffles, deep pools or sand bars right from Google Maps. I typically will find an area of river that looks like it has potential, then start tracking it both ways until I find the closest access. From that point you have to decide if it’s close enough to wade or if you would prefer some floating craft to get there.

Lakes present a different problem. During the spring many fish come into the shallows near shore to spawn on beds. This is the best time for shore fisherman. Almost any access from fishing docks, boat ramps, parks or beaches can be utilized to catch big bass, walleye, pike and bluegills. Again, I will search Google Maps Imagery to first look for public land around the lake. Next, start looking for shallow areas that are typical in spawning grounds. I have found the spring time to produce the most fish from shore. Other times of year it really depends on the lake. You have to be creative and be ready and willing to get wet. One of the best lakes I’ve fished from shore was one that was completely private. I actually got permission to enter through shared beach access. From there I discovered that I could wade through chest deep water carrying my gear above my head until I hit an island. On the back side of the island was some of the best bass and pike fishing I’ve ever found from shore.

Shore fishing can be just as much fun and productive as from a boat, as long as you spend as much time researching as boaters do with their sonar. In a boat you can explore the lake when you get there. By foot, you need to explore before arrival and you will have more luck.

For more Michigan Fishing information and access points near you check out www.FishMich.com

Purely Michigan Fishing

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Best places in Michigan to fish

Michigan is well known as the Great Lakes state, but a lot of “out of staters” don’t completely understand the amount of fishing opportunities Michigan has to offer. Fishing is deeply engrained in our culture. Even the unfortunate few that don’t fish have relatives, friends, co-workers or neighbors that are addicted to fishing.

In many states the only fishable lakes are man-made, dammed up rivers and the rivers are few and far between. They come to Michigan to fish the Great Lakes or one specific inland lake or river and think “Wow, this is a great place”. What they don’t understand is the numerous places and variety of fishing that Michigan has to offer. No matter the time of year, there are numerous species to target.

At the beginning of the year safe ice covers most inland lakes. This offers Michigan fisherman, who don’t own boats, an opportunity to fish the entire lake. It’s also a completely different style of fishing that most states don’t offer and just don’t understand. If you’re not into walking on water, Steelhead and many other species are plentiful in rivers all winter long. Spring and fall times when lakes are unsafe, look to the rivers for fish running upstream to spawn. Finally, come Summer, the variety of fish and techniques to catch them can’t be measured.

The world famous Great Lakes fishery offers Pier Fishing, Surf Fishing, Deep Water Trolling and Jigging and Shallow Water Casting. Michigan fisherman can target a huge variety of fish within minutes of the same port. Salmon, Steelhead, Lake Trout, Bass, Walleye, Perch, Whitefish, Pike, Musky and Panfish are some of the favorites and they are all plentiful. From any spot in Michigan you are no more than 83 miles from fishing one of the Great Lakes.

If searching for inland lakes, Michigan fisherman have over 11,ooo choices from 20,000 acres to less than an acre. Our great state offers weedy, lily pad covered bodies of water or crystal  clear, white sand bottomed paradises and they all offer plentiful fisheries.

Michigan offers over 36,000 miles of rivers and streams. Whether you enjoy trolling up river with a motor, floating in a canoe, wading or just walking the river bank, Michigan fishing offers it all. Salmon, Steelhead and Walleye have huge runs in Spring and Fall in many rivers. Others offer brook, brown and rainbow trout or bass, pike and panfish fishing all year.

There is no place in Michigan that is farther than 6 miles from a lake or stream. Whether you live in a remote area of the upper peninsula or in downtown Detroit, Michigan fishing opportunities are within minutes. To me, that makes Michigan the best place to be a fisherman.

Check out www.FishMich.com to view all of Michigan’s Fishing opportunities and leave us some reports on the Forum.

River Kayak Fishing

 

Sit on top or Sit in Kayaks

Kayaking has exploded over the last few years. Canoes and tubers used to be all you would see on a Michigan river, but now they are pretty rare compared to kayaks. Really I can see why. Tubes are fun, but hard to steer down winding rivers and can be hard on the butt. Canoeing can be hard to master without tipping several times and is much easier with two passengers. On the other hand, kayaks are great for only one person, they are easily maneuvered through tight spots, and are easily transported by yourself.

I just recently started kayak fishing in rivers. The first couple times I deemed it impossible to cast where I wanted, reel the lure back, get the fish off the hook and release it before needing to drop the pole and grab the paddle. Most Northern Michigan rivers are very winding and have a decent flow to them, so I just used the kayak to explore new holes and get out in shallow spots to fish. The only problem with this method was the amount of time it took to float a section of river. Pulling over, getting out and back in really slows up a trip and can be very loud which in turn spooks fish. Then, there are the places that look like great fishing spots, but you just can’t find a place to get out and stand. All of these problems were solved with experience.

I started out with a sit inside type of kayak. It had pole holders, which told me right away that it was meant for fishing. This summer we bought a sit on top. Wow what a difference. With this type you have everything right at your grasp and in site, instead of reaching inside, feeling around helplessly. It has weep holes so any water that comes in, goes right back out, but this does mean water is going to come in and you will get wet. Anyways, that was improvement number one.

It takes practice to be able to see a good fishing spot before you get to it. While floating down river, I am constantly looking ahead of me, scanning the river. When you see a spot you would like to cast to, you need to figure out where your kayak should be positioned. That is the most important part. I typically fish the outside bend of a curve in the river. This means I’m constantly paddling to the inside of the bend. Always paddle backwards right when you first see a place to cast. This slows you down and keeps you away from the hole while you get prepared. If you end up floating into the hole, don’t be disappointed. Just paddle on and realize what you did wrong so you don’t do the same thing at the next bend.

The other important thing to learn is when to give up on a cast. Every trip I have to decide between making a cast and dumping the kayak. It’s much better to lose a five dollar lure than get tipped over and lose all your gear. Sometimes I have to put my pole between my legs while fighting a fish so I can steer away from downed logs and rocks. This can allow the fish to get off, but still better than dumping most of the time.

It’s like everything else in fishing. With a little practice and patience it can be a great experience. Give it a try some time, but remember, I hated it my first couple times and now love it, so don’t give up.

Visit www.FishMich.com for more Michigan Fishing Information and Tips.

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

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

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.