Captain Ben Wolfe’s Deep Blue Coffee Company® is now a proud sponsor of the Outdoor Channel’s Hook n’ Look TV Show

Article from the November 14th edition of the Hook n’ Look newsletter:


Considering the names of some of Deep Blue Coffee’s hand-crafted blends, Traverse City Bass Blend, Anglers Blend, Great Lakes Blend, Hook N’ Look is especially proud to announce a promotional agreement with the Traverse City, Michigan based coffee company.  Each custom roasted blend displays a satisfying richness which will please any palate. Try some for yourself!  We’re thoroughly confident you’ll agree that Deep Blue Coffee is unforgettably delicious!

Happy Thanksgiving!

This Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be thankful for. An incredible amount, really! At Sport Fish Michigan, we are extremely blessed and lucky. We get to do what we love—we get to fish for a living, taking people out on the water for a memorable fishing adventure in the form of guide trips and charters, and we get to experience these memories with our customers as they happen. Not only this, but we are fortunate to be booked almost every single day of our seasons. And no bluffing here—we have tremendous customers!

From our Traverse City Bass Guide Service, Manistee River Salmon Guide Service, Wolfe Outfitters and on behalf of the others at our statewide network of the top Captains and guides, please accept our very heartfelt THANK YOU. Thank you for a wonderful season. Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for helping to make our jobs a pleasure. Thank you for making our fishing seasons wildly successful yet again. Thank you for being such loyal customers, and thank you for your continued support and interest in our services. We look forward to having you aboard our boats next year, and wish you all the best until we have the pleasure of fishing together again.

The weather forecast for Thanksgiving looks like it’s going to be close to 60 degrees and sunny. Perfect for a day of fun fishing. And if that happens—I’ll be even more thankful.

Yup, it’s a bruiser carp from Grand Traverse Bay. And what a fun fight!!!

Putting the Gear Away for the Winter

It’s that time of year again. For us northern anglers, mid-November is the time where our bass fishing is winding down, and we start thinking about putting the gear away for an all-too-long winter. Many of us are thinking of tree stands and the deer rut, which here in the Traverse City, Michigan area, is in full swing.

My guide season with Traverse City Bass Guide Service is now finished for the year, and I am extremely thankful to all of my terrific customers for another busy, booked and fun season out on the Grand Traverse Bays and area inland lakes. We caught a lot of smallmouth (many of which were truly huge), shared a lot of stories and laughs and every single one of my customers was a pleasure to have aboard. I mean it—I’m not just being nice. Being booked almost every single day of the 5+ month long season is certainly something that I am thankful for this coming Thanksgiving. On another note, I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is next week already! Yikes!

I’ve written about it before, but one of the most important things for my customer’s on-going success and me is equipment that is in perfect working order. I take the reels off of my rods, and carefully spin each reel to make sure that it is as smooth as possible. I visually inspect each reel, looking for dust, grime, sand and whatever else that might hinder a reel’s smooth operation. My equipment should never be the reason why things don’t go our way on the water, and this reel inspection is something that has become routine for me at the close of each season.

I sort each reel into one of 3 categories. Those that are in clean, smooth working order (likely those that only saw action a couple of times, spending the vast bulk of the season in my Ranger Z-520’s big rod locker); those that need a little light cleaning that I can do in my shop; and those that need some repair or more in-depth maintenance. Using exclusively Shimano reels, to me, means that I have fewer hassles in general, but also being on their guide/pro staff means that I have the luxury of using newer equipment than many. Despite this, I still try to take the best care of my equipment that I can.

For those that need more maintenance than I can do easily in my shop, I send them out to a qualified reel repair company, and set down to do the task of cleaning and lubricating the ones that I can do myself. Once this simple task is done, I always make sure that I leave the drag on each reel very loose. I don’t want excess tension on the drag, which will put undue pressure and wear and tear. This will also help prevent a “sticky” drag, where certain portions of the drag stick. I want each reel’s drag to be silky smooth, with no hesitations or sticky spots. By loosening the drag between fishing seasons, I can help to ensure this.

Of course, remember to tighten those drags when you do get out on the water next spring! There are few other great ways to start a string of four letter words than by trying to set the hook on a trophy bass in the spring only to find that the drag wasn’t set! Trust me on this!!!

Steelhead Fishing on a Rare Day Off

A couple of days ago, I had a rare opportunity when one of our Wolfe Outfitters trips was cancelled at the last minute, and I had a free day. My Wolfe Outfitters guide, Matt, and I went fishing. We took Janice with us – the Recreation Manager at Crystal Mountain Resort, and the woman with whom I worked to create Wolfe Outfitters’ partnership with Crystal Mountain Resort.

A slight warming trend made for a nice day out on the water. Add in that we didn’t get to the ramp until after 10am, and we were relaxed and ready to go! Why not be more informal and relaxed when it comes to fun fishing? Janice even made our lunches the previous evening to be heated on Matt’s on-board grill.

 November steelhead tend to relate to a few different patterns. Cured salmon eggs tied in spawn sacks and round-bodied crank baits dominate for gear anglers. Fly anglers have options such as beads, nymphs and streamers. Depending on water temperatures, the king salmon that run the rivers have likely ended their spawn, and the steelhead that gorge on the eggs in the river now have to find another food source to sustain them throughout the remainder of fall and winter.

 The single egg pattern holds up well throughout winter, but it isn’t as effective as other techniques, as the salmon eggs are no longer prevalent in the river. However, spawn sacks offer tempting scent and life-like softness that even picky steelhead oftentimes just cannot pass up.

 During the mid-fall period when the salmon have finished spawning, and the steelhead are still active with warmer water temperatures, throwing round-bodied crank baits can be an absolute blast. Similar to throwing longer bodied crank baits for king salmon, the technique is the same. Casts are made downstream, close to the bank and to cover (holding water). A medium retrieve, allowing the deep diving baits to work their magic as they are pulled through seams and creases induce violent strikes that anglers thoroughly enjoy. Medium weight rods are used to cushion these aggressive takes, yet have enough backbone to turn large steelhead away from logjams and snarly cover. For big steelhead on the Big Manistee River, I use 20 pound braided line, and either 14-pound fluorocarbon leaders or 12 pound, if the conditions are really clear and the flow is low. Fluorocarbon has the same refractive index as water, and is nearly invisible to fish. Steelhead often strike out of a feeding response, and looking as natural as possible is a huge advantage for my guide customers and me.

I’m glad that we were able to get out, even if it was for only 3 hours of fishing. We had a number of bites, and were able to land some beautiful Manistee River steelhead. And cooperatively mild weather made it all that much sweeter! It was nice to fish with good people, and experience the fun of fishing for oneself for a few hours. Does casting crank baits using spinning gear or casting flies for steelhead sound like fun? I can guarantee you that it is. And with one of the world’s premier steelhead fisheries at our doorstep, Wolfe Outfitters is ready to get you out on the water for your own adventure. Happily, I just had mine!


Making a Case for Winter Steelhead Fishing

During the cold winter months, it’s down right cold, and the motivation to head out of a warm house to go fishing is difficult to say the least. Two of my guide services are still in operation during these cold winter months—Manistee River Salmon Guide Service and Wolfe Outfitters, and we’re happy to brave the cold with our customers. Sure, motivation for us to leave the comfort of our homes and trucks is tough too, but usually once we’re out on the water casting, enjoying the day with our customers, things don’t feel as cold.

Despite the chilly temperatures, the Big Manistee River doesn’t usually freeze over due to its big flow, and there is often fishable water for the beautiful steelhead all winter long. And one of the most enjoyable things about winter steelhead fishing is the relative lack of fishing pressure. It’s not uncommon to go all day without seeing another angler. The quiet solitude of winter fishing is a true joy, and most customers are thrilled to see the river without much other fishing pressure. And the fishing can be absolutely hot, even if the temperatures are cold.

Many a snowy day have we experienced tremendous fishing for steelhead on the Manistee River and other area rivers. Not only does the sight of a chrome steelhead warm the blood, battling these acrobatic fish also gets the body moving, and the adrenaline up. During the dead of winter, steelhead don’t maybe jump as frequently as during the fall, but they still jump and run, thrilling anglers of all ages.

Manistee River Salmon Guide Service is suited with a custom jet sled that can utilize much of the river, searching for active fish. And with my USCG Captain’s license, I can legally fish my customers in the lowest stretches of the river, where some fish tend to hold in the deep, slow pools.

A plus for the Wolfe Outfitters guide service is that it is based out of Crystal Mountain Resort. This makes for a comfortable retreat after a cold winter’s day of fishing. Spa services, a heated pool and a couple of nice restaurants are just some of the more pampering amenities offered by Crystal Mountain Resort. Not to mention that it’s a fantastic ski resort as well! There are lots of ski runs catering to both downhill skiers and groomed runs for cross-country skiers. What a great way to combine either a fishing and skiing trip with the guys, or pile the family into the comfortable rooms for a winter get-away! Crystal Mountain Resort has just about everything on-site, and is done in a first class and stunning fashion. We are proud to have partnered Wolfe Outfitters with a resort like Crystal Mountain Resort.

Just because the weather has turned chilly doesn’t mean that the fishing has cooled down. Come and experience the hot steelhead action that’s available in northern Michigan!

Aaron with a beautiful steelhead hen that we caught while wading.

Winter steelhead action can be downright hot!

It’s a Small World

I had an interesting grocery shopping experience two days ago when I went to pick up some groceries at a Meijer’s in Traverse City. A super blustery day, where it was a pleasure to not have a guide trip on a much-enjoyed day off, I ventured out to pick up some groceries for upcoming guide trips as well as forage for ingredients for dinner.

As I was looking for a parking spot, in the always-busy Meijer’s, the friendly face of a long-time local customer of mine called out “Hello Captain!” This was a customer, Chuck, who has fished with me on two of my guide services. I have enjoyed fishing with he and his grandson, Logan, on my Traverse City Bass Guide Service, targeting smallmouth bass, and have also enjoyed fishing with he and his wife, Janis, with my Manistee River Salmon Guide Service down in Manistee, Michigan targeting king salmon.

Chuck and I chatted briefly, catching up on the fishing and life in general. It was fun running into such a nice customer, and glad to hear that things continue to go well for him in his retirement.

While getting a hot cider, a woman recognized me from my television segments on WWTV’s Michigan This Morning show where they highlighted my 3 guide services and my Deep Blue Coffee Company. She asked how the fishing business was, and we spoke about a friend of hers who is a fishing guide in New Zealand. She was happy that I had been highlighted, saying that she thought that I had done a great job. Much appreciated praise, thank you!

Overhearing our conversation was a gentleman who asked about my coffee company. It turns out that this guy’s family owns a coffee farm in Hawaii, and owns a coffee shop/roastery in Homer, Alaska. We spoke a bit about the coffee business, and as many of my conversations do, we also spoke about fishing. What a small world, because not only does his family own a coffee farm and shop, he is here in the Traverse City area to attend the Maritime Academy. His love is on the water, and Traverse City seemed to be a great fit for him.

Spending so much time on the water isolates me a bit, but it’s days like I had a couple of days ago that remind me how small a world it actually is, and how we are all connected. Running into Chuck prompted me to put up a photo of a trip with his grandson Logan and one from a trip he had with Janis, fishing for salmon.

Thank you everybody, for making my passion my job, and for making my job such a pleasure.

Chuck’s grandson Logan with a dandy smallmouth he caught while fishing with me at Traverse City Bass Guide Service.

Chuck and Janis with a king salmon caught while fishing with Manistee River Salmon Guide Service.

October Steelhead on Lake Michigan

Just because you can’t go doesn’t mean that I’m not going to go. This scenario happened several days ago when one of my Sport Fish Michigan Captains, Andy Odette and I went out for a few hours of fun fishing after a 3 boat trip cancelled.

With extremely rough seas predicted for the actual scheduled day, I tried to see if the party of 17 was able to switch days to a day earlier in order to take advantage of the calm Indian Summer afternoon that we were experiencing here in northern Michigan. Here for a corporate retreat, the party of 17 initially seemed interested in switching afternoons to take advantage of the calm weather, but ultimately were unable to do so.

Disappointed in not being able to showcase the awesome late October bite that the Frankfort area provides to our 17 person party, Captain Andy and I decided to not waste the afternoon by not heading out for a couple of hours just for fun. Joined by another one of the Captains that would have been a part of the 3-boat trip, we headed out onto the near-pancake flat waters of Lake Michigan.

Using a variety of presentations, trying to take advantage of the upper water-column feeding that steelhead are notorious for, we put out multiple options in the top 15 feet. Steelhead are partial to orange, and our spreads included a lot of oranges, oranges and blacks, oranges and chrome and oranges and greens. Although we missed our first steelhead bite on a planer board, we knew we were onto something, having only had a line in the water for 10 minutes or so.

Despite the variety of presentations that we were using, only 2 seemed to be getting the bulk of the attention. Sure, we got a nice steelhead on a downrigger, set 12 feet down, and got a couple of bites on a few other spoons, but interestingly, it was 2 of the more unexpected presentations that seemed to catch the most fish. One was a plain chrome spoon that had all of the paint knocked off, and the other was a tiny little casting spoon in a perch pattern. The go-to spoons yielded nothing. All this goes to show is how effective trolling a large variety spread can be when trying to refine a pattern, and also how unpredictable fish can be. What we thought would work didn’t. What we as anglers were indifferent about, turned out to be the key, with the fish responding very well.

In all, we landed our limit of steelhead in short order, and adjusted our presentations to target 3-year-old king salmon, which we were seeing on our electronics. It was a true pleasure to be able to get out for a couple of hours to just “fun fish”. It was a shame that our 3 boat trip had to cancel, and couldn’t take advantage of the wonderfully pleasant conditions, but such is the case. Just because they couldn’t go didn’t mean that we couldn’t! A couple of productive hours out on the water catching fall steelhead certainly beats sitting at the dock dreaming!