Capt. Chad Dilts helps Brittany, a first time angler, bring in a beautiful pike on a tip up.
2016 Year in Review and Looking Forward to 2017
We here at Sport Fish Michigan would like to thank all the wonderful customers who graced us with their patronage this past year. We were very fortunate to have had a wonderful year catering to lots of customers across the state fishing for a large variety of species.
We had another fantastic season fishing for walleyes down on the Detroit River, and once the weather began to cooperate, experienced some tremendous fishing-boating limits for our customers almost every trip. We will be down guiding on this world-class walleye fishery again in April and early May. Our two-Captain system paid dividends again this past spring, allowing for a much smoother experience for our customers. Not only did it help to facilitate anglers’ lines in the water longer, it also meant that we could net fish for our customers-something that other guides often cannot do when the conditions are tricky. We would much rather net our customers fish for them than to have our customers net their own fish. Another benefit of having two Captains is that we were able to pattern the fish that much more quickly-two heads are often better than one!
Our steelhead trips went well this past spring, and again in the fall, with some nicer than expected numbers. It seems that the extreme weather that had hurt our steelhead runs the last 2 seasons did not affect this year’s run, and our customers enjoyed some spectacular days on the rivers. The Big Manistee, Muskegon, White, and the Betsie Rivers are where our guides spent the bulk of our Sport Fish Michigan trips. With the much higher numbers of fish that we saw this year, we are excited for 2017, and hope that we will see another great year on the western Michigan rivers. Captains Chad Dilts, Jeff Mallory, Ben Wolfe, Kyle Buck and Guide Scott Kubit are all experienced river guides, and we were thrilled to host not only many new customers, but lots of repeat customers as well! Whether fly fishing or conventional tackle fishing from our drift boats or a custom jet sleds, customers enjoyed great days on the water. Many of our customers got to experience fishing out of Capt. Jeff Mallory’s new Stealthcraft All Terrain boat, and we are excited to also announce that Capt. Jeff is also a Stealthcraft Boats Ambassador.
Smallmouth bass trips are a huge mainstay of Sport Fish Michigan’s offerings, and we had a record number of customers plying our world-class Michigan waters. This year saw the inclusion of Capt. Chad Dilts to the full-time roster of bass guides, and Capt. Ron Dohm Jr., as well. These Captains allowed Capt. Ben Wolfe and Traverse City Bass Guide Service to offer even more trips than ever before, and customers were thrilled with the having these Captains to fish with. Ranging from Lake St. Clair to the southeast of Michigan, to Burt and Mullet Lakes to the north, and stretching west to East and West Grand Traverse Bays and the area’s inland lakes, the bass fishing was superb almost all year long. Not only did we have excellent numbers of fish caught, but we also saw a tremendous average size. The fishery here in Michigan for big smallmouths is healthy, and with continued catch and release tactics, we are hopeful to see another banner year in 2017. We are seeing more pressure on our Michigan bass, and it is imperative for the long-term health of the fishery to adhere to safe catch and release practices. These are very slow growing fish, unlike bass in southern waters, and for those seeking a trophy to mount, we ask anglers to please consider a graphite replica. Not only are graphite replicas just as good looking as the real thing, in many instances they are also more practical. The additional huge benefit is the ability to release those trophy smallmouths to swim and thrill another angler another day.
Our lake trout season was nothing short of stunning, and we couldn’t have been more excited to see not only the high numbers of lake trout coming aboard, but also the quality. Capt. Adam Collett and Capt. Ron Dohm Jr. worked together as a team aboard the Mega-Bite to clobber not only big numbers of lake trout, but also salmon. The Mega-Bite is what we consider to be the premier charter boat plying the waters of Grand Traverse Bays. Capt. Adam specializes in trolling, and he and Ron put countless customers on some truly awesome fishing. For those that vertical jigged with Sport Fish Michigan, Capt. Chad Dilts and Capt. Ben Wolfe had some equally spectacular fishing. This hands-on technique is a great way to experience these feisty fish for those anglers who prefer to have a rod and reel in-hand. Lots of fish over 10 pounds were boated during these jigging trips, and these Captains knew right where to find the fish. With excellent numbers of lake trout in Grand Traverse Bays and out of the port of Frankfort and Platte Bay, the outlook is looking like we will have another spectacular year in 2017.
One of the most fun things we at Sport Fish Michigan began doing this year was to specifically target cisco (lake herring or tulibee). These fish are a relative of the whitefish, and are an outstanding gamefish on rod and reel, are aggressive biters, and are truly awesome to eat. Spring and fall are the prime times to target these fish and that’s exactly when Sport Fish Michigan targeted them. In fact, with such high numbers in Grand Traverse Bays, these may be the perfect fish to target for anglers looking for a fish that pulls hard and doesn’t know when to quit, as well as anglers who just want to boat high numbers of fish. Capt. Ben Wolfe calls them “velociraptors with fins” because they are so aggressive.
Sport Fish Michigan’s salmon season was exceptional both on the big waters and on the rivers. Grand Traverse Bays, Platte Bays, and Betsie Bays all produced outstanding fishing for king salmon and coho salmon. The area rivers also had equally fantastic fishing, and we are super excited for what next year’s run already. Trolling on the Grand Traverse Bays was great, with high numbers of fish present. Mega-Bite, with Capt. Adam Collett at the helm, was the hot boat on the Bays. Vertical jigging had its share of phenomenal fishing as well on Grand Traverse Bay, Platte Bay, and on Betsie Bay. Both species of Chinook salmon and Coho salmon ran larger than last year, and with much higher numbers-our customers were thrilled with full coolers on many days. Capt. Chad Dilts and Capt. Ben Wolfe were lucky enough to put its customers on fantastic numbers of salmon using this highly effective jigging technique. While some old-school anglers consider this to be a snagging technique, these two Sport Fish Michigan Captains will not only attest to its effectiveness at getting bites, but they take affront to it. They would love nothing more than to show everybody just how potent this technique can be at getting king and coho salmon to bite. Next year’s run is promising to be just as good, although it is an unknown how things will be beyond then.
River trips for salmon went extremely well in large part to Capt. Jeff Mallory doing his thing as a premier river guide. He is well versed in not only fly-fishing techniques, but also in conventional tackle. Capt. Jeff is an accomplished fly tyer, and many of his own patterns are on display when he guides. Captains Chad Dilts and Kyle Buck also did a lot of river trips this past fall for salmon, and we are thrilled with the results.
Ice fishing has become a large part of the Sport Fish Michigan business, and there is no slowdown in growth in sight. With customers coming from as far away as Florida, California, Puerto Rico, and even Brazil, we have quickly grown into the largest guided ice fishing operation in Michigan. We are very proud to not just be able to take customers out onto the ice, but to set them up with some of the best equipment in the ice fishing market. Each customer fished from within a heated Otter Outdoors thermal shanty outfitted with Marcum electronics. All the tackle and bait was also provided, meaning that customers had everything necessary for a fun day on the ice. With transportation provided for them as well, we prided ourselves on a top-notch service. For 2017, we are proud and excited to announce that we have partnered with Humminbird, and will be offering our ice customers use of the brand new Humminbird Ice Helix 7 sonar units. These are truly awesome electronics, and we are excited to showcase this to our customers on the ice. These are the best units on the market, and we at Sport Fish Michigan are proud to offer use of these units to our customers. Last winter was warmer than the previous two, and we had to travel quite a lot to stay on the good ice. Fishing for a variety of species, we guided trips for walleye, yellow perch, northern pike, bluegill, crappie, lake trout, and even burbot!
2016 also saw a great partnership with two television shows. Hook n’ Look was sponsored by Sport Fish Michigan again, and in this past year’s television show we fished with Kim Stricker out on Platte Bay for coho salmon. We had a great day on the water fishing for cohos with Kim, as he had the opportunity to experience the thrill of sight fishing for these amazing fish in the crystal-clear waters of Platte Bay. Sport Fish Michigan is once again sponsoring Kim’s show, and in the show that will be airing this coming winter on the Outdoor Channel, Capt. Ben Wolfe fishes alongside of Kim for smallmouth bass.
Angling Buzz television show was a new show produced by Lindner Media. The Lindners are icons in the industry, and it was a pleasure being on each of the 13 episodes, giving the state-wide fishing reports every week. While the weather forced us to abandon our hosting and filming with Al Lindner several times in 2016, but we are scheduled for filming two shows next year, in 2017. Sport Fish Michigan is set to sponsor this new and upcoming show again for the new year, and will once again be bringing weekly fishing reports covering the entire state of Michigan. Regular web-published video fishing reports are also going to be featured on the Angling Buzz web site. Anglers looking for an idea of what is biting can tune in or look up the Angling Buzz web site to learn more about what is happening state-wide in Michigan during these timely updates.
With so many species to target in the state of Michigan, there never seems to be enough time to be able to target them all. From smallmouth bass to salmon; yellow perch to walleye; lake trout to cisco; whitefish to panfish; steelhead to brown trout, not to mention our awesome musky and trout fishing. So many fish to chase, and so little time to do it-even for us! This is what Sport Fish Michigan is all about-staying on top of the various species of fish throughout the state to give customers the best experience we can. By taking the guesswork out of hiring a Captain or Guide, we aim to provide our customers with the best in the business using the best equipment possible. If our growing business is any indication, we think we are on the right track, and with so many customers coming back as repeat customers, we are confident that we are doing things right. From all of us at Sport Fish Michigan, we extend a very humble and heart-felt thank you. Thank you for a wonderful 2016 season. We look forward to hopefully having the opportunity to fish with all of you in the future.
Capt. Chad Dilts catches a nice pike on 1lb test line while ice fishing in northern Michigan.
Sport Fish Michigan would love to thank our sponsors and the companies that we were fortunate to work with this past year. We look forward to working with each of them again in 2017, and encourage our customers who may be in the market for these products to check them out. We firmly believe in partnering with only the best companies and best products. We rely on these products and companies on a daily basis for each guide trip. These companies have proven themselves to us not only as being outstanding companies with the best products available, but also as companies with whom it is a pleasure to partner. We are proud to work with each of these companies, and are confident that they will surpass your expectations as they have ours.
Humminbird makes the best fishing electronics on the market, whether it’s on the open water or on the ice. With a wide variety of products to choose from spanning many different price points, Humminbird is a proven leader in easy-to-use electronics that are also the leader in technology. The new Helix series is a game-changer in sonar, both on the ice as well as on our Sport Fish Michigan boats. Sport Fish Michigan will be featuring the all-new Ice Helix 7 on its ice trips for 2017. Other Helix units, like the 9 and 10 series, will be on our Sport Fish Michigan boats.
Minn Kota makes the best trolling motors on the market without a doubt. The long-standing gold standard on bass boats has been a cable-driven Minn Kota trolling motor, but with the new Ultrex, the game is about to change. No longer will anglers have to make a choice between the ability to use the Minn Kota iPilot system or use a cable drive foot pedal like that on most bass boats. The Ultrex marries the two technologies together, and anglers can now have their cake and eat it too! With the immediate response of a foot controlled cable-drive coupled with the ability to spot lock with an iPilot system, anglers will have the best of both worlds. This brand new Ultrex will be on Sport Fish Michigan’s Ranger Bass boat for the upcoming 2017 season, and along with the Ulterra that is already on the custom center console, we will now be able to offer an even greater fishability to our customers.
Under Armour is the maker of a wide variety of outdoor gear and apparel for a huge array of sports. With season-specific wear as well as sport-specific designs, Under Armour makes a superior product from top to bottom. From hats and gloves to shoes and boots, and long underwear to outerwear and everything in-between, Under Armour has us covered. Literally. Sport Fish Michigan’s Captains are lucky enough to be able to wear this awesome apparel, staying cool in the summer and toasty warm in the winter during our ice fishing trips. After two full seasons of wearing Under Armour gear, we can say that—without a doubt— Under Armour is a great company with fantastic products.
Rapala is much more than a lure maker. Rapala brands together some of the industry’s best names. As a maker of lures, they make some amazing lures that catch boat-loads of fish for us here at Sport Fish Michigan. We use a variety of Rapala lures to target smallmouth bass, walleye, panfish, and even lake trout, brown trout, steelhead, and ciscos. In addition, Rapala makes some of the best jigging lure options for ice fishing, and along with their sister company, VMC, who manufactures some of the best hooks and jigs on the market, there are plentiful options for hard water anglers.
Shimano is the maker of the world’s best fishing reels, and makes the fishing reels that Sport Fish Michigan’s Captains rely on every day for every trip. Shimano produces a large variety of reels to suit a large variety of styles of fishing. For anglers preferring to cast, there are spinning reels and baitcasting reels for every budget. For our Traverse City Bass Guide Service company, customers use the Stradic Ci4 spinning reels, and the Curado baitcasting reels. These are true workhorse reels that have never let us down. For trolling lake trout, salmon, and walleye, Sport Fish Michigan Captains prefer the Shimano Tekota reels. The Tekota is a heavy-duty reel that is suited to the rigors of trolling, and its smooth, yet powerful, drag is second to none.
G.Loomis produces what has long been arguably the best bass fishing rod on the market. Known for its amazing bass rods, G.Loomis also has a stellar lineup of rods suited for many other species. Some of the G.Loomis rods that we at Sport Fish Michigan use are the salmon and steelhead e6x lineup, and the walleye e6x series of rods. Both are workhorses for our guide trips and charters, not to mention the sensitivity, which is unparalleled. From casting rods to walleye trolling rods, G.Loomis has the best and most versatile rods available.
Costa Del Mar’s tagline is #SeeWhatsOutThere for good reason. With the absolute clearest lenses available, Costa Del Mar produces the world’s best sunglasses. Available both in prescription and regular lenses, there are numerous lens options to choose from. The 580 lenses are what Sport Fish Michigan Captains use, allowing us to see just about everything. With a huge array of frame styles designed to fit a large variety of face sizes, there is something for everyone.
Simms Fishing Products makes the best waders. Period. Simms has been the benchmark in wader technology, quality, and innovation for years. Coupled with their varied superior wading boots, these are the go-to waders for Sport Fish Michigan’s Capt. Ben Wolfe and Capt. Chad Dilts. Capt. Ben is also a Simms Fishing Products Ambassador, using many of Simms’ products throughout the year. From tackle bags to waders, and just about everything in-between, Simms is an outstanding company that we are proud to work with.
Traverse City Tourism is the driving force behind much of the tourism in the Traverse City area. We have been blessed to have worked with the great people at the Traverse City Tourism for several years now, including a few photo shoots, article mentions, and now in 2017, our Traverse City Bass Guide Service has 5 great photos in its Visitor Guide publication. There is an accompanying article, and we were fortunate enough to have some fantastic centerfold photos taken by local photographer Dan Shepler.
Yeti Coolers are what is in many of our Sport Fish Michigan boats, not only because of their amazing ability to keep cold things cold, but also for their superior durability. These coolers are the workhorses that we rely on to keep our catches cold in the larger 125-175 sizes, and our snacks and drinks cold in the smaller Roadie-35 sizes.
Sage Fly Rods continues to make the best fly rods in the fly-fishing marketplace. Innovative designs in rod tapers and actions offer rods for every experience level. And with rod designs for a large variety of species ranging from fresh water to salt water, there is a rod for every angler’s desires. Sage fly rods, are the premiere fly rod for a reason, and we are proud to work with Far Bank Pros to bring these awesome rods to our customers’ hands during fly-fishing guide trips.
Hatch Premium Fly Reels makes the most amazing fly-fishing reels. From an aesthetic standpoint, they are second to none. Sleek, eye-catching reel designs stand apart from the rest, while top-notch performance makes them the choice for Capt. Ben Wolfe for all of his fly-fishing customers and personal use. With absolutely butter-smooth drags capable of stopping salmon, bonefish, tarpon, and everything in-between, these reels are American made works of art!
Cannon Downriggers are another product that Sport Fish Michigan Captains Ben Wolfe and Chad Dilts rely on for all their down-rigger trolling needs. With motors built to last year after year, Cannon builds a truly superior downrigger.
Otter Outdoors manufactures the best well-made portable ice shanties—hands-down. Otter has incredibly well thought-out designs for both their flip-over style shanties as well as their hub-style shanties. Sport Fish Michigan uses both styles, and we absolutely love the insulated 1,200-denier fabric that doesn’t drip condensation as so many other shanties do. Our customers are toasty warm, even on the coldest and windiest of days. Built to last, these are truly fantastic shanties, and every customer has been impressed with their roominess, comfort, and quality.
Angling Buzz was the creation of Lindner Media in 2016, with both a new website as well as a new television show. Sport Fish Michigan was proud to be a sponsor of the news-style Angling Buzz TV show in 2016, and is again for the 2017 season. As a new concept in fishing television, Angling Buzz TV hosts up-to-date information and fishing reports from a wide variety of guides and anglers around the Midwest. Sport Fish Michigan’s role was as Michigan’s only reporting source for the entire state. Sport Fish Michigan’s Capt. Ben Wolfe will be fishing and filming with Al Lindner during the 2017 season, putting together 2 different Lindner’s Angling Edge television shows.
Hook n’ Look is hosted by noted bass professional Kim Stricker. Primarily a bass fishing show, Kim showcases the underwater environment, educating anglers from a fish’s perspective. This is an incredible learning tool, and Sport Fish Michigan has ben a proud sponsor of Kim’s popular show for the past few seasons. Additionally, Sport Fish Michigan and Traverse City Bass Guide Service’s Capt. Ben Wolfe has also filmed a few shows with Kim, in the crystal-clear waters surrounding the Traverse City area of northern Michigan.
Capt. Ben Wolfe makes an incredible catch while ice fishing in northern Michigan – a largemouth bass!
Capt. Chad Dilts of Sport Fish Michigan shares ice safety tips, demonstrating multiple methods to check for safe ice.