A Wolfe Outfitters fishing customer catches a giant salmon while casting crankbaits on the Big Manistee River in northern Michigan.
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!
What an incredibly busy month we have had this past month. Fishing every day, and flip flopping between my two guide services, Manistee River Salmon Guide Service fishing for king salmon on the Big Manistee River and my Traverse City Bass Guide Service guiding on Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City. We have attracted some media attention, which is always welcome.
We filmed 6 small 2-minute segments with “Michigan This Morning”, a local morning show. During the filming, we highlighted both my coffee company, Deep Blue Coffee Company, and my 3 guide services. Despite beautiful weather conditions on the Manistee River, we struggled to get bites casting crank baits for the king salmon lurking in the deep holes. Bring out the cameras, and the fish get shy! Typical stage fright on the part of the fish, I’m guessing.
Not to make excuses, here, things were set up a little bit against us. For casting crank baits, we as anglers and guides rely on a couple of things to help us. First, we need plenty of fish in the system to really make the crank bait bite shine. Lots of fish makes the salmon even more territorial, and we did not have a lot of salmon in the deep holes that day. Secondly, due to the filming, we needed lots of light to allow the high definition cameras to do their best. The ultimate crank bait bite occurs the first half hour prior to first light through the first hour after sunrise. For this morning show, we were taping live, so we didn’t even get onto the river until 9am! Not an early start at all.
On the day, we filmed with my Wolfe Outfitters head guide, Matt Dunn, and Kalin Franks, the host of the “Michigan This Morning” show. Stephanie Adkins did all of the camera work, as well played producer. It was a great experience to pull in to the parking lot at Bear Creek, one of the launches where we have Federal permits, and have all of the other boats already well on their way, leaving the parking lot and ramp empty for us to film.
Kalin started out by interviewing me, introducing Deep Blue Coffee, talking a bit about the coffee company prior to launching our boat. We chatted about how I got into the coffee business, and what I offer my fishing customers each morning with my coffee.
After launching the boat, we ran to a few different spots, where I showed Kalin and Stephanie how we cast crank baits to the king salmon that inhabit the Big Manistee River in the fall. We did a few more interview segments to fill out the segment times, discussing everything from casting basics to cured egg presentations, to the great fisheries we enjoy in northern Michigan. Despite not having a good bite to really showcase, we had a terrific time fishing with Kalin and Stephanie. We shared stories and laughed a lot—much of which is probably good not to have captured on film! Thanks Kalin, Stephanie, Matt and “Michigan This Morning”.
And last but not least, it was fun and interesting to watch the segments the next day. I used my DVR to record the segments, since I was out on another guide trip, and watched the “Michigan This Morning” show that evening with my parents and wife. Exciting to see it all come together.