2014 Year in Review and a Look Ahead to 2015

Part 1: The Past

As 2014 draws to a close and we look forward to the New Year, I would like to share a few thoughts about this year, as well as express my extreme gratitude to our valued customers and friends for a truly wonderful year. All of our guide services were blessed with another very busy year guiding some really wonderful customers. We loved fishing with our old customers, and we relished the opportunity to fish with new customers as well.

Sport Fish Michigan’s Captains and Guides enjoyed fishing with their customers, as always. Traverse City Bass Guide Service had another incredibly busy year. Bassmaster Magazine ranked Grand Traverse Bays in the top 10 for best bass fisheries in the world. This brought additional attention to something many of us already knew—just how special this fishery really is.

Wolfe Outfitters and Manistee River Salmon Guide Service were both as busy as ever. With multiple Guides working, we enjoyed lots of guide trips fishing for everything from salmon and steelhead to brown trout, lake trout, smallmouth bass, and even panfish. Wolfe Outfitters became the only permitted guide service allowed to fish inside the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This opened up the door to giving customers access to world-class fishing for coho salmon near the Platte River—the birthplace of the entire Great Lakes multi-billion dollar salmon fishery.

We received quite a bit of great press as well, which is always appreciated. Traverse! Northern Michigan’s Magazine was nice enough to include our ice fishing in its newsletters, as well as sending out a writer and photographer to do an upcoming feature story on wintertime river fishing. Conde Nast Traveler released a terrific mention and photo of our guided ice fishing services in their story about the top things to do around the country in ski towns other than skiing! What a huge honor to be mentioned in this long-standing and very popular travel magazine. The Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau covered our ice fishing in both a newsletter and web story. Mountain Life Magazine, published by Crystal Mountain, also did a story about us in a feature article. We are working with a couple of writers out of Chicahgo for upcoming stories. The Angler Magazine did a feature article on us, showcasing the outstanding vertical jigging opportunities for lake trout on the Grand Traverse Bays.

9 & 10 News interviewed me for a story about bass fishing the Grand Traverse area, and Sport Fish Michigan sponsored the very popular national television show, Hook n’ Look. Hook n’ Look airs on the Outdoor Channel, and has the kind of loyal following any fishing show would want. In addition to the many small video clips we filmed ourselves, we also filmed a couple of different shows with a new fishing show that will air in January called iFishigan. This new show will air on the World Fishing Network.

The fishing was outstanding in many ways, and odd in others. With the extremely cold winter we experienced, the spring thaw was delayed by almost a month. Downstate, the walleye fishing was outstanding on the Detroit River. Surprisingly, the cold waters didn’t cool the bite at all. Lots of walleyes, many of them impressive in size, were caught by Sport Fish Michigan’s Captains and Guides. The walleye fishery on the Detroit River is stunning, and anglers vertical jigging with our Guides had great catches most days. Bass fishing on Lake St. Clair was incredible, as usual. The winter, although brutal, didn’t seem to faze the fishing much, and the bite turned hot almost right out of the gate at the start of the season. Not surprisingly, Lake St. Clair’s incredible fishery kept its reputation intact, despite falling a bit in the Bassmaster Magazine top 100 best bass fisheries in the world.

In northern Michigan, the cold took its toll a bit more, and it took longer to warm up. River levels were very high from the huge amount of snow that fell, and the spring steelhead run lasted much longer than normal. We were even fishing steelhead in late May on the Manistee and the Platte rivers! The walleye fishing on the rivers like the Manistee and Muskegon rivers was also very good. The opener to the season played right into the hands of anglers due to the cold water making for a later run. Normally, the run is over on the rivers before the season opener, but this year we were able to get on the walleyes in great fashion.

Wolfe Outfitters guide trips not only were able to target trout and steelhead, they were able to keep many of the walleyes that were caught after the season opener. Throughout the season, the trout fishing was incredible and, even now, it continues to be stellar. The salmon and steelhead runs are something that many are talking about. Not only has the DNR decreased the amount of king salmon stocked into Lake Michigan, the conditions were such that we did not have a good fall run. Guide trips went well despite this, and customers still were able to have a great experience, even if the fishing was slower than customary.

Bass fishing was stellar, as usual, but we weren’t able to enjoy the early spring bite as much as normal. Traverse City Bass had many thrilled customers despite some chilly water temps early in the season. With an unseasonably cool summer, many of the patterns ran late in the season, including the spawn. We even had spawning smallmouth in August! I’m not sure what that will mean for the success rate of the bass fry, but hopefully it won’t be too bad. We were able to showcase the incredible smallmouth fishery that we have to many new customers this year, and we enjoyed fishing with our repeats as well. It is such a treat to fish with customers every season—not only are they excellent customers, they also become friends.

Sport Fish Michigan’s endeavors this past year included offering vertical jigging trips to customers using Wolfe Outfitters Guides and Sport Fish Michigan Captains. The jigging this year was absolutely incredible, and we were very fortunate to have the beautiful lake trout to play with this year. On light bass tackle, they put up an incredible fight, and this was something that all of our anglers thoroughly enjoyed. Especially when they can feel the bite, and get to set the hook as well as fight the fish the entire way in.

On a personal note, I was nominated along with many other outstanding charter Captains, for the Best Charter Boat Captain in the annual Traverse Magazine Red Hot Best public poll. Traverse Magazine conducts this popular poll each year for the “Best Of” in Northern Michigan, and I was honored to be among the top 3 vote-getters in this inaugural category. Given the number of other nominees and some of the longevity of many of these fantastic Captains, it was very humbling to be voted among the top 3. In fact, to make things even sweeter, I was the only Captain in this category who actually offered fishing charters. The other two operate sunset cruises, capable of servicing many customers each time out. A huge THANK YOU to each and every person that voted to help put me on top!

Our new boat that was trucked out from Washington State this past winter, and outfitted specifically to highlight the jigging technique. Our customers loved it, and it proved to be invaluable. It was a joy to be able to offer trips out of this boat, and its worth proved itself on the big waters of Lake Michigan, Grand Traverse Bays, as well as the L. Michigan waters of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It also functioned extremely well as a river boat, and its design proved priceless. The Evinrude E-Tec on the back of this 20-foot beauty is outfitted with a jet drive, and is able to handle both the bigger bodies of water as well as allowing our new boat to run on plane in water as shallow as 4 inches! Outfitted with a kicker motor, an electric anchor winch, Minn Kota i-Pilot link on the Terrova electric motor, and Humminbird Onix electronics, this is the ultimate fishing machine. Many of our Wolfe Outfitters and Sport Fish Michigan customers got to enjoy this new boat, and I think they would agree that it truly is an awesome boat to from which to fish.


Thank You

Creating Sport Fish Michigan has been a tremendously rewarding journey, and to see it come together has been awesome and humbling. Sport Fish Michigan started out as a way to attract attention from search engines for my Traverse City Bass Guide Service and Manistee River Salmon Guide Service businesses. It has since grown to be so much more – a network of the top Charter Captains and Guides in the state, and I could not be more proud.

Sport Fish Michigan, or SFM as I call it, now features some of the top Guides and charters around Michigan, all of whom I know personally. As SFM began to grow out of its humble web beginnings, I added friends of mine that were Captains and Guides, with the idea that we would share referrals to each other. We’re still small, but strong. And we are growing!

SFM features Guides and Captains that specialize in almost every species that anglers want to target here in Michigan. King salmon, coho salmon, atlantic salmon, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, steelhead trout, brown trout, brook trout, rainbow trout, walleye, lake trout, perch, muskies, pike, panfish, and even some less commonly targeted species like carp, gar, catfish, and burbot!

All of these species thrill anglers of all ages! Not only do our Captains and Guides know how to target an angler’s species of choice, we have built a network that can facilitate an angler catching their preferred species using the techniques that they prefer. Casting artificial baits, vertical jigging, fly fishing, trolling, or casting live bait—SFM’s Captains and Guides have the knowledge and the boats to accommodate just about anything a customer could want.

Michigan is blessed with an incredible number of lakes, rivers, and streams, and most of these are clear bodies of water that were glacially formed. With such a variety of fish species to choose from, and with such a vast choice of waters to fish in, it can be hard to narrow down which guide to choose. All guides look good on a web site full of pictures. My intent with SFM was to create a top-notch referral service that would take the guesswork out of who to book on certain bodies of water.

Sport Fish Michigan is now even a sponsor of the very popular national television show, Hook N’ Look, hosted by renowned bass professional and retired tournament angler, Kim Stricker. Sport Fish Michigan is even sponsoring a local Traverse City high school bass team, encouraging the sport of bass fishing and the youths that enjoy fishing.

Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine had their annual Red Hot Best poll a few months back, and this year saw a couple of new categories, including the best Charter Boat Captain. The list of nominees and write-in candidates grew to an impressive length, as northern Michigan has world-class fisheries. There are lots of area guides and charters to choose from. I was lucky enough to be one of those nominated, and it was exciting to learn a month or so ago that I was one of the 3 top voted for in this new category. With the June issue on newsstands, it is an absolute thrill to finally let the cat out of the bag! Of the top 3 spots, I am actually the only Charter Boat Captain that offers fishing trips! That was a shock to me, considering how many well-established fishing charters there are in northern Michigan.

Hats off to Chien Nowland of the Nauti-Cat for garnering the top spot in this category, and to Chris West of the Ugly Anne up in Mackinaw City as well. Chien and Chris are both terrific operators of water cruises, taking customers sight seeing and sunset cruising in style. It is, without doubt, a tremendous honor and source of pride to be in the top 3, and especially to be the only fishing charter Captain.

I would like to sincerely thank all of those who voted in the Red Hot Best poll. Thank you to each and every one of my customers who have fished with me or one of my esteemed Sport Fish Michigan Captains and guides over the years, making each trip special and memorable. Many photos from our trips grace the web sites that make up Sport Fish Michigan. I would also like to thank my other Sport Fish Michigan Captains and Guides, and those that have helped us along the way. This honor isn’t just for me—it’s for all of us. We did it together. Thank you for all of your hard work, dedication, and for working together to make something great!