Al Lindner joins Sport Fish Michigan’s Ben Wolfe for Michigan’s Platte River coho salmon run. They discuss Michigan’s incredible fisheries and the broad variety of species and techniques for anglers to enjoy.
Capt. Chad Dilts shares a tip on bottom bouncing for salmon, steelhead, and brown trout.
Get Out, Get Bit! With Sport Fish Michigan. Your source for the top fishing guides in Michigan.
Part 2: The Future
Looking ahead to the 2015 season, we are encouraged by the opportunities that lie ahead for all of our guide services. We have a lot of goals, many things that are inspiring us to push further ahead, and things we want to improve upon.
Traverse City Bass Guide Service will be guiding again this year on Grand Traverse Bays as well as many of the potent inland lakes around the Traverse City area in northern Michigan. Bassmaster Magazine ranked the Bays #9 in their rankings of the top 100 Best Bass Fisheries in the World. That’s pretty exciting, especially when 4 out of the 5 lakes mentioned in the rankings were all in northern Michigan! Partnering with a couple of bass guides within the Sport Fish Michigan network of the Michigan’s top Captains and Guides, we can offer trips on each body of water mentioned in the Bassmaster Magazine rankings. Who knows where these lakes will be ranked in 2015 but the future looks incredible, and we are excited for spring to be here so that we can get back out, chasing after smallmouth and largemouth bass. With changes to the Michigan fishing regulations on the horizon, we may even see a change which will allow us to be able to target bass year-round in a catch & release manner. Under the proposed Michigan DNR changes, the open season would remain the same, but we would now be able to target bass all year long when practicing catch and immediate release.
Wolfe Outfitters will be entering its second full season as the only permitted outfitter allowed to fish inside the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. What makes this truly exciting is that we are poised to be able to target the outstanding steelhead and brown trout fishery at the mouth of the Platte River in the spring. Steelhead and brown trout can be caught with a variety of techniques including casting, fly fishing, and trolling. Casting minnow baits, like jerkbaits, is a great way to enjoy these feisty fish, and with the gin clear water that Platte Bay has, being able to watch these fish fight and chase offerings is nothing short of awesome. For fly anglers, stripping streamers is every streamer angler’s dream come true, as both browns and steelhead respond well to this technique. Trolling andsa jigging can also pay off handsomely out on Platte Bay.
The salmon fishery on Platte Bay is something to behold, and we are hopeful for a great run in 2015. Coho were first stocked in the Platte River by the DNR back in the mid 1960’s, and created the world-class coho fishery that we enjoy today. The bulk of our techniques employ casting and jigging techniques for these awesome fish. We had a lot of customers out on Platte Bay in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore this past fall, and every single person was blown away by not only the incredible fishery on the Bay, but also the scenery. After all, Sleeping Bear Dunes wasn’t named the most Beautiful Places in America by a Good Morning America poll for nothing!
Jigging trips went extremely well last year, and we are looking forward to building on that momentum. With the incredible lake trout fishery that the northern Michigan area has to offer, jigging is a truly addictive way to target these fish. With the light bass tackle that we use, anglers get to feel every bump and bite from these aggressive biters, and the fight is heaps more than many anglers have experienced in the past with other techniques.
River trips will continue to be a major focus of Wolfe Outfitters and its Guides in 2015, and we are excited about the prospects of not only lots of salmon and steelhead trips, but also about the outstanding smallmouth bass fishery on the Manistee River as well as its trout fishery. The portion of the Manistee River just below Tippy Dam is absolutely spectacular for trout fishing, and this year’s fish will be pushing a very healthy 20 inches by the end of the summer, with many fish well over that mark.
We have both Michigan State and Federal permits, including the highly coveted permits for the Manistee National Forest. This gives us access to fish the entirety of the Manistee River, utilizing the Federal launches that many other guide services aren’t able to take advantage of with their customers. While the salmon and steelhead runs were below average, and definitely below what we have become accustomed to, we are excited about the spring steelhead run. With low numbers of steelhead running all of the northern Michigan rivers in the fall, this sets up well for a stellar run in the spring. We are looking forward to targeting these chrome beauties when they enter the area’s rivers.
Sport Fish Michigan has grown each year, and we are hopeful that 2015 will be no exception! We are thrilled to have each and every Captain and Guide that we have, and each brings something special to our customers’ trips. From fly fishing to bass fishing, trolling the big lake to river trips, and even ice fishing, we are working hard to offer everything an angler might want around the state. We are once again sponsoring the Hook n’ Look television show on the Outdoor Channel in 2015, and are excited about the national exposure from this popular show.
In addition to the Hook n’ Look show, we hope to be able to produce our own videos on a variety of fisheries utilizing our Sport Fish Michigan Captains and Guides. We plan on filming walleye fishing in the spring on the Detroit River. The Detroit River is truly spectacular for walleye fishing in the spring, when these tasty fish run into the river to spawn. We also plan on filming bass fishing with several of our Captains on Lake St. Clair, taking advantage of this world-class bass fishery.
Further north, lies the Muskegon River, the Manistee River, Betsie River, and Platte River. All boast stellar steelhead runs, and it is our goal to film some steelhead clips on these rivers fishing with our Guides both with conventional tackle as well as on fly.
Atlantic salmon are on the list of species we would like to highlight as well, and Torch Lake just north of Traverse City is host to an impressive population of Atlantics. The super clear water that Torch Lake is known for will make this a treat, as these are a beautiful fish.
We are also tremendously excited to be the largest ice fishing operation in Michigan, and are hoping to build upon the successes of last year. Ice fishing is a very popular aspect of fishing, and early indications are that we will be busier than ever. This year, we are planning an inaugural on-ice seminar clinic that will span 2 days. We will discuss rigging options, how-to demonstrations, and technique options accompanied by hot catered lunches right on the ice. All of the necessary tackle and gear will be provided for the seminar, as well as transportation on and off of the ice.
In all, the future is bright for everything that we have to offer. With continued hard work and dedication by all of our Captains and Guides, we will continue to strive to create lasting memories and outstanding experiences for each and every one of our customers.
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.
Wintertime fishing on northern Michigan rivers usually means steelhead to most diehard anglers. Fishing pressure is low, the rivers have a beautiful serenity about them, and it’s just an awesome time to be out on the water chasing steelhead that are spending their winter in the rivers.
Not to be overlooked, however, is the amazing trout fishery that we have on the Manistee. Sure, they probably won’t break any records for size, but what they lack in that category, they more than make up for in scrappiness, willingness to bite, and beauty. Not to mention that they’re just plain fun to catch on light tackle.
The Michigan DNR stocks tens of thousands of brown trout at Tippy Dam on the Manistee River each spring, and these fish grow to be anywhere from 10-15 inches by wintertime. And this doesn’t take into account the trout that have been stocked in previous years. Fish over 20 inches aren’t uncommon. Steelhead smolt and resident rainbow trout are also in these waters. For a fun day of fishing, this is an amazing fishery, and when other species aren’t biting, the trout bite can be downright hot! Experienced anglers and novice anglers alike can benefit from a fishery like this, and we at Wolfe Outfitters feel blessed to have this fishery in our backyard!
On a recent chilly December day (ok, it was downright cold—10 degrees to begin the morning), one of my fellow Wolfe Outfitters guides and I headed down to the Manistee River to get in on the trout fishing. After all, what do guides do on a day off? We go fishing! Taking a two-pronged approach, I had a jig and waxworm setup (also a key steelhead option for winter and spring) while my fellow guide, Jeff, had his fly rod with a couple of prototype flies to try.
Launching the boat at Tippy Dam, we headed out to some likely looking holding water. Jeff brought his 4-weight rod, which is perfect for the brown trout that hold in this water. I had a medium light 10-½ foot baitcasting rod with which I love to float fish for trout and steelhead. It took us a little while to dial in exactly where the trout were, but we found them. Tucked bankside to a seam in the river just below a gravel bar, we found the perfect spot to cast—both with my jig and waxworm setup, and Jeff’s prototype flies. Multiple doubles became the norm in the scant 2-½ hours that we fished. Needless to say, the waxworm program worked extremely well, and Jeff was thrilled to find a prototype that needs to be included in the regular rotation! “I guess I’ll be spending some time tying up a lot more of these!” he said as he grinned.
I don’t know of too many places where an angler can go have fun on a river enjoying a fishery like the Manistee River just below Tippy Dam. Spring, summer, fall, and winter, the brown trout fishing is dynamite. It’s a great place for anglers to learn a new technique, or to just have fun like Jeff and I did. The trout won’t win prizes for size, but they certainly should for putting a smile on people’s faces. They are truly beautiful specimens that have a tenacity and scrap to them that makes them a hoot to fish for. Fly fishing or conventional gear fishing techniques both work, and with a numbers fishery like this, who can complain?!!
This coming Saturday is the opening of the deer season for many who hunt, and the woods will be full of people anxiously hoping for a shot at a trophy buck. A couple of recent snowfalls have hunters giddy with anticipation. Indeed, this is a great time to be hunting in the beautiful state of Michigan, as the woods and waterways are full of life. Ducks and geese are plentiful as they head south for the winter. Squirrels are busying themselves for the winter, foxes are calling out to mates, bears are on their last few feeding binges before bedding down to hibernate, and turkeys are abundant, scratching the ground for a morsel. And then, of course, there are the deer. Lots of them.
Despite much of the attention for the outdoor enthusiast now being focused on hunting, this is still a wonderful time to be on the water. Lake or river, there are some terrific options, and competition for a fishing spot is almost non-existent.
Steelhead are in the rivers now, and where it’s still an open season, such as the lower Manistee River below Tippy Dam, the trout bite is fantastic this time of year. Rainbows and browns gorge themselves in preparation for the winter, and anglers can have lots of fun targeting these beautiful and scrappy fish. Lake run brown trout enter the rivers to spawn, as do lake trout in certain systems. Cured or fresh salmon spawn tied into spawn bags will get bites from all of the species just mentioned, and when the bite is on, it’s easy to run out of spawn bags. Light jigs tipped with wax worms can also be a great option when fished under a float.
Those anglers preferring to fish the numerous inland lakes here in northern Michigan have great options as well. Perch are biting this time of year, as are most of the predatory species like bass, pike, and walleye. Walleye fishing is getting better and better as the days shorten, providing great opportunities for anglers fishing at early light and the last light of the day. The same goes for pike. Bass tend to feed a bit better after the sun goes up a bit. Blade baits, like the Heddon Sonar, can score extremely well this time of year, and it’s not uncommon to catch walleyes, perch, and pike on these baits as well. Whitefish begin to come shallow on waters like Grand Traverse Bays, and even though the lake trout season is closed on the Bays, it’s very possible to hook one of these fun fish while fishing for whitefish. Just throw them back to stay legal! Whitefish bites are usually very light, but well worth it for this outstanding tablefare.
The fall feed is on, and the bite can be downright hot, despite some of the colder temperatures associated with the opening of deer season in Michigan.
Beads, the colored orbs of the fishing world meant to resemble fish eggs, should be a clear choice for anglers targeting river systems for salmon, steelhead, and trout. Beads have been around for years, but are gaining popularity every year. New bead companies are now pushing the boundaries, offering new color choices and sizes. Increasing options like this gives anglers even more options to match bead colors with river conditions, and egg colors that can vary by species and location.
Beads by themselves are simple. Made of plastic, in sizes ranging from 4mm to 12mm, with seemingly endless colors. Some beads are hard plastic, and some are soft plastic like rubber bass worms. Hard beads are slow to sink, making them perfect in river current-bouncing along the bottom and swirling, just as real natural eggs do. In contrast, the soft plastic beads float in the water. This makes them a great option to bounce along the bottom, resisting snags. The soft texture of these beads feel natural to a fish when they pick up the bead, causing them to hold on longer and giving anglers more opportunity to set the hook.
The beauty of beads is their versatility. They can be fished by fly anglers or traditional gear anglers alike. They can be bounced along the bottom in a bottom-bouncing or side drifting technique, they can be used on a chuck and duck presentation, or they can be fished under a float. Meant to resemble a single egg, beads are typically pegged onto the line a couple of inches above a hook. Presented in this manner, beads can be fished by themselves or, more commonly, on a double tandem rig with two beads, or a bead and fly combo.
Despite the proven effective fish-catching power of beads, there are those that don’t care for them. Some believe that fishing beads is not as effective as fishing bait-meaning cured or raw salmon eggs. Others believe that fishing beads is unethical, as the bead is traditionally pegged above the hook. Legally speaking, there are no restrictions on fishing beads-they are perfectly legal to fish, even when pegged onto the line above the hook. The main argument against the use of pegged beads above a hook seems to be that the bead is not attached to the hook, making it a snagging technique. Again, there is no legal restriction against this rigging presentation, and I would argue that there are other commonly used techniques that are just as, if not more, prone to snagging fish as the use of a pegged bead. Most of the bead fishing done by Sport Fish Michigan and Wolfe Outfitters guides uses beads fished under a float. I believe that it is difficult to snag a fish when fished under a float.
They Flat Out Work
In fishing, there is a time and a place for every presentation. Bait has a time and a place, and so do beads. There have been countless times that beads have out-fished bait. And the simplicity of beads means anglers don’t have to mess with getting and curing salmon eggs and tying them into spawn sacks. When fish are keying-in on single eggs, beads are incredibly tough to beat. Additionally, strikes can be enticed by applying different scents to beads. Alternately, when salmon or steelhead are keying in on larger presentations, spawn sacks or chunks of skein can be more effective.
Beads offer versatility in rigging. Color and sizes give anglers a presentation that can appeal to a variety of species all at the same time. Salmon, steelhead, rainbow trout, brown trout, lake trout, and brook trout all eat beads incredibly well. In addition, we have caught walleyes, bass, bluegills, and even hooked up with sturgeon on bead presentations.
Despite the limited controversy over bead fishing, their use continues to grow in popularity and effectiveness. I, for one, will continue to use beads, as they have proven themselves over and over on guide trips here in northern Michigan. Chasing trout, steelhead, and salmon, beads have a place in my guide box. There are many great bead companies, and the three that I use most are Trout Beads, Great Lakes Bead Company, and Steelhead Beads from the west coast. All offer something different, and all beads are not created equal. A bead isn’t just a bead, and it pays to experiment with color combinations and color differences. The way light illuminates a bead color can vary drastically from river to river, and fish may prefer one color or size to another in different systems. If beads aren’t in your bag of tricks, give them a try. You may be surprised by their simple effectiveness, and I’m sure you’ll agree with me and my Sport Fish Michigan and Wolfe Outfitter guides that beads may very well become a favorite go-to when chasing salmon, steelhead, and trout.
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!
Recognition – at last! And every bit of it deserved!
Bassmaster Magazine and Bassmaster.com, the publications of B.A.S.S. just published the 2014 listings of the 100 hottest fisheries on the planet, and it feels like redemption for those of us that fish Grand Traverse Bays. Coming in at number 9 on the list of best fisheries, Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay even topped last year’s champ: Lake St. Clair. Now that’s what I’m talking about!
Last year’s list lumped the entirety of Lake Michigan together, glazing over the very distinct bass fisheries that different areas of the lake have to offer. This year, two of the top ten spots went to Lake Michigan bass fisheries. This distinction provides Lake Michigan with the recognition it deserves. Five of the six Michigan lakes named are in northern Michigan, with Lake St. Clair as the only exception. With 5 of the top 100 best bass fisheries on the planet here in northern Michigan, it’s hard to not feel proud as punch to be a bass guide based in Traverse City!
This is exciting news to everybody who loves northern Michigan, and has been highlighted on several radio news broadcasts, as well as on the 9 & 10 Television News. On their May 1st Hook and Hunting segment, 9 & 10 News asked me for my thoughts on what this means to the Traverse City area, and what makes fishing on Grand Traverse Bay so special.
Naturally, the answers running through my mind were many, but with a limited segment, time only allowed for the boiling down to the “best of.” Here are some of my thoughts on the Bays ranking number 9, and what it means to northern Michigan:
- With water clarity approaching 40 feet much of the year, and an average water clarity around 30 feet in the summer, the Bays resemble waters of the Caribbean. Watching fish swim is often easy to do, and sight casting to cruising fish is something that we can commonly do throughout the year.
- Burt Lake, Mullet Lake, Thunder Bay, Lake Charlevoix, and Grand Traverse Bays are the 5 lakes located in northern Michigan. Lake St. Clair is the only lake in southern Michigan on the list. All of these fisheries boast phenomenal smallmouth bass fishing, and St. Clair also has a fantastic largemouth fishery.
- Both water clarity and world-class fishing are what national television fishing shows are looking for, and northern Michigan delivers! With well-known television shows like Hook N’ Look, Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show, The Bass Pros, One More Cast with Shaw Grigsby, Hank Parker’s Outdoor Magazine all regulars, the area has certainly drawn its share of big-time anglers. Babe Winkleman has also filmed his long-time show here, as well.
- The additional attention brought to the area will help the local economy, through increased bookings for guides such as my own Traverse City Bass Guide Service and Sport Fish Michigan. It will also help other area businesses like hotels, gas stations, fishing license revenues, restaurants, etc.
- The area is very family friendly, and there are lots to do to entertain the troops when the fishing day is done. Then again, with such good fishing, I’m not sure how somebody could get enough!
- Wineries, microbreweries, beaches, hiking trails, canoe and kayak rentals, sightseeing, and many other activities are sure to keep families and individuals busy. Choosing what to do is the easy part. Having to choose what not to do is probably the difficult part.
- Even though Bassmaster ranked Grand Traverse Bay as the number 9 bass fishery on the planet, northern Michigan boasts other spectacular fisheries as well. The entire Great Lakes salmon fishery began just to the south of Traverse City, near the town of Frankfort on the Platte River. The Platte still has a world-class coho salmon fishery, and the king salmon fishing around Frankfort is stellar. Steelhead fishing on the area rivers is a favored past-time of countless anglers. Rainbow and brown trout are also highly sought-after species. In fact, the recent world record brown trout was caught on the Manistee River, just to the south of Traverse City. Lake trout, whitefish, walleye, perch, smelt, and even muskies fill out the impressive list of great angling opportunities in the area, regardless of the preferred method for fishing- be it casting, fly fishing, jigging or trolling.
- With so many wonderful options in the area, Michigan is a fisherman’s paradise, not just during the warm summer months, but year-round!