Winter 2017-2018 Ice Fishing

2018 has been fantastic so far, with lots of safe ice on almost every body of water. This has allowed us to take our guide customers to many different inland lakes to target a wide variety of fish species; yellow perch, walleye, lake trout, northern pike, crappies and bluegills are among the most common.

Guided ice fishing is becoming more and more popular, and in 2018, a few more guide operations popped up. Sport Fish Michigan began offering guided ice trips back in 2013, and we are proud to have an experienced, outstanding operation. We have been featured on the local news, in national print magazines, and on television shows in addition to our own online productions.

From the seasoned ice angler to the novice who has never been out on the ice before, Sport Fish Michigan’s Guides work hard to give each and every customer the best experience possible. We tailor each trip to the customer’s desires and needs, and strive to provide a fun, safe, and comfortable atmosphere in which to enjoy your day on the water.

There are a few differences that set Sport Fish Michigan apart from some of the other guide services that exist around the state. First, all our Guides are licensed and have a U.S. Coast Guard Captain’s license. Whether we are guiding on inland waters or navigable waterways like Lake Michigan, Grand Traverse Bay, or Lake Huron, we feel that it is important that each customer fish with a Guide that has the highest credentials possible. Every one of our ice guides is passionate about ice fishing and is more interested in helping our customers catch fish and have a good time than they are in catching fish themselves. We love to teach what we know and pass along our years of ice fishing knowledge to our customers. And we are also always trying to learn as well. We constantly try to improve and look forward to each trip as an opportunity to not only teach, but to learn as well. Each one of our Guides is also a people-person. We look forward to spending time with our customers, and thoroughly enjoy our time on the water with them. Fishing is so much more than just catching fish: it’s supposed to be fun, too, and we strive to always provide an enjoyable atmosphere.

Our equipment is another thing that sets apart. We use what we feel is the best equipment available to help our customers enjoy their experience: fully-insulated Otter Outdoors pop-up or flip-over shanties equipped with Humminbird Ice Helix graphs for customer use, as well as MarCum Technologies or Aqua Vu underwater cameras. We provide it all! Each shanty has a heater inside, so that no matter how cold it may be outside, it’s nice and toasty warm inside the shanty. The rods and reels we provide are all in tip-top shape, rigged, and ready to go. We love the 13Fishing ice rods and pair them with a Shimano reel. We also provide transportation on and off the ice when safe and practical. We transport our customers using a Polaris Ranger Crew UTV, a Polaris 4-wheeler, or via Ski-Doo snowmobile. Ice and snow conditions dictate which vehicle we will use for transportation, but our goal is to provide as much luxury, comfort, and safety as we can. “Show up and fish!” is how we try to run things at Sport Fish Michigan. Let us do all the work: setting up your shanty, drilling the holes, getting the heat on, setting up the electronics or cameras, and even getting the tip-ups set before customers even arrive. Many times, there is a flag on a tip-up by the time our customers arrive on the ice!

We have worked hard to provide the kind of ice guiding service that we have become and are proud of our results. Our customers are our proof. We have been fortunate to have customers from all over the country, as well as some from out of the country—as far away as Brazil and Puerto Rico! When customers travel to fish with us from out of state or country means that our customers are committed to us, and we are always just as committed to them. For those of you that have fished with us in the past, thank you. And for those that have not, we would truly enjoy an opportunity to do so in the future!


Sport Fish Michigan Year in Review 2016

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.


When It’s Time to Put the Boat Away

Part 2

In part 1 of the article, we discussed some of the things that will help with trailer longevity, and a few things to check when putting a boat and trailer in for winter storage. In part 2, we will discuss some of the things that will help keep the boat itself in good working order come spring.

Motor
Motor maintenance is a crucial aspect of boat ownership, and is one that is done by most boat owners. It’s our motors that we rely on to get us to our favorite fishing hole, and it’s our motors that often command the most attention when they break down. There are a couple of things that we should do when putting our boats up for the winter.

The impeller is what pulls water into the motor to cool it. Needless to say, it’s a hugely important part of the motor. The impeller itself is fairly cheap, and that’s a good thing. This one part is also one of the things to keep an eye on to ensure motor longevity. When our motors don’t “pee” the way that they should (spitting water out of the back of the motor), it is often either a partially plugged intake, or it’s an impeller going bad. Regularly replacing our motor impellers will keep the motor cooling itself properly and running long into the future. Impeller replacement is something that routine motor maintenance should take care of, but it’s advisable to double check that is has been replaced every other year or so.

Spark plugs are an easy thing to replace, and can help keep a motor running at its peak. For motors that log a lot of hours like those being used by Sport Fish Michigan’s Captains and Guides, spark plugs should be replaced annually. For recreational anglers, perhaps every other year or so is acceptable. Poor motor performance can often be linked to a fouled plug.

Water filters help keep water out of the motor, and with the ethanol in today’s gasoline, replacing this filter is an essential part of preventative maintenance. Replacing a water filter every year will go a long ways towards keeping water out of the combustion chambers. In fact, on all of my boats, I took the extra step of adding a second water filter. Should there be phase separation in my fuel tanks, a second water filter will help, and hopefully stave off very costly repairs.

Dry
Storing a dry boat is much better than storing a wet boat. This will help to prevent mold during the long winter layover, making for a quicker and easier spring dust-off. One thing that I like to do is to leave compartments open to let air circulate freely. A closed compartment, especially with lots of things in it, will trap moisture and can become moldy.

Batteries
Charging boat batteries at the end of the season is a great way to keep batteries lively come springtime. A fully charged battery is better able to withstand cold winter temperatures if boats are stored in a cold facility or outside. If possible, topping off the charge mid-winter is another good idea.

Fuel
The ethanol in fuel these days can spell big trouble for boat owners. Long-term winter storage of gasoline in a boat’s fuel tank can be problematic without a fuel additive like Stabil. Phase separation is when water separates from the gasoline itself, and ethanol has a high water content in it. In the late winter and early spring, alternately warming and cooling temperatures makes phase separation a real possibility. In addition to a fuel additive like Stabil, a full fuel tank will also help. This obviously leaves less room for air, which will vary in humidity, and thus, in moisture. This moisture can lead to condensation inside the tank, which is no good.

By taking a few simple steps at the end of the season, our long-anticipated spring fishing trips can be as enjoyable as we hoped they would be. Sure, the fish may or not be biting, but at least we can get out fishing without being sidelined with repairs. Proper boat, motor, and trailer maintenance before winter storage can go a long ways towards an enjoyable experience later. I believe that preventative maintenance is far better than repairs when things break. It’s often cheaper, too!