2014 Year in Review and a Look Ahead to 2015 Part 2

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.


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!


Wolfe Outfitters Welcomes Crystal Mountain Guests

Lisa, Michelle, and Willow off for their fishing adventure with Wolfe Outfitters guide Bear Andrews.


Crystal Mountain recently had a weekend dedicated to its property owners—those families that own condos or rooms at this 4-season resort. Wolfe Outfitters, a joint venture with Crystal Mountain had our formal introduction to the property owners, and we hosted the Fiesta Night cocktail party.

We were fortunate to have a great turnout for the event, with over 200 people having signed up to attend. Wolfe Outfitters had a couple of tables that we set up with various fly boxes, fly tying materials, fly reels, rods, nets, rack cards, banners and, of course, lots of Wolfe Outfitters swag to give away! Decals, Simms thirsty trout bottle opener key-chains with our logo, beer koozies, and some shirts and hats.

We worked with Simms Fishing Products to get our logo onto a few sweet looking shirts and hats as well. The dye-sublimated Ebb-tide shirts, DeYoung artist series shirts, and Solarflex shirts all came out looking awesome. They look really sharp, and should look great on and off the water.

We generated quite a bit of interest from various property owners, getting to know many of them, as we chatted about the resort as well as about fishing! We had 4 of our guides there, plus a few of the resort staff to help answer questions, lend a hand, and even book trips for people.

Our head fly guide, Jeff “Bear” Andrews, did a special fly tying demo, tying up numerous flies in an effortless way that drew quite a crowd of onlookers. Or, it could have been the kilt that he was wearing in honor of the event and the Crystal Mountain owner’s heritage! Either way—kilt or fly tying demonstration—there was quite a crowd.

The last highlight of the evening was a raffle for more free swag and a trip giveaway. Cheers went up as the winners of shirts, hats, fly boxes were announced, but there was a definite tension in the air as everybody awaited the announcement of the lucky guided trip winner. Wouldn’t you know, the winners of the trip were not the many avid anglers in the crowd, but 3 giddy women, who were on a girls getaway weekend together! They were looking for something new to experience together, and were contemplating booking a trip, but decided to enter the raffle first to see if they’d win. Of the huge net-full of raffle entries, who’d have thought!


Happy Thanksgiving!

This Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be thankful for. An incredible amount, really! At Sport Fish Michigan, we are extremely blessed and lucky. We get to do what we love—we get to fish for a living, taking people out on the water for a memorable fishing adventure in the form of guide trips and charters, and we get to experience these memories with our customers as they happen. Not only this, but we are fortunate to be booked almost every single day of our seasons. And no bluffing here—we have tremendous customers!

From our Traverse City Bass Guide Service, Manistee River Salmon Guide Service, Wolfe Outfitters and on behalf of the others at our statewide network of the top Captains and guides, please accept our very heartfelt THANK YOU. Thank you for a wonderful season. Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for helping to make our jobs a pleasure. Thank you for making our fishing seasons wildly successful yet again. Thank you for being such loyal customers, and thank you for your continued support and interest in our services. We look forward to having you aboard our boats next year, and wish you all the best until we have the pleasure of fishing together again.

The weather forecast for Thanksgiving looks like it’s going to be close to 60 degrees and sunny. Perfect for a day of fun fishing. And if that happens—I’ll be even more thankful.

Yup, it’s a bruiser carp from Grand Traverse Bay. And what a fun fight!!!


Steelhead Fishing on a Rare Day Off

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!