Thursday, August 29, 2013

Repost: Fishing For Big Trout And Salmon in The Great Lakes

The salmon run is fast approaching, and this old blog post of mine has been getting a lot of traffic.  I'm doing something I've never done and recycling some old material to help my followers get ready for the salmon and steelhead run. 

First off, I've added a couple new pages, a little bio about myself, and a page with links to the official fishing websites for every state, and Canadian province.  This could be helpful if you're ever planning a multi state or international fishing trip.

A couple enjoys the view on Milwaukee's
north pier
Fishing for salmon and big trout is one of the reasons I love living so close to Lake Michigan.  If you've never seen one of the Great Lakes, they're big!  My Minnesotan wife still calls Lake Michigan "the ocean."  As I discussed in an earlier post, most trout and salmon aren't native here, so the Great Lakes might be a nice opportunity to get out on a stream and catch a nice chinook without going to Alaska.  Fishing out in the lake with a boat is the obvious way to go, but I don't have a boat, and I'm going to assume you don't either.

Mckinley Marina in Milwaukee
What you are going to want to do is find a pier, or some structure that allows you to get out in the lake.  I think the wall provides cover for smaller baitfish, and big fish come there to be treated to a buffet.  When fishing off the pier or even just off a wall into the bay in Milwaukee, I like to use big, heavy spoons that cast far and get down deep.  In my opinion, Acme Tackle makes the best spoons, with my favorites being the Little Cleo, The K.O. Wobbler, and the Kastmaster.  I've caught more salmon on Little Cleos than on anything else, I even mentioned the name Cleo for my daughter, but the wife shot that idea down.  I like the silver and blue ones for salmon.  I've never caught a steelhead, but I hear that orange is the hot steelhead color, and gold is good for big browns.  When fishing the lake, I'll use a heavier one, the 3/4 oz size casts further and sinks faster.  The Kastmaster also casts very far, it's not just a clever name.  With these lures, just cast as far as you can and wait while the lure sinks.  Retrieve the lure just fast enough to make it wobble, you'll feel it.  You can also use Wildeye Swimbaits or Rat-l-traps for trout and salmon in the lake.  There is no telling what else might bite those though.  Fishing in the lake is great fun, the bites might be few and far between, but there's something about sitting along our gorgeous glacial sea all day with a sandwich for lunch, and a beer or three that takes you far away from the world while a million people scramble in the city just a half a mile away, completely oblivious to what a beautiful resource we have.

I found this Kastmaster in some streamside bushes

little cleo, gold and red.
The Little Cleo is about the sexiest lure there is

beat up looking rat-l-trap
My Rat-l-trap has seen some action!

In about mid August, the salmon will start to move toward their natal stream. This time is the best opportunity to catch them in the lake, or even in the channel if they start to swim upstream.  Any change in the weather will make them start to move and then you can try to catch them in the streams.  It might just take a drop in temperature, or a little rain and a few overcast days to make them start running.  I've caught salmon in the middle of August in the White River in Michigan, but this year, I didn't see any salmon in the Menomonee until the end of September.  In the streams, I'll still use Little Cleos in deeper pools, but I may use a 2/3 or 2/5 oz instead of a heavier one.  They move a little more erratically in the current than a heavier one.  I will also use some diving crankbaits in the streams; Storm makes my favorites, and they're reasonably priced too.  The deep diving Thunderstick Jr. and the Hot 'N Tot are the ones I use most.  You will find that fishing in the stream can be very frustrating.  There are days when the salmon are so thick that you could walk across them, but they won't bite a thing, then other days, they'll bite anything!  If you're on the stream and salmon are flying out of the water like ballistic missiles from a Russian nuclear submarine, that is the day they will bite anything.  You will probably get splashed by salmon jumping, and they'll scare the hell out of you, but they are angry at everything in the water.  All you have to do is put something in the water with some hooks in it.  The best days always seem to be overcast and rainy days.  I've had the best luck in the evening on overcast and rainy days; not a really hard downpour, just a steady rain.  In both the stream and the lake, using ten pound test line is probably adequate.  I've seen guys use 20, but that's overkill.  This season, I used 6 pound test and I only had one salmon break my line.

three storm lures
Two Hot 'N Tots and a Wiggle Wart

My Thunderstick, marred by salmon teeth.  Note the
scale just behind the front hook.

This is the first year I've ever spent a lot of time fly fishing for salmon.  I cut the tapered leader down to about three feet and just tied on about six feet of hybrid six pound test.  I used mostly Woolly Buggers, and egg sucking leeches.  I haven't had a chance to use my creation, the Force Choking Leech, very much.  You can find instructions on how to tie it here.  If you're a fly fisherman, you're probably better at it than I am, so I can provide very little instruction.

black and red egg sucking leech
Egg sucking leech with flashabou in the tail

black cat sniffs a streamer in the tying vise
Kittie examines my fly tying skills

black woolly bugger, silver cone head.
Probably the best looking bead head Woolly Bugger
I ever tied.
Salmon and trout can be hard to catch, but you'll remember your first one forever!  I fished for salmon for a few years before I caught my first one, It was October 1, 2002.  It takes time to learn how these fish work.  I can feel the change in the weather that brings the salmon into the streams now,  an instinct I can't explain.  The clouds look a certain way, the air has something different about it.  It took me years of fishing and lots of luck before I even had a salmon bite.  How bad do you want it?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rough Fish On The Menomonee, Patience On The Milwaukee

I went out fishing on the Menomonee yesterday upstream from the concrete.  The restorations are happening and I don't want to get too in the way.  My little girl and I threw some little spoons for creek chub just to kill some time.  We caught many chub, and a few really pretty sunfish.

This was a monster of a chub

same fish as above.  I think it probaby
came in around 9 inches.

A pretty cool trilobite fossil

This morning we went to the Milwaukee River.  We were on the water just after 9:00am.  The fishing started really slowly.  The water is low, the weeds are thick, and there was no feeding.  We walked downstream a long ways and only landed one fish, one other got away.

Then at approximately 11:20, they just turned on.  I hooked and lost a fish, then on the next cast, I caught a beautiful bass.

Next cast, my jig hits the water, and there is a fish on as soon as I flip the bail.  That fish throws the hook, and another fish grabs the jig! Then that fish throws the hook.  Finally, a third fish slams into it!  As the fish tires and comes in, I can see the bass surrounded by no less than three other bass that are biting at the jig in his mouth!  The fish isn't even acting like he's trying to get away from me, he's fleeing from other fish!  This was my nicest fish of the day.

I caught many smallmouth after this, but most were less than ten inches.  It sure was fun though.

It's crazy how they can just switch on like that so quickly.  I literally went from having two fish on in hundreds of casts to having five fish on in three casts.  That's a lesson in timing and patience.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Exploring Outside of Milwaukee

Saturday, my friend Tony invited me to fish in some streams north of town near Manitowoc.  First we fished the West Twin River for smallmouth.  I caught one right away, but neither of us caught any after that.  It was the biggest smallmouth I've caught so far this season.

After pounding all the smallmouth structure, I saw some rising fish dimpling the surface.  I tied on an elk hair caddis and went after them.

I love catching anything on a dry fly. I caught half a dozen or so of these minnows, then we headed for the east branch to try for some trout.

I caught some chubs and minnows on dries, but nothing else.  Tony landed a couple browns.  I managed to snap some pics of one of them

On to the Manitowoc River.  We first stopped at an overpass neither of us had ever fished at.  We both caught a couple fish, but nothing overly exciting.  It seemed just to be an off day.

We hit one more spot a little further upstream.  I went upstream, Tony headed down.  I lost one smaller than average smallmouth, I don't think Tony caught any.  As I headed back down to meet up with Tony I took a nasty spill that left me reeling like Peter Griffin.  I stepped in a crevice between two sheets of concrete and tripped over another. The piece I stumbled over put its jagged edge into my thigh, and my attempt to brace for the fall resulted in another jagged edged piece of concrete finding the inside of my forearm.  My thigh is still quite sore, the arm is fine.  I must have been in some serious pain at the time, because I no longer wanted to fish, and I have fished in some pretty miserable conditions.

Back in Milwaukee, I have started fishing up above the concrete on the Menomonee River and found a healthy creek chub population.  Nice sized fish that bite artificials consistantly and are great fun when I don't feel like driving.  I've fished for these with fly gear and spinning gear.  The best lures seem to be tiny trout spoons.  A 1/8 ounce Little Cleo works great.  Spinners have been productive as well.  I'll try to catch anything.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Rainy Day Redemption

It felt good to get out with my Little Cleo and hook some rainy day bass last Wednesday morning after the previous outing, The Skunkfest of '13.

Little Cleo made friends with some clams, she told them they were nice and petted them, then she told them bye-bye.

We only caught two fish and missed one other, but they were decent fish.  Considering the cloudy water and the swift current, I think we did ok.

Sunday evening we went out with spinning gear again.  We haven't really had a notable rainfall recently, but the water was still cloudy and a little high.  Sunday we caught half a dozen or so fish, and missed a few.  One was a really nice bass that left me with a totally ravaged curly tail grub when he threw the hook.  These are the nicest fish from sunday.