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  • Michigan

    One of my favorite things to do is fishing for Salmon in the rivers.. Standing within 40 feet of a groups of 10 to 20 pound fish that are in one foot of water of less is a beautiful thing. For anyone who hasnít experienced it for them self, Iím always inspired by it. Many people say these fish donít bite once they get into the rivers. There is some truth to that. They arenít as aggressive as when they are suspended out in the great lakes. They donít feed as often but they do feed. They will also strike for other reasons. The will strike out of aggression, dominance, frustration and to protect their young.
    There are three things to consider that will help in getting river run fish to hit. The first thing is try not to spook the fish. The second thing is how you present your bait . The third is the size of your lure or bait. Being prepared with small less conspicuous baits and larger flashy baits is always best.

    Visually these fish are very sharp. If you can see them they can see you. These fish are typically spooky and for good reason . Most of these fish have seen and had to deal with people several times before they have had the opportunity to start spawning. The odds are they have tried to start their spawning process more than once and have been scared off by over eager fisherman before they ended up in front of you. The fish quickly learn to associate people as a threat. When determining how close to get you need to keep in mind that Itís import to have good control over where your casts land in the water. You donít want to be casting so hard to get your bait to the fish that you have to cast three times to get one in the zone. The odds are that if you canít control you casts a few of your casts will land on or near the fish. It doesnít take many times where your sinkers or lure lands to close to the fish and they become spooked. The end result is they move on or wonít stay in one place long enough to concentrate on them.. What your wearing can make a difference on how close you can get to the fish. Try to dress in neutral or dark colors that donít completely contrast with the background of the river bank. If you can stay close to the bank or structure on the bank.
    Presenting your baits is as important as anything. The main thing is what ever your fishing with, you donít want it to enter the water near the fish. There are several presentations to key in on that can help with this. One is using bobbers with spawn. This is an effective technique when fish are in holes or deeper runs. This works well for several reasons. Your hook is up off the bottom which in the rivers usually has rocks, leaves or wood tight to bottom. If your fishing on bottom all that stuff can interfere with your presentation as it drifts through the fish. Let alone it can be very frustrating if you getting snagged and losing hooks and having to tie on new hardware several times at every stop. You donít need to be at the same depth as the fish. If anything you can be 12 inches to 24 inches above them and still be in the strike zone. With this presentation itís a good idea to use a barrel swivel below your bobber. Tie on to that using about a two foot leader. If your main line is 10 pound test use a leader of 8 pound. If your Main line is 8 pound use a 6 pound leader. If you do get caught on structure you can usually limit your loss to a hook and some leader line. Keep in mind you want to cast above the whole keeping the entry of your bait well away from the fish. Now set the length between your hook and your bobber about 2 feet longer than the hole is deep. Start off by using less weight than what you think you need. You donít want your bait to sink straight down. Ideally what you want is by the time your bait has drifter down to the hole where the fish are your bait has worked itís way down toward the bottom. Because your bait is sinking as itís drifting with the current your line will be at an angle. Furthest down stream is your bait. This will be what the fish will see first which is exactly what you want. If your not quite sure if your down to where the fish are and decide to add weight let your bobber tell you when you have added enough. If you bobber begins to hesitate as itís drifting you catching bottom and thatís not what you want. This presentation usually works best with a 2 inch ball of Skein Spawn. The large ball of skein well above the fish is a large target the fish will key on. The easiest way Iíve found to keep the skein on is to use a snelled hook. Slip the knot down the hook about ľ inch and pinch the knot to the hook to keep it from moving. With your other hand push your leader line from in front of the eye of the hook back through the eye. This will make a loop behind the eye of the hook. Push it until you have a large loop. Slip the skein inside the loop so itís centered and pull until the skein is attached. To finish it off I usually make sure the point of my hook is turned into the skein so itís not showing.

    While fishing for fish on beds I usually use a 7or 8 weight fly rod with a sinking tip or a spinning rod with split shot and a small wet fly. I find the sink tip with a small minnow imitator 18 inches behind a #12 single egg pattern is very effective. I usually try to target the fish that are hanging near the back of the bed first. What your trying to do is get your sinking line to pull the fly through the fish in a down stream direction. This represents a minnow chasing a single egg as it drifts down stream. This triggers the fish to feed for two reasons. The first reason is they donít like fish feeding on the eggs. The second reason is male dominance. There is a natural pecking order established in every group of fish especially when they are on beds. The smaller fish always get picked on and pushed around by a bigger fish in the area. Sometimes it takes fishing flies up to six inches long to trigger this response. When the fly lands you want it upstream and on the opposite side of the as you are. The sinking tip should land down stream from the fish. You want the current to pull your sinking tip which will drag your fly though the fish. You want this to happen without the sinking tip going through the fish if at all possible. It takes some practice. By the time you get the placement of your cast correct you may have spooked some fish. This is another reason I target the fish toward the back first. If some of the fish do get spooked with little adjustment you can cast a little further upstream and fish the front of the beds. Your now targeting fish that havenít been startled by your previous casts.
    When fishing with a spinning rod and flies itís a bit easier. I tie a barrel swivel on with a 5 to 6 foot leader to a fly or a spawn sack. When I tie on the barrel swivel I leave a tag end of about 4 inches. I use the tag end for split shot. If your split shot gets hung up in the rocks you can do a quick snap and the split shot will slide off. For someone who is buying their flies this can save them allot of money. Another advantage is Itís easier to put on a split shot than a whole new leader, especially when itís cold outside. When deciding where you need to be when casting you should stand up stream from the fish. Cast well past the fish and up stream. This keeps the noise from the bait entering the water away from the fish. As soon as it hits the water start reeling your line in. As your reeling in, your line will fade back toward the fish because of the current .You want to reel it in so your sinker ends up about 10 feet upstream from the fish. By this time your bait is down stream form your sinkers. This is where the long leader comes in. At this point allow your bait to drift down and through the fish. The fish see your bait well before they see your sinkers. I try to use either small eggs of neutral colored flies when trying to get the fish to feed out of hunger. I will spend a good amount of time on a group of fish before giving up. I believe by drifting baits that arenít bold or flashy a person is less likely to spook the fish. If you can keep the fish together in one location some of the fish will bite.
    LEarn more about fishing West Michigan at

  • #2
    Wide Open For Fall Walleye's

    Fall is the time to put more walleye in the boat. With the fish aggressively feeding before winter, the lakes that are known for walleye in your area will produce more fish. Not only will you find active fish in more places but the average size tends to go up as well.

    One thing about walleyeís this time of year is they make more gradual adjustments in their overall position in lakes. Unlike summer time once you find the area of a lake the walleyeís are in, they move very little from day to day . I often find them feeding at night very close to where we find them during the day. With their main goal to gain weight while using as little energy as possible it make sense .

    Targeting main lake saddles and the flats near far reaching deep water points are a good place to start. With the fish unwilling to use much energy to search for food, targeting open water fish this time of year is very effective. With the fact that the fish are less apt to make sudden moves you have the opportunity to cover water and mark several groups of fish before having to worry about them leaving before you get back.

    When the water cools I find very few fish make transitions in the water column like walleyeís do. Even though walleyeís donít seem to make drastic changes in there overall location, walleyeís will move from lying right on the bottom to feeding near the surface. Even though I have a high level of confidence in my locator overall, I focus my scouting efforts and tools toward identifying fish near the bottom. There are very few fish in the fall or even in the winter that will hug tight to bottom like walleyeís will. Many species will suspend so it can be difficult to determine exactly what type of fish your seeing on your locator.

    An effective strategy for focusing on fish near the bottom is to switch your graph on split screen with a 4X zoom on one side and a full view of the water column on the other. This will help you mark those negative fish hugging tight to bottom while still being able to see if the fish are already suspended and feeding. While scouting areas as deep as 60 feet, any sizable fish near the bottom are worth keeping an eye on. Being able to mark those fish on a GPS is definitely a bonus. You then have the ability to return later to identify a pattern. Being able to see the same groups of fish multiple times can say it all. When scouting for fall walleyes finding groups of fish that are working there way down toward the bottom in day light hours is almost a sure sing you found what you were looking for. When the fish are on a decent to the bottom that defiantly indicates the walleyeís are reverting to a negative stage. However even if Iím no longer marking the walleyes on my locator I will focus on fishing the bottom in the areas I last marked them. More times than not they will lay on the bottom very close to where you last marked them. Two common ways I focus on these fish are with live bait rigs and three way rigs.

    When live bait rigging with minnows in water of 25 feet Iíve found a couple of things to be helpful. Using fresh minnows is very important and being able to trap your own is second to none. Wild minnows tend to be unbelievably hardy even after their hooked. Itís not uncommon to be able to cast a trapped creek chub several times and still feel him swimming around on his leader. A minnow you can count on to keep swimming in a walleyes face is like candy. The second thing is the rod you use. I like a rod with two specific characteristics. I prefer a rod with a light tip section so the fish canít feel resistance when they pick up the bait. The second thing is to have a quick taper creating good back bone for good hook sets. This is critical in this situation where you tend to have long lengths of mono out which creates a great amount of stretch. Jason Mitchell 7 foot 6 inch elite series rod is a good example of this combination. More information on these rods can be found at .

    When fishing a three way in main lake areas my rig consists of the following. I use a 6 to 7 foot heavy action graphite rod to support using larger weights. You donít want you rod to bend with the simple action of lifting your weight as you bounce bottom. Power Pro 4-15 with 25 feet of 10 pound maxima tied on with a blood knot has proven to be a good fit. The now stretch line supports being able to pound bottom with gentle lifts of the rod. The mono serves several purposes .You introduce a controlled amount of stretch in to a no give system , the leader to your bait is less visible and as youíll see it works nice for an adjustable lead length. My drop line consist of a 3 to 4 ounce weight with 2 to 3 feet of 20 pound maxima tied to a red off shore release. I clip it on right behind the blood knot. This gives you a generous 25 foot leader to your bait and can be removed when landing fish. Itís also nice to be able shorten you leader by sliding your clip toward your bait if you find your bait is hitting bottom.

    How much action your bait has is probably the show stopper. The floating Rapala in 11 and 13 works great on these rigs. You can give it as much action as you want just by how hard you try to pound bottom. The Rapala has little to no action if itís just being pulled. When the fish donít want to work itís almost like they prefer no action. This bait allows you to get as subtle as Iíve found possible. By lifting your weight off bottom and letting it settle back down rather than just dropping it the Floater is as subtle as Iíve seen.

    Find out more about fishing fall walleyeís day or night on Muskegon Lake at .


    • #3
      Spring Into Big Cat's

      Spring Into Big Cat's

      Spring is the time of year when so many things begin to show promise. As flowers spring up and the sun begins to show it self a bit more often our spirits are lifted as we begin to think more about what we want to do or get done outside. As a fisherman myself spring is always a time of year I look forward to. Traditionally itís been about chasing Walleyeís around Michigan or Steelhead fishing on the Muskegon River. One thing I wasnít aware of as spring begins to unfold. One of Michiganís best kept fishing secrets lies waiting. Fishing for Catfish in West Michigan can produce 10 to 20 Channel Catfish a trip often in the range of 3 to 15 pounds. Option to target big catfish like Flathead Catfish are also available. Even though you donít catch as many fish as you do when targeting Channel Catfish. Hooking fish in the 30 to 40 pound range is common

      There are a good amount of people out there that recognize how much fun these fish are. Iíve not seen many that realize the numbers or the size of the Catfish we have in West Michiganís rivers. I know I never did. All though I have caught my fair share while targeting walleyeís or other species. My passion for Catfish was always limited to the fond memories I had of growing up on a lake and fishing for Bullhead after dark. It wasnít until the last few years I realized how much others not only enjoyed fishing for catfish but have a sincere passion for it. One person with just such a passion is fishing guide Dan Lipski. My kids call him ďDan the Catfish ManĒ . Dan owns and operates River Kat Guide Service. Dan grew up spending a good amount of time fishing with his father on the Grand River. Itís easy to see after spending any time at all with Dan that he loves to fish. Get him on the conversations about big cats and his passion runs deep. While talking to Dan about Catfish strategies. There seemed to be three main things he considers when going after Catfish. Looking for good structure, the bait you use and how those baits are rigged.

      Danís set ups consists of 8 foot fiber glass composite rods, Abu Garcia level wined reels spooled with Power Pro braided line. He uses Power Pro 10-40 for most of his fishing but has several reels spooled with 12-50 Power Pro for targeting bigger fish. The fiber glass rod will take the abuse of the hard fighting fish and the Power Pro line Dan feels is required. Dan said ďwith the fact these fish like to hold close to the structure they like to turn into it as soon as you set the hookĒ. With this extremely tough line, Dan can put the pressure on the fish as soon as he sets the hook. ďYou need to turn their head away from the troubled areas right away. When they do get wrapped up, the no stretch characteristics of Power Pro sticks the pressure directly to the fish to pull them outĒ Dan commented.

      Bait options are numerous but Dan is very particular about which baits he uses. He decides what he is going to use based on what he intends to target that day. One of Danís favorites baits when targeting big numbers of fish is a stink bait made by Cat Tracker. When he needs to put big fish in the boat Itís all about using big and lively bait. Some of Danís most dependable baits are 12 inch live Shad and hand size Blue Gills. If good numbers and overall quality fish is the goal. ďA fresh creek chub is where itís atĒDan says. He puts a great deal of effort catching these chubs and keeping them alive. Fresh is so important he keeps them alive and turns them into a precision piece of cut bait right before they go on the hook. Dan said ď fresh but not alive is key when using Chubs. Itís the smell that their attracted to ď. For rigging cut bait or live bait Dan likes to use a 3 to 4 ounce slip sinker with a very short lead to a blood red # 7/O Daiichi Circle hook which keeps the bait tight to the bottom. He uses 7/0 for live bait and 5/0 Eagle Claw #84 for cut bait.
      Areas that hold fish can be easy to find but challenging to deal with. Like targeting many other fish finding structure is definitely the key. One way to get started when trying to locate where these fish maybe holding is to start with the most obvious. Looking for a log or logs sticking out of the water is a good place to start. These fish like cover and so does their bait. A log can offer suitable feed along with easy swimming as the fish will lay in the slack water created by wood or other obstructions. One thing thatís very helpful to have is a depth finder. Even if itís not a top of the line Lowrance fish finder. Many of the rivers in West Michigan have very low visibility. The basic models show depth and seeing where the depth of the water makes a sudden change is what you need to look for. A sudden change in depth if even by a few feet can create a comfortable spot to hold for big cats. By watching your fish finder you may find those changes were made by wood or piles of rocks that are underwater that arenít as easily noticed.

      When targeting rivers and structure itís important to bring an anchor heavy enough that you can drop straight down and hold your boat position. The less line you have out to the anchor the better. The tighter the lead to the anchor the less the boat will move in the wind or current. Using an anchor at both the bow and the stern of the boat is best. Anchoring your boat up stream form the area you have decided to fish is a must. Choose a weight that is heavy enough to stay right where you cast it. When fishing rivers itís best to prevent your bait from dragging on the bottom. With good anchoring and your weight holding your bait in place your able to spread your lines out and loose fewer rigs. The weights Dan use he pours himself because of their shape. He says ďany slip sinker will work ď but Dan suggests keeping your leader short from your sinker to your hook to minimize snagging.
      Springtime Catfish in West Michigan will be on my list of things to do for years to come. I hope itís on yours too.

      For more information on fishing in West Michigan you can find Dan Lipski at


      • #4
        Why Not Soft Plastics

        Why Not Soft Plastics
        by Ernest Miller

        Jigs have been talked about in so many articles for good reason . It’s no secret that a jig and plastic combo is one of the most effective and versatile baits you can have in your box. Because It’s so effective and well documented it’s no surprise the soft plastics market has exploded.
        When I first start fishing soft plastics I was about 8. I had one bag of 4 inch white twister tails. I remember when my dad bought that bag for me. I was able to choose from white, yellow and black. Now there as many colors and style’s of soft plastics out there. Some aren’t much different that a crank bait at the fraction of the cost.
        One thing I’ve learned about being able to put more fish in the boat is being able to duplicate what works. You can get a bag of four or more soft plastics for the same price or less that the cost of one lure. That’s a huge advantage when trying to building your personal arsenal. There are several things I think about when trying to target a specific type of fish. The main things I consider are color , size, action and scent . Fishing soft plastics allow you address all of these things.
        Soft plastics are more porous than the finish on a hard bait. Bang scent line actually soaks into your presentation rather than washing off when entering the water. Not all fish utilize scent as deciding factor to feed. I am convinced that some fish hold on to a soft plastic longer with scent. I’m convinced it helps me put more fish in the boat, especially when I have clients in the boat that have different levels of fishing experience.
        Salmon in Lake Michigan are very selective when it comes to size and color. With so many colors available, soft plastics really shine. These fish as much as any other if they want one bait you better have two For Salmon I‘ve found that Bass Assassin 5 inch Sea shad work well in the Spring and 6 Inch sea shad work well in the fall as they . For added action for salmon I run soft plastics behind flashers and Spin Doctors. The large sea shad do have good action and vibration with their large tails. These baits also work well without adding additional motion. We are very successful with soft plastics running them straight behind divers to get them down, as a slider or even straight behind a cannon ball.
        Steelhead often key on color and profile as well. Fly Fishing with Streamers of running crank baits are some of the more common presentations. Crank baits work well by being a good visual target and by aggravating fish with movement. Typically we anchor above where fish are holding. We will drop baits back behind the boat to hang them right where the fish are holding. Most of the time we are limited to four lines which normally means four baits. Using a three way swivel we can turn that into eight. A three way swivel with one eighteen inch leader and one forty eight inch leader attached works best. We use 10 to 12 pound Maxima. The stiffness and memory characteristics of this line help to keep the leaders separated. It’s also easier to untangle. We place a diving bait on the short lead and a four inch turbo shad to the long lead. I Snell a # four single hook on with a # 8 treble hook two inches behind. Place the single hook through the nose of the soft plastic with the treble hooked near the back of the bait. The diving bait pulls down as the soft plastic is more apt to stay up and away from the diving bait. With two baits on the same line being pulled against each other in the current the lures have great action. With eight baits swimming in the face of the fish they go crazy.
        With all the color and size options out there today there is great opportunity to use them in new presentations. I find that just putting soft plastics in front of fish that aren’t use to seeing them help make them effective. For an outstanding color selection check out Bass Assassin’s web site .
        Learn More about Fishing West Michigan at