By: Kyle McClelland
With salmon numbers on the decline in the Great Lakes the past couple years, this year has been a blessing for anglers fishing Lake Michigan. Some ports across the lake have seen the best fishing in years with a great mixed bag of salmon, steelhead and lake trout. Along with that, we’ve also seen some of the largest fish in decades. Many 30-pound salmon have been caught this summer with a 20-pound average on our adult fish.
On the northeast coast of Lake Michigan, mid-August is our prime time. Salmon have yet to start running our rivers in any numbers, which means they’re staging outside of the river mouths leading to phenomenal fishing opportunities. These 20-30 pound salmon make for great fun and can be found in ports like Manistee, Frankfort, Lundington and Charleviox.
When kings and coho start staging to make their run up the rivers meat rigs continue to prove year after year they’re our top producing bait. Fishing meat rigs is simple. First off, you’ll want to choose a good attractor, which for those who aren’t familiar is a flasher. We run Dreamweaver’s Spin Doctor, Michigan Stinger’s E-Chip flasher and a Fish Catcher, but any flasher will get the job done. My favorite this time of year is 11-inch E-Chip and 11” Spin Doctor.
Next, you’ll want to choose a meat rig that matches the general color or glow pattern of the flasher. On bright days fish bright UV baits (chrome, chartreuse, yellow). However, on cloudy or rainy days you’ll want to fish dark baits (blue, purple, black). In the early morning or late evening fish baits that glow. Some days glow baits will work during rough cloudy days, but I’ll never run a rig with any glow on it once the sun comes out.
One trick that will improve your meat rig bite is to Fire Brine your herring strips. When fish dial into a certain color I’ve seen brined herring strips make a big difference. Not only will the brined herring strip allow you to dial into a color pattern, but it also adds a vibrant UV to your bait, which has become extremely popular in the Great Lakes. Put a UV purple herring strip on a UV Purple Haze meat rig during a cloudy day, or a UV chartreuse herring strip on a UV Green Sparkle meat rig set-up during a bright day and you’ll be in for success. We use Blue, Chartreuse, Purple, Red, Pink and Natural Fire Brine herring.
The brine process for curing herring strips is super simple. Place your herring strips in a Tupperware container and fill it up with brine so your herring strips are fully exposed. You don’t need to use much, just enough so your strips will absorb the brine on each side. Let them sit six hours and they are ready to fish.
If you haven’t fished salmon on Lake Michigan this year now is the time. We have massive line burning salmon this year that make for a ton of fun. Although we don’t have large numbers like we used to, we have huge size and good numbers. We’ve been averaging 5-15 nice salmon a trip. Good fishing on Lake Michigan for adult kings should last for the next month. Meanwhile, fishing for adult coho salmon and immature kings will last until mid October.
Editor’s Note: Kyle McClelland operates XXL Chrome Chasing. For more info please visit https://www.facebook.com/XxlChromeChasing. Anglers may keep five salmon per day on the Michigan side of Lake Michigan.