By: Kyle McClelland
This is the best salmon fishing season I’ve seen on Lake Michigan since I was born. Not only are there good numbers of salmon, but the fish are big. This season 20-30 pounders are common. We catch them every trip. We haven’t caught any bigger than 40 pounds, but some anglers have along the Michigan shoreline.
We are getting about a dozen to 20 good king bites on a normal day, which is much better than last year. I’d expect another solid two weeks of big king fishing with our mature fish on the big lake. After that some of the fish will start to migrate into the rivers. However, then the two-and-three year olds will begin to migrate to the shoreline and fishing becomes good for them, too.
We are fishing out of Manistee, but bite has been good all across the lake. That includes the Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan shoreline. All the private boaters and charters are happy with the season we are having. Right now we are getting mostly four year olds, but all year classes are present, which is great for our future.
A few weeks ago we are running 20 miles south before dropping lines. However, now we are only fishing four-to-five miles off Manistee. This area and all others on the Lake Michigan shore that are in front of tributaries will hold salmon for the remainder of the season. In fact, anglers are even catching them off the pier heads and in the river. We are experiencing a normal cycle this season, which we used to see each year. It’s good that things are back to normal, at least for now.
There’s so much bait on the lake right now I can’t even describe it. Some days this summer there was so much bait that the fish wouldn’t bite because they were gorging on the alewives. We had to move areas where there was fish, but less bait, in order to get bit. It was incredible. There are schools of bait that are 50 feet tall and a few hundred yards wide. This is one of the reasons why our salmon are so large this year.
Where the salmon are changes daily, but one constant is we always target the thermocline. In the last few weeks we’ve been running baits in 30 to 150 feet of water. I’ve been running several things. Lately the meat rig bite has been good, flashers and flies have been taking fish and a few have come on J-Plugs. When it comes to meat rigs I’m using Chartreuse, Blue, Gold and Natural Fire Brine or Fire Dye herring in a Big Water Tackle meat rig. We are using Dreamweaver Spin Doctors and Pro Troll E-Chip flashers with various Rapture trolling flies. When it comes to J-Plugs the small and medium sizes have been the best producers.
Weather depending, once we get a north wind anglers will want to target near shore and by the river mouths. The hard north wind flips the lake and cold water will be near the shoreline, which is where the fish will be too. It’s important just to follow the fish in.
Editor’s Note: Kyle McClelland operates XXL Chrome Chasing. For more info on his Lake Michigan trolling adventures out of Manistee please visit https://www.facebook.com/XxlChromeChasing.