Northern Michigan Sporting a Hot Salmon Bite

By: Kyle McClelland

After a few very poor big lake trolling seasons it’s been close to a normal year on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. It might be a little below average if you account for the low numbers in June and early July, but now that August and September are here things have improved. For more than a month now we’ve been catching consistent numbers of quality salmon in Northern Michigan.

Fishing has been up and down since we started trolling in the spring, but we seem to have found some normalcy. We commenced the year with decent fishing in mid May and then it quieted it down and remained slow until the second week of July. Beginning in early August more fish started showing up and the rest of August has been excellent. We’re expecting the same in September.


The key to September is a north wind. Without any north winds our season gets extended and we haven’t had a north wind yet, which is good news for Lake Michigan. When a strong north wind arrives, it turns the lake over, which basically floods cold water on the shoreline. When the lake flips like this the salmon start heading into the rivers because the cold water near the pier heads draws them in.


I’m expecting at least another solid two weeks for the three and four year old salmon. For the most part the fish have been healthy. We’d had a few skinner fish, but most of our salmon have been normal. However, the lake trout we’ve caught have had way more alewives in them than the kings, which is odd. On a normal morning we’ve been getting 12-20 king bites with average of putting 6-17 nice fish in the boat. Evenings are slower. Meanwhile, we still put at least six in the boat.


We are running a mix of J-Plugs, meat rigs and flasher and flies. The meat bite has been better in the morning and the flashers have been better at night. Chartreuse has been our best color on the meat, at least when it’s sunny. On cloudy days I’ll run purple.

On Lake Michigan in August and September it’s hard to beat meat rigs. Most days in late summer and early fall they take 50-75 percent of the salmon we catch. When we fish meat rigs we either run herring strips or strips of sucker belly. As most Great Lakes anglers do we brine/cure them in Fire Brine and Fire Dye. It makes them last longer, gives them vibrant colors and helps the scales shine.


Brining these strips allows you to match the hot color and dial into the hot bite. I like to match the color of brined bait with the color of meat rig/flasher I’m running. There are also times when it seems all the fish want is UV. It can be really hard to beat a UV herring strip on a UV flasher/meat rig (keep mind all colors of Fire Brine and Fire Dye are UV except natural). Normally, we use blue, purple, green, natural and chartreuse color baits. Which work best depends on water and light conditions. This is why we bring an array of colors with us.


Editor’s Note: Kyle McClelland runs XXL Chrome Chasing. For more info please visit He spends his summer running charters for Class Act Charters. For more info his Manistee salmon, steelhead and trout trips please visit