BRIDGETON — Denny Bouwens said he had it figured out well in advance. We’d have to be on the Muskegon River early, because boat traffic was likely to be significant. And because the water was higher than it had been — and likely to be colored up — we’d have to get the bait down.
So when we started, we were doing something I’d never done before: walking spawn while Bouwens ran a kicker outboard to keep us slowly slipping downstream.
I’ve walked spawn plenty of times, but always from a stationary position. It was a learning process, but it didn’t take long. Fifteen minutes into it, Bouwens brought a colorful steelhead (four- to five-pound range) to the net.
“It’s our go-to presentation when the water is high and dingy,” Bouwens explained. “It’s a unique method and you’re moving around so much you cover a lot of water. You find a biter, catch him, go back up and do it again.”
We went back, but didn’t catch another fish. So we moved downstream, to the next run, and Bouwens caught one there, too.
“You don’t catch every fish in the hole,” Bouwens said. “You’re not fishing it thoroughly. You’re just catching the aggressive fish.”
The keys, Bouwens said, are big bags — and we were using spawn bags the size of ping-pong balls — and keeping the bait down near bottom. Bouwens tied his bags with some small foam floaters in them, he said, so the bags were just a couple of inches off the bottom.
“Right at chin level,” he said. “Right in their face.”
At our next stop, the current was a bit slower so while Bouwens and his buddy Justin Welch continued walking spawn, I grabbed a bobber rod. The sun was just clearing the trees, but we were still fishing in the shade. On my third drift, the bobber went down and I slammed the hook home. It was a beauty — a big, colored hook-jawed buck that would easily weigh double digits. I checked my watch: it was 9 a.m.