The time has arrived. Lake Michigan salmon season is on — and so far it has been a story about big fish.
Yep, drag out the heavy tackle and big coolers because here they come.
This season has been slowly building with attention on abundant bait populations recovering in Lake Michigan. The increase in bait fish anglers are seeing in most ports has resulted in some very large, mature salmon.
Kings and cohos alike have increased in size as they near the end for their eating days and prepare to run our rivers and streams to spawn. Kings over 30 pounds have been caught nearly every day up here, with fish over 20 pounds a regular occurrence. The cohos are larger, too, with many fish being caught weighing over 10 pounds.
As the fish near our rivers and harbors, opportunities for anglers — from shore or boat — become good. Many anglers will troll the usual array of spoons, plugs, glow tackle and attractors with flies in anticipation of their own personal best. Their chance is better than it has been in a while.
But trolling for trout and salmon will not be the lone tactic this season. In recent years, jigging for salmon has become a new way to enjoy the sport. Using the Minn Kota Ipilot to hold stationary, anglers are catching nice salmon at close range. Jigging spoons and casting squids also are popular in our area and can prove deadly for salmon — truly different and exciting, just like the great fun river anglers get when their chance swims upstream.
While the opportunity for a big one is great, the overall numbers anglers are catching are slightly lower. Fewer planted salmon by the DNR is part of the strategy to allow for more year classes of baitfish. It is the number of year classes out there that determines the actual health of the baitfish population overall. That means that although anglers are seeing more bait than they have seen in over 20 years, the fish are still growing in year classes.
More big fish fed very well, but fewer fish has not slowed most folks down. These fish are fun to catch and truly rewarding. Kids can build lasting memories with this annual opportunity. The spirit of fishing is in the air.
As we all go out looking for that salmon to bite, let’s try to remember that all of us out there share a love of the water and fishing.
Regardless of your technique, we all love the same thing. As anglers, let’s try to respect one another and work together to fish these unique locations here in the Grand Traverse region.