Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Salmon Hitting In The Surf

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The big backhoe clanked along like a mechanical monster from a cheap Japanese horror flick, stopped now and again in its noisy fashion to reach out and fetch in a scoop of gravel and sand from the mouth of Michigan’s Platte River. The big rig was snorting, puffing black smoke, and ton after ton of the river mouth was hauled out and dumped on shore.

This heavy-duty but temporary restructuring of a natural river mouth was being done so boats could come zipping down the normally shallow river, and scoot out into Platte Bay on Lake Michigan to troll lures for salmon. Me, I was wearing waders and fishing the bay off the mouth and doing far better at catching a limit of coho salmon than the off-shore boaters. That was two years ago this week, and if today’s rain is any indication of great upcoming action, more and more salmon will be moving in off the river mouth in the days to come.

My line was threaded through an egg sinker, tied to a barrel swivel, and a three-foot length of six-pound mono was being used as a tippet, and the other end was tied to a No. 10 Mustad hook. A spawnbag loaded with Styrofoam was attached to the hook to float the bait off bottom, and the bait was cast out over the drop-off, and I felt it hit bottom. Ten seconds later the rod tip was snatched toward the surface, the hook was set and a five-pound coho salmon went skittering into the air, all sparkly with tiny droplets of lake water.

That fish was ultimately landed, and my hook was baited again, and back it went into the water. I could see steady streams of coho salmon swimming past me only 20 yards away. Again, a coho salmon hammered the bait and another battle was joined.

This luck led to a limit catch of three pink-fleshed coho salmon. It wasn’t just me catching fish but everyone up and down the shoreline could be seen fighting a fish. These fish were staging in this area for an upstream spawning run, and thanks to a tip from Honor salmon and steelhead guide Mark Rinckey (231-325-6901), I was right on top of the situation.

Rinckey was guiding several anglers, and he was up and down the line of fishermen. He’d unhook a fish, stringer it, bait the hook again, and move up or downstream to help net another salmon for another angler. Some were fishing two different rods and would have a fish going on both rods.

It was Snap City for salmon, and these fish were on the bite. The occasional Chinook salmon would hit, charge headlong out into the deep water of Lake Michigan, and spool the unlucky anglers reel. That would cause a retreat to shore, and the spooling of new line on the reel. An occasional brown trout or steelhead was caught but the major action was with coho salmon.

Nine anglers caught their three-fish limit, and most of them still had enough time left over for 18 holes of golf or walleye fishing on nearby Platte Lake. Anglers will catch coho off the Platte River mouth for another two to three weeks before most of the salmon have run upstream to spawn.

Until then, weather permitting, anglers can cash in on a bonanza of coho salmon action that would be difficult to find anywhere else in our Great Lakes area. It is, in two words, something special.

Posted by Dave Richey on 09/11 at 02:57 PM
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