Saturday, July 26, 2008

Rivers Can Be A Good Midsummer Bet

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Trout fishermen often think the only good stream fishing is for their favorite game fish, such as brook, brown and rainbow trout.

They might wish to reconsider. Early summer river fishing for game fish like smallmouth bass, northern pike and walleyes can be very good. And white bass, rock bass and panfish also are caught in many streams.

A case in point: a recent trip down the Tittabawassee River from Midland. The targeted species was walleyes but smallmouth bass and northern pike figured in our catch. We also landed crappies, rock bass and white bass. Every hole or run seemed to produce fish, and often more than one species was caught in each location.

It was a fun fishing trip and not one where we fished for the table. In years past, the Tittabawassee River held plenty of fish but none were fit for human consumption. It’s not as bad now as it was 20 years ago, but one measures the potential of risk, and says “Why bother?”

But, if it’s fishing action you seek, the Tittabawassee River offers good sport. Walleyes pounded on our lures in almost every hole we fished. They hit the lures as they swung in the current or caught up with jigs hippity-hopped along bottom.

We found the Mepps Luzon weight-forward spinner highly effective when tipped with a nightcrawler or shiner minnow, and inched over the rocky bottom. Small Mepps spinners produced panfish, white bass, rock bass, crappies and the ever-present walleyes.

Other good lures included Heddon River Runts, Erie Dearies, Dardevles and Cyclops spoons. The trick is to fish slow and work the lures near the bottom and tight to the rocks. That’s one reason why leadhead jigs can be so productive.

Our group, in four hours of fishing, landed more than 30 walleyes weighing up to four pounds each. Several walleyes were kept for photos and released with the others to provide sporting action for other anglers. Vertical jigging with minnow-tipped jigs was very productive for walleyes.

The stream is loaded with fish and it can be a good spot to instill catch-and-release ethics in a youngster. In time, the river will clean itself up and anglers won’t have to worry about eating contaminated fish. It’s very close to that point right now, but I always err on the side of caution.

Many anglers eat Tittabawassee River fish, but when I have my druthers, as I always do, I’ll catch and release the fish. My eating fish will come from somewhere else with cleaner and less contaminated water.

There are many other streams that produce good action through July, and most offer fish that one doesn’t have to worry about eating. A favorite is the upper Cass River near Caro and Cass City, where fishermen can catch rock bass, some jumbo northern pike and fair to good numbers of smallmouth bass.

The Shiawassee River near Owosso offers good northern pike fishing. I have caught hundreds of fish from the Shiawassee River, and almost all are returned to the river to live and fight again. Some of the shallow riffles produce exciting smallmouth bass action on jigs, Beetle Spins and Shad Raps.

The upper Muskegon River offers great sport with bass, pike and some trout. Another good bet is the upper Grand River near Lansing where smallmouth bass smack jigs and other lures.

The AuSable River between the dams (pick any two dams along the river) offer smallmouth and largemouth bass, northern pike, walleyes, panfish and some trout. The Thunder Bay River upstream from Alpena is one of the state’s finest smallmouth bass waters.

Moving water attracts thousands of fishermen every year, and one only has to look nearby to find a fishable stream. Fishing pressure is negligible on most rivers and a wealth of angling possibilities await sportsmen with the need for a change of pace and a willingness to try something new.

Posted by Dave Richey on 07/26 at 08:50 PM
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