Thursday, May 08, 2008
Lower Peninsula Summer Fishing Hotspots
Forty years of chasing fish for magazine articles, newspaper pieces, internet stories and nosing about for hot outdoor news has been fun. It’s given me the luxury of picking the brains of angling experts. They’ve shared some of their knowledge with me so that my angler-readers can catch more fish.
Men such as Don Podraza, Dan Gapen, Sr., Ron Levitan and Steve VanAssche are just a few of many who have added greatly to my fishing knowledge. Some are household names,, others are not, but all are great fishermen.
“Trolling for muskies is fun and can be very productive,” said Podraza of Sturgeon Bay, Wisc., a man who has caught hundreds of legal muskies. “But, in Wisconsin where I live, very few lakes are open to trolling. So ... we cast crankbaits, jerkbaits and spinnerbaits with great effectiveness. That effectiveness is a relative thing. Often, nothing we try excites a muskie and the angler goes home empty-handed.
“The sight of a big muskie following a lure provides some heady excitement, so we stand in a stable boat and fish near fallen trees that have toppled into the water near a drop-off. Search for submerged humps or the tips of long tapering points that fall off into deep water or fish the inside or outside edges of weed beds. We study the water near our lures through polarized sunglasses, and if a fish is seen following the lure, we’ll return several times during the day to fish that area.”
Podraza uses jerkbaits such as a Bobbie Bait, Eddie Bait, Suick or other floating-diving lures that dart first to one side or the other when rod tip action is applied. He fishes a medium-stiff rod and a double-jerk retrieve. He will cast, jerk, reel up the slack, and double-jerk the lure. These lures bob to the surface on slack line, and will dive and dart when jerked, and then start floating back toward the surface before a double-jerk takes the lure down and slanting first in one direction and then the other.
“Keep the line tight at all times, and use a J-shape or Figure 8 lure movement every time the lure reaches the boat and before it is lifted from the water,” he said. “Many following muskies fail to strike, and often, the fish that do hit zoom up from deep water to strike at boat-side. Be ready at all times to set the hooks, and set them hard! An angler must work hard to catch muskies, and that is what makes this endeavor so much fun when a big fish is hooked and landed.”
Steve VanAssche trolls Lake St. Clair for muskies, and uses planer boards to run his lines out some distance from each side of the boat. His favorite lures include the Lokie and Wylie lures. Frequent checking of the lures for weeds is very important, and changing lures helps his anglers catch more fish.
Dan Gapen of Big Lake, Minn. is a longtime ishing buddy, and he owns Gapen Tackle, and fishes all around the world, but enjoys tangling with big northern pike wherever they are found.
“I’d rather fish off a large river mouth early in the season and concentrate my efforts along the first drop-off or weed bed,” Gapen said. “I’d probably fish with an Ugly Bug tipped with a fathead or shiner minnow, and it should be fished as slow as possible.”
A jig, he feels, is one of the hottest pike lures in the world, but many people would rather fish with spoons. He said if he trolls, he’d use a Baitwalker rig with an 18-inch leader down to a hefty shiner minnow and lip-hook the bait fish with a long-shank No. 6 hook.
He suggests trolling along the deep-water edge of newly emerged weed beds, and feels a slow trolling speed is best. “Cover small weed beds from various angles, and you’ll catch fish,” he said. “Big lures catch big fish, and my line of Polish-made plugs have an action that pike love.”
The larger size Flub Dub is a holographic lure that comes in a variety of colors and the larger sizes are perfect for casting along the deep-water edges of a weed bed for muskies. The deep-diving Polish Bluegill in the largest size is perfect for fishing deep-water structure such as submerged humps and the deep-water edges of rocky points. Gapen’s huge Weedcutter spinnerbait is ideal for cranking hard and fast over and along the outside edges of heavy weeds.
These game fish have finished spawning in most Michigan waters some time ago, and Al Lindner of Brainerd, Minn., cut his angling teeth on this game fish. He has been a guide, fishing tackle manufacturer, lecturer and outdoor writer. When he speaks, anglers pay attention.
“Many of the biggest walleyes in any lake will spawn in the lake and not in rivers, and the best spot to catch trophies in the spring is where deep water is found near shore over a rubble bottom,” he said. “I like to use as light a line as possible, and six-pound monofilament will land almost any walleye that swims if the fish is played carefully.
“I like to fish a jig-minnow or a jig-crawler rig if I’m casting or troll with a large-bladed crawler harness or a No. 9 Rapala. Fish these rigs very slowly along bottom, and thoroughly cover all water from every possible angle. Sometimes we have to work hard to get walleyes to hit.”
One trick I’ve learned that works well when jig fishing is to cut the V-shaped throat latch from under the walleye’s chin. Hook that to a yellow jig, and hop it along bottom at a snail’s pace. Walleyes are suckers for that rig when it is fished along a sharp dropoff in the spring. It can be deadly when fished after dark on any shoal frequented by walleyes.
Ron Levitan of Milford, Mich. fishes Lake Erie for walleyes, and he is one of the top walleye skippers on the lake. He trolls Hot ‘n Tots, Wee Warts and Wiggle Warts, and Silver Streak spoons, off planer boards. It’s not uncommon to hook a dozen fish during a troll along a weed bed or in open water where fish are schooled up to eat forage fish.
“Lake Erie is probably the best walleye hole in North America,” Levitan said. “We have several year-classes of fish, and it’s always possible to catch a nine- or 10-pound walleye, especially late in the year (November or December). June and July are great summer months for walleyes