Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Silver Bullets!!!

Got Chrome?
 With the warming of lake Michigan waters in early June, the Skamania cruise along the piers gorging on Alewives. The steelhead are often in the top 6 feet of water and are active feeders. Sometimes unsuspecting perch fisherman tangle with these silver beasts to be left with an empty spool and a feeling of just being on the receiving end of a hefty butt whoopin.

My son Jared fighting his first ever steelhead. Skamania Mania is setting into his brain!
These chrome beauties are the result of the Indiana stocking program that was escalated in the mid 80's. Michigan City harbor was where these torpedo shaped steelhead first started to cause anglers to give chase. In the early days many fish were taken on a bobber with a crawler or and orange KO painted orange on the front and back pulled in with a VERY fast retrieve.

Later on Michigan joined Indiana in stocking the St. Joesph River in a joint effort with Indiana and started planting the Big Manistee as well. Like all fish in the Great lakes that end up traveling upstream, some will stray. The Kalamazoo River gets large numbers of summer steelhead despite not getting any fish planted. Wisconsin has also been very active on the west side of the lake and it is rumored that many fish caught along the Michigan shoreline are of the Wisconsin plantings.

Before entering the rivers the fish congregate for a few short weeks and cause the piers all along west Michigan to get more fishing pressure than the Salmon in the fall. It will be a long while before these fish spawn and have hearty appetites. The fishing can get cramped and with winds often over 10 mph and waves coming in off the lake a traditional bobber, or slip bobber set up is not a good choice.

The set-up

The rig is a little different than most people are used to when using a slip bobber. On the main line slide a barrel swivel followed by a bead, the slip bobber and another bead. Then you tie a snap swivel on the bottom then attach a 1 oz. pyramid sinker. The snap swivel is used so when walking with the rods on you way to and from the pier you don't have the lead bobbing all around causing twisted lines. On the top swivel you tie 3-4 ft of 8-10 lb line to your hook. I use a size 4 treble hook. I find if you have two barbs in the shrimp and one exposed, you really don't need to set the hook, the fish does it for you. The bait is simple cooked cocktail shrimp! I use bait frozen, it thaws within a few short minutes. I use the scent when the shrimp has thawed if the bite is slow.

Netting these fierce fighters can be a challenge in the rocks and sometimes waves.

The way it works is the pyramid sinker anchors in the sand and stays stationary will the bobber drifts up your line until it gets to the surface pushing the hook with the shrimp before it. You will have a well anchored suspended bait at whatever depth you set your leader to. The fish bites and the bobber goes down just like normal.

Frozen cocktail shrimp with some scent if it's been in the water too long.

Make sure you have your rods secured, when these fish hits it may be a gentle tug and the bobbers slowly goes under, but most times it is a freight train at full speed. Your rod will double over and make sure the drag is set on the light side because your drag will scream. People do loose rods if they don't pay attention.

An easy home made rod holder, Just wedge it between the rocks and your ready to go.

I like this spot because of the pre-cut notches where my rods fit perfectly!
A nice steelhead about ready for the net, nice shot of the bobber set-up above the water.
Make no mistake about it, summer run steelhead are crazy in the extreme. The take off on blistering run, are almost guaranteed to make several acrobatic leaps and jumps and can tangle other lines in mere seconds. if someone yells fish on, be prepared to reel your poles in to avoid a nasty tangle. It seems that the fish have an uncanny talent for finding the lines of other fisherman and people swear they do it on purpose. Netting can be a huge challenge when the seemingly spent fish is slowly swimming near the submerged rocks and WHAM, they flip a switch and it's GAME ON! If your lucky they will jump, many fish are lost to the rocks in that last ditch effort.

Jared with his first steelhead.
Skamania are a pretty fish! Their back is usually an olive color to a blueish green with the typical spots that adorn rainbow trout along their back. They have less spotting than the normal steelhead and some can seem to have almost none at all. The sides are the color of polished nickle while lacking the pinkish to lateral lines of the other steelhead. Their chrome sides blend into the white of purest snow on their bellies. These amazing fish must have liquid metal for blood because the chrome coloring can trickle down their tails, or is it that they swim so fast the color bleeds?
They have small teeth like many small needles for holding bait fish in their jaws.
A nice steelhead in the 90 deg heat on Holland Pier.

Orange K.O. Wobbler
If watching a bobber gets boring, casting hardware can be effective. Orange is the key color!
Most of the fish seem to be in the 8-12 lb range. Some are a little smaller, but there are some that can push the 20 lb mark. The big ones can be troublesome to land because they add a little more strength to these agile warriors. So tie your knots well, check your line for frays or nicks from the rocks because they will make for a short battle. 

Jared with another nice steelie caught while it was still dark.
 The best fishing occurs in the early morning twilight, just as the sun is coming up right before it pops over the horizon. The bite can stop and start with a moments notice. Just this last Friday I was standing on the pier with my polarized on watching the water when I saw a small school of steelhead chasing a school of alewives, they were darting into the bait fish and heading right for my sons bobber, they whizzed by us on the pier and I shouted a school was coming down the pier then my sons second rod and our closest neighbor's started bouncing and the fish were jumping. Sometimes bait fish will jump out of the water or you can spot a steelie porpoise.

Me with a typical Skamania, they are all beautiful and completely nuts!

I wish you the best of luck if you cross lines with the most psycho fish in all of the Great Lakes

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