Jul 10, 2014
In Search of Kings
By: Jason Woda
In my opinion, there is no more exciting time of the year on Lake Michigan than the late summer and early fall. Giant kings are heavy on the feed awaiting their call from Mother Nature to run the river in search of their spawning grounds. There is definitely a way to take advantage of this feeding frenzy depending on wind conditions and boat traffic.
Old school thinking has most Lake Michigan anglers trying to pinpoint cold water typically in the 50-56 degree range. In mid to late August this thinking can limit your success. As kings prepare for the fall run they will begin to pay less attention to temperature as their feeding habits change. Warmer water, even up to the mid 60 degree range will hold mature fish, which are the big boys. Keep in mind that I am speaking of mature fish. Chinooks younger than 4 years old will still hold true to the cold water thinking, so if it’s numbers you are after, warm water kings might not be the choice for you. Targeting warm water kings usually means that we are fishing shallow waters, typically under 60 feet. This may get you nervous as the water temps can scare you away from where you should be fishing. Be patient. Baitfish will often congregate in these shallow waters, especially at daybreak and sunset and where you find bait, you will find salmon.
The baits you choose to fish with, of course, make all the difference in the world. Late summer and early fall kings like baits that are erratic more often than not. However, we are fishing in shallow water, so an “in your face” approach can deter bites as well. Sunlight conditions will tell us everything we need to know. The brighter it is outside, the more subtle we want to be. If it’s a bright sunny, calm day, I most likely will shy away from running flasher/fly rigs which is usually my “go to” bait, and stick to running Magnum spoons and plugs (Fig.1). Lead core set ups become even more important at this time of year due to their stealth nature, so make sure you have numerous lead core set ups ready to deploy using inline planers! Stealth is huge at this time, so if there are a number of boats working an area you want to, I would advise finding a clean stretch of water to work. There will be days that this warm water bite will die quickly after sun up, and be non-existent until sunset, so you will have a few choices to make. A. Stay shallow and grind it out for maybe a few big fish, or B. slide out and target younger Chinooks. Either way your day will be exciting and memorable. We have won the Brew City Salmon Tournament twice, using this thinking and using the exact same baits, in the exact same spot, in really warm water. So it works.
There is no better fun than catching giant, line ripping chinooks on Lake Michigan, and in my opinion there is no better time of year and no better place than Milwaukee to do it. Get out there and give it a shot, you won’t be disappointed.