Sep 10, 2014


By: Capt. Lee Haasch

September is one of my favorite months.  After a long summer of long days on the water (now how could that possibly be bad?), I often put in 12 to 14 hour days on the water.  Now, that isn’t all bad, I am fishing and enjoying the company of lots of fine fishermen (and gals) that all enjoy being part of the outdoors and of course, are fishing!  We’ll do that for about 30 days straight at a crack without a day off and, well, even I can get a bit cranky (I don’t think so, but ask my wife for another version of this story!).  Anyway, so after three solid months of being on the water every day and a lot of “all day,” I really welcome fall.  The weather cools a bit and the crisp air just breathes of, well – fall!  I look forward to getting in the woods on my days off the water.  Instead of biting flies, I have to swat mosquitos, but it’s a change of pace. 

But back to the fishing. All I can say is “What a difference a year makes!”  Every year is different and even the long-time veteran fishermen have a tough time predicting from year to year what is going to happen.  2014 had one of the coldest winters on record.  2013 had one of the longest winters in about 20 years (or at least it seemed like it).  Both years we really didn’t see a spring at all and just slooowwwly slid into summer.  How did it impact the fishing?  2014, started very slow again, and fishing really started to get pretty good and consistent by mid-June.  2013 started slow and kept that pace well into summer.  The good news is that the amount of bait fish swimming around was the most I’ve seen since the early 80’s for both years.  The winter of 2012 was very short lived and spring started in early February and turned out to not only be one of the hottest fishing seasons we had in a while, but it produced a bumper crop of alewife and that meant good things for the fishery for years to come.

Looking at the size of the kings this season and last season comparing them to 2012, it would be, without a doubt, easy to say that the fish are 20-30% larger.  Not only is this great news for the anglers, but it also sends out a huge message that our fishery is on the rebound and getting healthier.   That is the reason for so much enthusiasm going into this fall – Trophy Kings!

Every fall, the mature kings will make their way to the mouth of the rivers where they were born (or planted).  As fingerlings they implanted the DNA (so to speak) of the river where they originated. Prior to their spawning run, they seek out that river and begin staging.  During this time, the kings will hang out close to the river’s mouth, waiting for the right moment to make their run upstream.  It’s during this time, that a true trophy can be had, either right close to the river’s mouth or nearby in the outlying waters.

Because these fish are in very shallow water, the clarity can be a problem.  It is very difficult to find that trophy when the lake is calm and the water is clear.  They spook too easily.  Fishing close to shore is done best under the cover of darkness, cloud cover, choppy seas or murky/dirty water conditions. 

When fishing in close, some of my favorite baits are large wobbly spoons, J-plugs, Rebels and R & R and Warrior spoons.  Trolling in front of the harbor mouth not only gives you the chance for a monster king, but a bonus wall-mountable brown trout is always a possibility.   Not only can you find a trophy close to the river’s mouth, but the outlying waters can also produce true trophies.  On days when the immediate waters outside the harbor entrance are too clear to produce bites, I find big kings that are close to staging in the waters directly off shore in the 60’ to 150’ depths.  Lunker kings will zone in on the harbor and continue to feed in the slightly deeper waters until Mother Nature decides it is time for them to stage for their spawning run.

This is the time of year that shore anglers look forward to.  Pier anglers have a front seat to some of the best action of the season.  Casting spoons, stick baits, dead-sticking spawn sacs, marshmallows or alewife can produce some nice trophy kings.  As these kings move upstream, there are also several public access areas that afford anglers excellent opportunities to capture some mature salmon from the shoreline of the Ahnapee River.  Between kings, brown trout and coho salmon there will be fish available in the river all the way to ice-up.

This summer, I had the opportunity to field test some awesome products from several manufacturers.  Being a part of a company’s pro staff is a lot more than slapping a decal on the side of your boat and truck and getting free stuff.  In fact, there is very little ‘free” stuff for staff members.  Staff members, in exchange for discounted pricing, put the products through rigorous use and report the good and bad qualities of them.  Pro staffers are also expected to promote the use of those products.  This is where the fun part comes in, getting to try out state of the art equipment sometimes before it is even available in stores.  I hope to put together a “Salmon troller’s wish list” around Christmas time.  In the meantime, maybe I can share a few product tips.

The thrill of catching any fish begins with what is in your hands.  A good fishing rod is the start to a great day on the water.  After 37 years, Shakespeare is now introducing a complete over-haul of the Ugly Stik.  I had the opportunity to field test the Ugly Stik GX2 rods. Believe me when I say, they are by far the best fishing rod I have ever had on my boat.  I ask every customer that catches a fish on them what they think, and across the board, everyone loves them.  The best part, look for them in sporting goods stores this fall and at $39.95 MSFP, you’re going to want to buy several.  Combine that with the new Ambassadeur Alphamar line counter reels by Abu Garcia and you have an unbeatable combination.  This will probably be the last rod and reel you will need to ever buy (unless you discover ways to run more lines!).

If you are looking for pole holders on your boat, look seriously at Traxstech.  By mounting a track system on your boat, you are able to buy fixed or adjustable rod holders and rod trees.  In all my years fishing, and several boats, this system is not only top quality construction, but it is easy to see that it is a system built by fishermen.  They also came out with a new downrigger that has all the bells and whistles that you would ever need, and again designed and built by tournament fishermen, and best of all, made entirely in the USA!

On the electronics side, really take a hard look at the Lowrance HDS system.  I have my HDS 10 and HDS 7 cabled together so they share information.  I’ve added the digital radar which works great.  The best addition to my system is the Sirius Weather.  I have up to the minute weather maps to watch storms, winds, etc. as it comes.  It also gives me surface temperatures on my plotter screen, which is an excellent tool.

So, whether you are using new equipment or old, fall kings are a great time and this year should be even better with some monster kings waiting to be caught!  For more fishing information visit my website  Remember, the best time to go fishing is anytime you can!

Capt. Lee Haasch is a charter captain out of Algoma, WI.  Capt. Lee has over 40 years of great lakes angling experience and has been instructing anglers for over 25 years with education seminars and timely freelance articles in outdoor publications.