Sep 9, 2017


By Captain Lee Haasch 

The leaves have changed from the deep green of summer to the crimson reds, golden yellows and orange colors of the fall.  Many of them are also starting to blanket the forest floor by this time.  The geese are flying and landing in the cut fields and deer hunters are sitting quietly several feet off the ground waiting for that 30-pointer to walk by – but wait, don’t put the boat away quite yet! We still have some amazing fishing to experience on Lake Michigan and the tributaries and THIS IS TROPHY TIME!  

Shortly after Labor Day it starts, boat after boat slowly disappear from the marinas each day.  I’m not sure why, but everyone seems to transition to the next phase of their outdoor cycle.  But hey, remember – it’s a very long off-season.  I hear it every winter at sport shows, “Boy, I can’t wait for spring,” or “I really wish the salmon season was longer,” and “How long do you fish?”  Well, I think most of you are missing what just might be the best fishing opportunities of the season. 

Talk about wanting to have near-shore trophy fishing.  This is it.  While some of the kings have migrated to spawning beds miles upstream, some still remain staging and the later of the kings are still coming in late September and early October.  This leads to perfect opportunities for pier anglers, small boat anglers and charter clients to get in on some trophy king salmon fishing.  Mixed in with these kings are trophy brown trout on their fall spawning migration and big steelhead; the early runners that winter under the river ice.  By mid-October, we also see the coho salmon heading to the river to make their spawning migration and, by late October, huge lake trout sneak into the shallows to also spawn in late October and early November.  Now that lake trout season is open year-round there are many opportunities for trophy lake trout near shore and from the piers when they frequent the shoreline before spawning.  

With all these big fish swimming near the river mouth, you would expect to see lots of boats circling the shallow fishing grounds all the time.  But, this is not always the case.  With the very clear water in lake Michigan, on calm, sunny days the staging fish will often get “lock-jaw” and play “hard to get” in the shallows.  Never fear, this is the best time to slide out deeper and from 100’ to 300’ of water and target the junior salmon and steelhead that are very active, feeding intently before winter sets in.  This is my favorite time to fill my freezer before winter.  Past experiences have shown that after the lake turns over in fall, the fish seem to suspend higher in the water column and it is usually “GAME ON” for daylong, mixed-bag fun.  

Back to the streams.  This is the one time of year where the streams fill up with big fish of several different species.  Stream guide, Tyler Yunk of Habitual Guide Service, and one of my summer fishing specialists, is an avid stream fisherman.  The fall season preparation starts in mid-August when he starts gathering near-ripe salmon spawn from charter captains and preps and ties them into spawn sacs for the fall season.  If you’ve never experienced a king salmon nearly ripping your arm out of its socket on a hook-set, you’ve got to try this.  Being one-on-one with a 25-pound king salmon, standing waist-deep in the river, bracing against the current while feeling your line, watching your float and seeing it disappear moments before you rip back with a massive hook-set and then having the king salmon tear back and take off downstream leading you into one of the greatest fights you will ever take part in.  This is a thrill everyone should have the opportunity to experience.     

Tackling the elements in a one-on-one fashion also makes this one of the most rewarding ways to catch a king salmon.  Like hunting a trophy buck, you need to be continuously conscious of your environment and be as hidden as possible to the fish.  Like stalking any game, if the fish doesn’t know you are there, the better your chances of success.  Also knowing the streams, the bends, the rapids and the holes where they like to hang and how to best approach them are all important to a successful outing.    

If you are not sure where to go or what kind of equipment and bait you need, Habitual Guide Service can “hook you up.”  I always believe that the first time or two tackling something new, you can spend an awful long time learning on your own, or you can have someone show you how and duplicating from there on is easy.  You can check them out at:  or call Tyler at: 920-255-7865.  

For current fishing reports or information on charter fishing in the Algoma area, check out my report page at  You can even sign up for periodic newsletters and fishing reports.  From Captain Lee and the crew aboard the GRAND ILLUSION 2 – we are looking forward to seeing all of you on the water this spring.  Good Luck and Good Fishing!