Mar 10, 2018


By: Captain Lee Haasch 

In a few short weeks, anglers will transition from walking out on the ice with a pail of tip-ups and a jig pole, to sliding into a pair of waders or launching their boat and long lining for some tasty trout!  It’s time to start thinking about soft water again.  Mother Nature did her best to freeze up Lake Michigan with a steady dose of below zero temps back in December and January, so let’s take that as a call to arm ourselves with trolling rods and stream gear and get it on with some of the finest open water fishing around.    

Lake Michigan offers a very diverse fishery, but in the springtime, the hundreds of miles of tributaries that are stacked full of spawning steelhead and holdover brown trout can be truly amazing. With almost an endless amount of access points to the tributary streams, you can slip on a pair of waders and grab your medium action rod and reel and float a spawn sac in the current in hopes of doing battle with a 15-pound trophy steelhead.  And if that’s not enough for you, tackling a powerful football shaped brown trout on light line in a ripping current will get anyone’s adrenalin pumping.    

Springtime is a fisherman’s dreamtime of the year.  You have the unique opportunity to fish both hard and soft water, sometimes even in the same day!  This is the time to get after it.  As soon as the ice melts off the tributaries and about when the powerful runoff starts to slow making water levels drop just a bit, access to the upstream holes and current bends are the places to go.  This is also the start to the open water trolling season as boat landings begin to clear of ice and become accessible.  On top of all that, there are still many bays that have safe ice to walk out on and target large, trophy walleye and northern pike.  

Very few places allow an angler the opportunity to fish both hard and soft water in the same day.  One such area is the Door Peninsula of Wisconsin.  With easy access in the springtime to Lake Michigan out of the ports of Algoma and Kewaunee, ample tributary trout action in both the Ahnapee and Kewaunee Rivers and with ice covered bays a very short drive across the peninsula on Green Bay, this makes the area the perfect place to go for multiple species of trophy fishing on both hard and soft water.   

Hard water action by mid-March has heated up and the focus has shifted to trophy size walleye and northern pike on the bay.  Sunrise and sunset hours are the main focus for the ice anglers targeting walleye, and the daytime hours are most productive for trophy pike.  Setting some Beaver Dam Artic Circles in the shallow inner bays with larger sucker minnows or frozen smelt will often yield multiple flag afternoons chasing some big northern pike.  Toward late afternoon, it’s time to slide out just a bit deeper to areas near points and drop-offs and setup for walleye. 

As dusk approaches, walleye will move into the shallows to feed. Bucket sitters armed with their favorite Rapala jigging lure, like the Jigging Rap, Snap Rap or Shad Rap, will find themselves ready to hook into a potential trophy walleye that could top the 10-pound mark.    

If the hard water is your afternoon angling showdown, what about the morning angling adventure?  In this part of the state that is easy.  Once the ice has let go on the tributaries, grab a pair of waders, a 7-foot medium action Ugly Stick and a bag of spawn sacks and you’re ready for soft water action.  The streams are full of steelhead on their spawning run provide that will provide line-screaming action all morning!    

If stream wading isn’t quite your gig, this time of year also offers the first open water trolling of the season.  Trollers are able to finally launch their 18’ boats after a long winter of planning, re-linings rods, charging batteries and basically waiting for the moment to arrive.  It’s here!  Grab your box of Rapala stick baits, planer boards and attack the shallow water along the shorelines of Lake Michigan.  It won't be long and you will have that first jumping and splashing, football shaped brown trout tugging on your line.    

This is truly a magical time of the year.  Anytime you can target four different trophy fish species on both hard and soft water in the same weekend, it is really something special; and, it only occurs for a short time.  Please make sure you have all your safety equipment and check with local sport shops for ice and water conditions.  Remember no ice is 100% safe and with Lake Michigan water temps in mid-30’s, caution and safety is of utmost importance.    

For current fishing reports or information on charter fishing check out my report page at  From Capt. Lee and the crew aboard the GRAND ILLUSION 2 - good luck and good fishing!