Jul 10, 2018

High Noon Sun

Try a mid-day bite for great Lake Michigan salmon action

By Capt. Lee Haasch

Trevor and I were just about finished cleaning up from our morning outing. It was a good one – we managed to box 16 nice fish and several more eluded us. As we readied the boat and grabbed a quick bite, we prepared for our afternoon group and what the lake was going to give us.

Our morning ended with a mixture of steelhead and kings in 150 feet of water, and that gave us a good starting point for the afternoon. The harbor had been busy with boats returning from morning fishing, and traffic exiting the harbor mid-day is usually reserved for a few charter boats returning with afternoon excursions.

To start the afternoon, we head right to where the active fish settled. The kings were higher in the water early, but late morning we found active fish deeper. The 15-pound weights on my downriggers will get us deeper, and as Trevor set his corner at 85 feet, his Ugly Stik hosting his deep Slide Diver rig bent sternly downward and the drag of his Alphamar reel started screaming.

“Fish, fish, fish!” Trevor shouted. “It’s a big one, too. Who’s up?” Just then, the Ugly Stik on my corner rigger popped and just bent down to the water.

“Another one! I knew that bloody nose would go, it was hot this morning, too!”

I kept setting the poles on my side and moved a few out of Trevor’s way and as he scooped the first king, then moved to his side to set the Slide Diver rig back down. 

“Can’t catch ’em if the bait is not in the water,” I chuckled to the customers.


Less boat traffic equals more space

Over the years, I found that more important than time of day is the fishing pressure. Mid-day periods have limited fishing pressure and I like to think most creatures are the same when it comes to time – just like my dogs at home, whether you leave them alone for an hour or six hours, they greet you with the same enthusiasm when you get home. Fish are the same, really no sense of time. Leave them alone for a little while and they go right back to what they do best, searching for food.

What I like most about the mid-day departure is space. Very little traffic, and when I set up and  troll away from the harbor, it seems like I have the lake to myself. It becomes very easy to settle into a speed and angle and make corrections to get my bite back without having to contend with traffic. This was a great example of a busy Saturday morning with boat traffic, with beautiful weather that lots of anglers took advantage of. But by high noon, the lake was pretty vacant and the fish had a while to settle down from the morning barrage of traffic.

Early morning fishing can be hectic with fast action at sunrise. Mid-day is just a continuation of the late morning bite, and finding the active fish is the key to success. In some respects, it’s almost easier because you can get back on the same pattern you ended the morning. I try to settle into that same pattern to start out the afternoon and adjust from there.


Targeting steelies

Mid-day is also a great time to get steelhead bites. While the early morning hours are primarily spent targeting kings, I like to target the steelhead when the sun is high and take a few kings along the way. So as conditions allow, I like to put out a wide spread and cover some water.

We started the afternoon a bit shallower than we finished. It wasn’t long and the Slide Diver on my side – now down to 150 feet of line – started pounding.

“Grab that driver,” Trevor shouted to a fisherman, referencing the chrome green e-chip and anti-freeze Casper Mr. Derk’s fly that caught fish the previous afternoon. “It just needed to be a bit deeper today.”

As the warm summer steadily increased the surface temperatures of Lake Michigan, the fish seemed to stay out a bit deeper and down a bit deeper. Something I kind of expected after the longer winter and that last big April snowstorm kept the water temperatures cooler. But now it’s returning to normal and should keep mid-day bites like this working right into fall.

This was a little early in the season for this tactic, but we can still capture fish if you understand where the active fish will be hiding. Just then, Trevor jumped up and shouted, “High bird, see the steelie jumping?”

We didn’t keep all the baits low.

Steelhead will often stay near the surface where they can target bugs and still attack higher swimming alewife. While my larger planer boards are pulling 10-ounce weights with varying lengths of line to reach the deeper kings, I like to keep at least one or two smaller planers on the outside of my spread, pulling a brightly colored spoon – usually with orange or red on silver – to entice that occasional steelhead strike. Some days during mid-summer, several higher baits per side are effective in capturing those roaming steelhead. Mid-day is the best time to enjoy the acrobatic action provided by these silver, tail dancers.


The presentation

To keep more baits in the fish zones, I rigged up my combos with Sufix 832 Braid in 65-pound test. I’m using 10-ounce weights and running them 120 to 250 feet back behind large Yellow Bird planer boards to get them down 80 to 150 feet and keep my flasher/fly and spoons down deep where the kings are hanging out.

My Slide Divers have the magnum weights and magnum rings to get those well below the 100-foot mark if needed, and I’ve spool my Traxstech downriggers with 300 feet of cable and running 15-pound and 17-pound weights. If the fish go deeper yet, they will easily handle up to 26-pound weights.

I also spooled my downrigger Ugly Stick and Alphamar combo with 50-pound Sufix 832 Braid and 60 feet of Trilene Professional fluorocarbon line. I can run my riggers very deep without seeing my line bow way back, and also the braid telegraphs every bite back to the rod amazingly well when running deep riggers.

As we enjoy a warm summer this season, don’t forget to look deep for the kings as the surface temperature heats up. Running flasher/fly combos and glow spoons near thermoclines setting up deep can entice hungry king action.

I also try to keep a few spoons near the surface to tease some tail-dancing steelhead. There’s nothing like a mixed bag in the cooler.

For current fishing reports or information on charter fishing in the Algoma area, check out my report page at www.FishAlgoma.com. You can even sign up for periodic newsletters and fishing reports. From Capt. Lee and the crew aboard the Grand Illusion 2 – we are looking forward to seeing all of you on the water this summer. Good luck and good fishing!