It’s been a long time since I’ve seen silver fishing this good from Alpena north to the Mackinaw Bridge. As of the second week of June this year, my friend Steve Hubert from Chum Bucket Charters put his 145th Atlantic salmon on the deck in just over a month and a half of fishing. That doesn’t count all the steelhead, coho, browns and king salmon into the mix. To say that Michigan’s northeast corner of northern Lake Huron is turning into a fishing bonanza would be an understatement. Not too long ago, everyone had left northern Lake Huron for dead. But with the influx of gobies and surging small smelt populations, it seems northern Lake Huron is roaring back with healthy populations of lake trout, Atlantic’s, steelhead, coho, and pink salmon. Obviously, the Atlantic and pink salmon result from an awesome stocking program up in Sault Ste. Marie. The ever-present lake trout have simply rebounded due to increased bait fish. It’s wonderful to see an area this vast rebound so perfectly.
I’ve got a few tips and tactics for those who want to try fishing in this area. The most important structure tip I can give you is to fish deep humps or steep banks around points and shorelines. When setting up your boards and deep rods like divers in downriggers, there’s a method to scour the water to give you the best fishing. In this neck of the woods, it’s smart to always keep your outside copper or lead core plying the 15-foot depths; in other words, a 75 copper or three-color lead would be perfect. The next one on each side should be set around 30 feet down or 125 copper or six colors of lead. Your last inside copper boards should be 200 copper or 45 feet down. A 10-color lead should do nicely as well. The diver rods should be set up to take over where the deep coppers left off.
I’m usually running my high diver about halfway down in the water column and my low diver about two-thirds of the way down in the water column. The two riggers are quite easy to set. I’ve learned from Captain Steve to set my two riggers approximately 15 to 20 feet off the bottom, wherever that may be. On one of those, I will always have a white 12-inch Dream Weaver Spin Doctor with reflective tape. This serves as an attractor to bring fish into your setup. Even if the fish don’t strike the Whirly gig or peanut on this flasher, it makes them swim all the way through your set, leaving them caught by the other rods after they turn away and begin to swim away. It’s a simple concept, but honestly, I have seen this work so many times with Steve that there is no denying its effectiveness.
One of the other big keys when fishing northern Lake Huron is that Steve does not run any attractor flashers on his copper or lead core. He simply puts Dream Weaver super slims in various fish-catching colors. If you’re curious about what colors, you can go to my YouTube channel at Fisherman’s Digest And select any of the Alpena, Cheboygan, Mackinaw City or St. Ignace episodes. In short, some of the best colors are an orange spotted leopard, hitman, orange icicle, and mixed veggies. These are all Dream Weaver super slims in UV patterns.
Speeds in this neck of the woods are very close to 2.5 mph almost all the time. One thing that I have also learned to be very critical is having a Fishhawk on your boat. Currents can run from 2/10 to a half mile an hour, very commonly as you fish around the major structures of northern Lake Huron. Going the wrong speed when dealing with current is an absolute deathwish for your fish catching. I fished for too long without a Fishhawk, and now that I’ve had one for the last year, I have noticed a major increase in my productivity when trolling in either direction.
So, if you’re looking to explore new places, Northeast Michigan in the port towns of Alpena, Cheboygan, Mackinaw City and St. Ignace are all fabulous places to find great summertime fishing! And if you keep some of your lines high in the water column, you will catch silver fish.
Eastern U.P. SMALLMOUTH BONANZA!
Sault Ste Marie-Drummond Island on the St. Marys River is one of the most underrated and underfished smallmouth factories in North America. To say that the smallmouth fishing is world-class is an understatement. Here are some of the most important tactics for anyone wanting to take advantage of this fishery.
Earlier in the season, the smallmouth will hang in the bays all over the St Marys system. The key is finding areas where you can fish without getting totally snagged, like sandy areas or gravel. These slack water areas hold huge numbers of fish in May and June. My favorite way to fish is with swim baits, casting and reeling, pausing just long enough for them to sink without getting too much into the bottom. Without question, the best color I have found is Strike King’s ice color. I usually throw nothing but 3.75, as river fish are very aggressive. As summer takes hold, the fish move to the main river channel edges, feeding anywhere from the bottom to the top of the edge.
The most important areas to look for are clam beds scattered throughout the St. Marys River system. This type of bottom brings smallmouth in to feed, and taking the time to use your Garmin side-imaging to find these areas will help in your fish catching. Again, I like to cast the edges with 3.75s, but when fishing the deeper parts of the river channel, I go to a heavier drop shot weight, like a quarter to a half an ounce. I will use the larger Strike King Z2s in the white ice color or smoky Shad. Drop back jigging your drop shot rig is very effective at covering water, and when the fish hit it, let me tell you, they smash it. If you’re a smallmouth enthusiast, you’ve got to put the St. Marys River on your list. My friend, John Goble from Customeyes, is a great guide out of the Drummond Island area and fishes the entire St. Marys river system in the Sault Ste. Marie area. Captain Dane Stanaway from Live to Fish Charters is also an excellent guide.