2017-04-27 / Life in Leelanau

Walleye Wonderland

Leelanau County anglers eager to burn midnight oil on Friday
By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff


GREG ALSIP, a trusted Lake Leelanau fishing source both for the Enterprise and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, holds up a walleye he caught on the opening day of walleye season in 2016. GREG ALSIP, a trusted Lake Leelanau fishing source both for the Enterprise and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, holds up a walleye he caught on the opening day of walleye season in 2016. Few outdoorsmen get to celebrate their birthday like Mark Steimel.

Steimel, owner of Fur- Fish-Game Taxidermy, typically takes in the 28th of April with a little turkey hunting and, in some years, walleye fishing.

“His birthday usually falls near the walleye opener,” said his brother, Al Steimel. “It’s kind of a holiday for him. We’ve gone out several years on opening night and cast for them. It’s a great time for him.”

The walleye and trout opener falls on April 29 this year, meaning the Steimels will likely hit Lake Leelanau late on Friday for some midnight fishing.

They won’t be the only ones.

“There’s more guys going out for that midnight opener than you’d believe,” Al Steimel said. “It’s quite busy at the launch site there at the Narrows. Guys will go out as soon as 10 o’clock. Seems like by 1 o’clock people are coming back in.”


GREG ALSIP and his fishing buddies opened the 2016 walleye season with a bang, as evidenced by this 18-fish display. GREG ALSIP and his fishing buddies opened the 2016 walleye season with a bang, as evidenced by this 18-fish display. He said walleye fishermen should prepare for a post-spawn bite, but that the water is cool enough to have fish swimming in shallow water.

Greg Alsip, manager of the Fish Hook in Leland and Lake Leelanau Narrows Resort, said the temperature in north Lake Leelanau was about 50 degrees when the Department of Natural Resources planted 8,100 lake trout near Houdek Creek on April 10.

“Sometimes it’s early, sometimes it’s on time and sometimes it’s late,” Alsip said. “If anything it might be late. Just got to go out there and figure it out.”


TIM STEIN, pictured, and hunting buddy Harold Erskine from Grand Rapids shot this pair of toms in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore at 7:30 a.m. on opening morning. TIM STEIN, pictured, and hunting buddy Harold Erskine from Grand Rapids shot this pair of toms in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore at 7:30 a.m. on opening morning. When it comes to bait, Alsip said it’s best to save the crawlers and leeches for later in the season. He recommends “any floating body base” like rapalas, bombers or smithwisks— anything that imitates a minnow and doesn’t dive deeper than 3 or 4 feet.

One thing to keep an eye on this year, he said, is the water level.

“I know the water level is still way down in Lake Leelanau,” Alsip said on Friday. “I couldn’t put my boat in the dock if I wanted to; they kept the dam open so long this year. I went down to Leland last weekend and they were shutting it up. I don’t know what it looks like now, but normally by the walleye opener the water level is up to where it should be. Right now it is not.”


AL STEIMEL tagged this 19-pound tom with a 10-inch beard on his farm in Bingham Township last week. AL STEIMEL tagged this 19-pound tom with a 10-inch beard on his farm in Bingham Township last week. Heather Hettinger, fisheries biologist with the Department of Natural Resources, said Saturday should be a good day to troll for walleye.

Hettinger said walleye anglers can expect “good numbers and bigger fish" in both basins this year.

“I think we’re going to have another good summer,” Hettinger said on Friday. “We’ve had consistently good numbers of fish in north and south Lake Leelanau. Everybody seems to be seeing bigger fish around.”

And there will probably be plenty of anglers eager to catch them on Saturday.

Alsip said boats will start to splash into Lake Leelanau by about 10 p.m. on Friday and that it’s not uncommon to see 20-30 boats, depending on weather. Most anglers work the shoreline and stick to the north end of the south basin near Fountain Point.

Many pass the time by playing cards and putting down a cold pop or two.

“It’s kind of like our spring Christmas,” Alsip said.

For some anglers, however, the anticipation is too much.

Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich said every year a few anglers end up trolling a bit early.

“Please follow the rules and wait until midnight when the season opens,” Borkovich said, “and if you’re going out in the middle of the night, be sure to keep your boat properly lit and have life preservers in case you fall off.”

Alsip echoed a similar sentiment, reminding anglers to keep lights on.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting still or running, always have your lights on,” he said. “It’s just a safety thing, especially after dark. Be courteous, and don’t sit on top of someone that’s already fishing. There’s a lot of water to fish.”

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