2017-05-25 / Outdoors

Fishing report: Lakers biting, kings next?

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff

LEELANAU SCHOOL students caught limit catches of lake trout in the Leland Harbor on Sunday aboard the Mariah and Pier Pressure charter boats. 
Photo: Bob Smith LEELANAU SCHOOL students caught limit catches of lake trout in the Leland Harbor on Sunday aboard the Mariah and Pier Pressure charter boats. Photo: Bob Smith It appears the 2017 charter fishing season has picked up where 2016 left off—with limit catches of lake trout.

Leland charter captain Wes Smith said he anticipates a great summer after seeing customers fill coolers with lake trout on Saturday and Saturday.

“Limit catches both days,” said Smith, the Pier Pressure captain. “There’s just a ton of healthy lake trout out there and they are feeding on alewives like crazy. The harbor’s filled with alewives right now. All the ports south of here, we’re hearing their ports are filled with alewives, as well. From talking with fishermen and DNR, the lake looks as healthy as it’s been in five years. It’s looking like it’s going to be a great summer for trout and salmon.”

Smith’s report is consistent with the DNR’s Weekly Fishing Report, which says “a large number of alewife” have moved into the harbor and that boat anglers enjoyed good lake trout catches on “the First Bank and Harbor Bay.”

Anglers have also found success targeting smallmouth bass and pike.

“Seems like there’s some early groups of bait around,” said Heather Hettinger, DNR fisheries biologist. “I’m hearing about some groups here and there, in Frankfort and a few off of Leland. We’re starting to see a few fish getting caught in the shallow or nearshore areas near Good Harbor Bay and Leland. Sounds like there’s been some straggler brown trout caught, too.”

King salmon, the big-ticket item of local charter fishing, might be next.

Frankfort fishermen have been catching them, Hettinger said.

“On the northern end of the lake, we’re a little slower than everyone else,” Hettinger said. “Now that we’re starting to see some bait fish and some kings in Frankfort and Traverse City, I would expect to see them show up in Leland anytime now.

“It’s spring. We know we don’t have huge numbers of salmon out in the lake. We’re not just going to overnight have big numbers of salmon, but based on what we’re seeing at the bottom end of the lake, it should be better than it’s been the last couple of years.”

If salmon don’t bite, charter captains will continue to lean on lake trout.

As Bill Winowiecki put it, lake trout fishing is “a pretty sure thing.”

“It always is this time of year — you’ve got alewives and gobies,” said Winowiecki, proprietor of Watta Bite Charter Fishing in Glen Arbor. “I haven’t tried for salmon yet, but I’m thinking about trying this weekend.”

County visitors may be heading to the big lake this holiday weekend, but it’s safe to bet most local sportsmen will be soaking up the sun elsewhere.

And it should be a pretty good weekend to target smallmouth bass, Hettinger said.

“In most of our inland lakes, we’re starting to see smallmouth up in the shallows scoping out some spots for nests,” she said. “Smallmouth are cruising around in the shallows and that should make for a pretty good opener.”

Hettinger said anglers targeting lake trout and rainbow trout in Glen Lake may find some success, as well, although it won’t be long before the fish head to deeper, colder water.

Bob Smith, owner of the Sportsman Shop in Glen Arbor, said he hasn’t heard much from Glen Lake anglers.

“I’m sure they’re getting bass and some perch,” Smith said, “but I have not heard anything slammin’ jammin.’”

Lake Leelanau anglers, meanwhile, have been catching smallies and walleyes— but not too many perch.

“Some perch have been found (in Traverse Bay) but not much on Lake Leelanau,” said Greg Alsip of Lake Effect Fishing Charters, which has already booked “a trip or two” for this weekend. “Smallmouth are starting to get on their beds and some people are catching them.”

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