2017-07-20 / Outdoors

Stage set for spike in salmon action

Cold water, lots of bait on banks
By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff

HUNTER BLAKE of St. Louis hauled this 20-pound king salmon from Lake Michigan last week. 
Photo: Watta BiteCharter Fishing HUNTER BLAKE of St. Louis hauled this 20-pound king salmon from Lake Michigan last week. Photo: Watta BiteCharter Fishing Hunter Blake had hooked plenty of fish prior to his recent visit to the Leelanau Peninsula.

Blake, an avid angler from St. Louis, had never fished Lake Michigan for salmon, however.

“We were using downriggers about 13 miles off the coast up here by South Manitou Island and had already caught our six trout for the day,” Blake said. “We were fishing deep water and going along when Captain Bill (Winowiecki) said, ‘Whoa, that’s a big one.’”

It was a big one, all right.

Blake won the ensuing tug-of-war battle with a 20-pound king salmon, one of two kings caught on the July 11 Watta Bite Fishing Charter trip.

Leelanau County charter fishermen haven’t exactly been spoiled with salmon action in Lake Michigan so far this summer, but charter captains in Glen Lake and Leland are optimistic.

“I think we’re all saying the same thing,” said Scott Anderson, captain of the Far Fetched in Leland. “We’re seeing a lot of bait, as much as I’ve seen in 10 years. There’s plenty for them to eat. We just need that wave of fish to come over and gorge.”

Anderson and others have been committing a couple hours every morning to kings and, salmon action notwithstanding, banking on limit catches of lake trout in the afternoon.

Fishtown customers caught multiple kings on Monday, including a 12-pound fish on Anderson’s boat.

“Not big numbers, not like we’re used to, but we’re starting to see the possibility that they’re coming back,” Anderson said. “We’re hoping.”

Carol Dee captain Jim Munoz, who owns the oldest fishing charter in Leland and one of the oldest in the Great Lakes, said early morning hours are the time to target salmon.

Customers who caught “a couple dandies near South Manitou Island” Monday morning can attest.

“We’re starting to see a few,” Munoz said. “We’ve got a tremendous amount of bait out on our banks right now. Everyone’s marking it heavily. We’re just waiting for a push of fish, and they’ll stick around if they come. They’re going to find a lot to eat when they get here, which is a good thing — and, of course, we’re getting a lot of lake trout — but this may be the start.

“We’re hopeful.”

Lake trout fishing near Leland, according to the Department of Natural Resources Weekly Fishing Report, improved when cold water moved in this week. Anglers connected in 100 to 150 feet with Spin-N-Glos behind dodgers, cowbells or spin doctors.

Winowiecki, who’s based in Glen Arbor, reported a similar lake trout report last Thursday. He also said he’s been getting one to five salmon bites per day.

He’ll take it, especially if customers like Blake can add the occasional king to coolers full of lake trout.

“It ain’t great,” Winowiecki said of the salmon bite, “but it ain’t terrible.”

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