2017-09-28 / Outdoors

Cohos biting in big lake, salmon run starts in Crystal


LINDA, TONY, Sarah and Andy Wentz show off their catch Sunday in Fishtown. The Wentz family was fishing with Capt. Bob Smith aboard the Mariah. LINDA, TONY, Sarah and Andy Wentz show off their catch Sunday in Fishtown. The Wentz family was fishing with Capt. Bob Smith aboard the Mariah. Fall fishing in Leelanau is often associated with the Crystal River.

Bob Smith, owner of the Sportsman Shop in Glen Arbor and the captain of the Mariah charter boat in Leland, is more concerned with salmon in the lake than salmon in the river this year.

“Did the run start?” Smith asked. “To hell with salmon in the Crystal. With this weather, we are catching in 100-150 feet beautiful coho up to 14 and 15 pounds. They are aggressive.”

The good news adds to what was a fantastic summer for salmon fishermen in Lake Michigan.

Limit catches of lake trout and second and third-year king salmon catches near North Manitou Island are one thing; early fall cohos are another.

“Our fishery is as strong as it’s ever been,” said Smith, adding that he plans to keep his boat in the water until the third week of October.

As for the salmon run in the Crystal River, Smith said he expects the upcoming cold front to bring them in.

Maple City angler Mike Shimek said he’s been seeing anglers fishing the Crystal for about the past two weeks.

“The new bridge on M-22, they’re up in that area, south of The Leelanau School near the old mill,” Shimek said. “There have been guys for about two weeks now fishing at those culverts on the roads there. They probably aren’t running super thick yet.”

Shimek said he expects the peak of the salmon run to fall sometime in mid- October, although the Crystal isn’t exactly his favorite place to fish.

“The chance of actually catching one is pretty slim,” said Shimek, who remembers the days when “snagging” was legal. “You’re better off going in front of the river. That’s where a person might do a little bit better because they’re still in pretty good shape before they get in the river.”

In terms of bait, spawn bags give an angler their best bet, Shimek said.

Following are more regional fishing updates from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Weekly Fishing Report:

Traverse City: “ ... Those targeting perch did well in Suttons Bay but the fishing off Lee Point was hit-or-miss. Minnows and cut shrimp worked best. Lake trout were caught south of Marion Island and off Lee Point when jigging. The Boardman River was good for salmon anglers in the early morning especially the stretch between the foot bridge and the Union Street Bridge.”

Leland: “Some young chinook salmon were caught around North Manitou Island. A decent number of lake trout were caught on the ‘first bank.’ Chinook and coho are still present in the harbor and the river but few were caught.”

Platte River: “The mouth of the river remains open after being dredged. Anglers casting spinners and spoons caught fish at the mouth in the early morning. There are still a lot of fish in the river below the lower weir and a few above the weir. Most were taken on skein, spawn bags or flies.”

Frankfort: “Chinook moved into the harbor but anglers had a hard time hooking them.”

Betsie River: “Anglers were still landing a good number of fish throughout.”

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