2018-05-24 / Outdoors

Inland lakes heat up just in time for weekend fishing

One bass already on his bed

No doubt it’s been a late spring, but fishers heading out over Memorial Day weekend could be timing the arrival of shallow water fishing on county inland lakes just about perfectly.

Consider Cedar Lake, an often overlooked fishing spot just outside of Traverse City in Elmwood Township.

“The water was pretty cold and it’s just starting to warm up, so the bass and bluegills will be coming in,” suggested Dan Plamondon, owner of Cherry Bend Grocery.

Indeed, ice did not exit the south basin of Lake Leelanau until May 1, the latest departure since at least 1982, according to records kept by one riparian owner.

But sunshine and warmer temperatures of late have helped spur a catchup effort on the part of Mother Nature, according to Rob Karner, biologist for the Glen Lake Association.

“It’s always amazing how nature can catch up quickly,” said Karner, who resides along the Crystal River about halfway between Fisher Lake and Lake Michigan.

Karner said starting about Monday a male smallmouth bass started finning out a bed in the river bed. No doubt he’s looking for a mate.

“It seems like it’s about the same timing as I’ve noticed in the past. I’ve been in the same house and location for 42 years,” Karner said.

He said the usual floatilla of small boats continues to camp over Glen Lake bottom shelves that traditionally hold schools of perch, and notes that it’s not unusual for him not to hear a fishing report. Perch fishers are notoriously tight-lipped.

Also, some anglers are jigging for lake trout in 100 feet of water.

Karner paints a healthy picture of Glen Lake with partial thanks to the efforts of the lake association, local and state governments, and riparian owners. He points to a new culvert under McFarlane Road that’s five times the size of its predecessor as improving emerald shiner spawning in Hatlem Creek, and continued DNR plantings of lakers and rainbow trout.

But part of the success of Glen Lake fisheries comes from its geology. The lake has only one inlet - Hatlem Creek - and one outlet - the Crystal River - which has served to keep water quality very high.

“That helps keep Glen Lake so beautiful. We don’t have a lot of inlets coming in fast and strong to Glen Lake, so we don’t have a lot of avenues for pollution to enter the watershed,” Karner said.

As inland fishing heats up, though, steelhead fishing on the Crystal is winding down. Karner said steelhead have been spawning in the river for the past three weekends, but are likely just about ready to re-enter Lake Michigan.

On Lake Leelanau, some good catches of walleye are still being reported.

For Lake Michigan, the main story remains reliable limit-catches of lake trout, according to long-time Fishtown charterboat captain Jack Duffy.

“I’ve talked to people in smaller boats who have caught them in shallow water. I’ve heard of very few browns. But (lakers) are nice-sized fish,” he said.

A client boated an 11-pound laker about Duffy’s Whitecap last week; most are going 5-6 pounds.

As for salmon, Duffy is hoping the resurgence in numbers of 2017 continues. Two good signs are reports of strong catches of kings coming out of southern Lake Michigan, and what appears to be an uptick in the number of alewives recorded on graphs.

“We’ve had a lot more alewives than we’ve seen in a lot of years, 10-12 years. Last year the boats in Wisconsin called and said they weren’t seeing any salmon or alewives. Then we started catching them. Hopefully, they’ll come up our coast this year,” Duffy said.

He’s been surprised by a resurgence in perch fishing off the shoreline of Leelanau. Limit catches were reported off Lee Point and Northport earlier this season.

“But I’ve not heard any word of perch in Good Harbor. We used to catch them on spoons when we thought we were going through schools of alewives, but they were schools of perch. We’d be dragging a 14-incher, and that happened all up and down the coast,” he said.

Duffy and fellow skipper Jim Munoz have been leading clients to fish for about 45 years. How much longer will they charter?

“We both enjoy it so much, as long as our bodies can handle it. I’ve been very fortunate to be healthy enough to survive things like heart problems and knee replacements,” he said.

- by Alan Campbell

Return to top