Diehard fishermen finding some success

BIG RAPIDS — Now that the firearm deer season is open, even fewer anglers are out, the DNR points out. But those who are out are getting steelhead, brown trout, whitefish, walleye and some panfish are having some success.

Jeff Greene, of Rodney, an active bluegill fisherman, is waiting for the ice.

“I put my boat away about a month ago so I have not been bluegill fishing,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the second week of December on Haymarsh Lake, if we get some ice.”

It’s not totally quiet on the fishing front. There’s still some river fishing taking place.

“It is nice weather but you don’t see many people fishing for bluegills,” Greene said last week when temperatures were in the 50s.

“Steelhead fishing has been very good too,” Josh Johnson, of Evart, also a coach, said. “One of my former athletes, Nolan VanOrder, is fishing all the time right now. He goes to the Muskegon and Manistee. The steelhead run is good right now. With all this rain, the fish are coming up. If you want to hammer steelhead right now, nobody is there. Everyone is in the woods (hunting). That’s what Nolan does. No one is there.”

Paul Higgins, of Evart, said he enjoyed steelhead fishing on Nov. 15, the opening day of firearm deer season, over at the Manistee River’s Tippy Dam. At that particular time, he’s fishing with no other competitors.

“It was a tough day, but it was a beautiful day,” he said. “It hampered the fishing a little bit. But I caught fish. (Poor weather) I think means better fishing.”

There’s been activity in other areas of northwest Michigan.

“We have some fish moving out of the lake right now, steelhead-wise. The last couple of days have been pretty good,” Gary Melzer, of Schmidt’s Outfitters in Wellston, said. “Things are sporadic. There are fish in the system, but they’re pocketed. They’re here and there. It’s a matter of going out and being in the right place at the right time.”

“The wind and rain actually benefited the river,” Rob Eckerson, of Pappy’s in Wellston, said. “We moved some steelhead. That’s been going pretty well, I would say probably better than last year. The wind and bad weather has kept everybody else off the inland lakes. The wind and waves have defeated the beach fisherman in Manistee. They haven’t been able to get out most of the week. There have been fish available when they have been able to get out. We’re limited by Mother Mature.”

Dewey Buchner, of Don’s Sporting Goods in Manistee, called the fishing “phenomenal.”

“At the Little Manistee, they’re getting monster big browns,” he said. “They can’t keep them because the season is closed, but they’re monsterous. In the big River, they’ve finally got some steelhead and some beautiful browns.

“Shore fishing has been excellent for cohos and browns and steelhead. The same with the pier. They’ve finally turned on in the last week, all using spawn and spoons. They are gettng walleyes and big pike down in the reservoir off of the First Street Boat launch. They using thundersticks, rapallas and crawlers.”

Up by Tippy Dam, steady steelhead are being caught, Gordon Park, of Andy’s Tackle Box in Brethen, said.

“We’re seeing a few every day at the store,” he said.

Amanda Rommell, of Big Bobs Outfitters in Frankfort, indicated there’s still some steelhead fishing taking place in her area. 

The following fishing tip is courtesy of the DNR:

“Fishing for steelhead is very hot right now so if you’ve already gotten your doe or buck this season, consider hitting the rivers again for the fall run of chrome.

“In the last 10 years, steelhead fishing with bobber and eggs has really taken off – however, ‘older’ fishing methods are still very effective during the early season. Many anglers enjoy actively casting spinners and plugs. The secret to this type of fishing is finding a good hole or run that is deep enough to hold fish.

“Cast your offering across the river and retrieve it as slow as possible while still making sure the lure is ‘swimming’ close to the bottom. As you retrieve, the river’s current will swing your plug or spinner down stream in an arch. Eventually the last part of your retrieve will be almost completely up stream. Many bites will come at the bottom of the arch or during the upstream retrieve.

“Start your casts at the top of the hole or run and after two to three casts take a step down stream. Cast two to three more times before taking another step down stream. Repeat this process until you have covered the entire length of the hole or run. After your last casts, you can either head back to the top and start over or explore the river for another spot.

“This manner of fishing can be a lot of fun because the strike of a steelhead on a retrieved lure is second to none.”