Dr. Carl, with a nice Pere Marquette river Chinook salmon caught on a recent outing.
The Muskegon river near Newaygo, MI is running a little above average flows at this time due to the heavy rains that came through west Michigan last week and weekend. Levels are dropping now and should be back to normal in the day or so.
Fishing options on the Muskegon right now include resident brown and rainbow trout, smallmouth bass and early run Chinook salmon. Trout fishing up near Croton dam will be the most productive approach for trout, with some caddis hatches providing dry fly fishing opportunities. Smallmouth bass are feeding actively in preparation of the colder months ahead and some fall run Chinook salmon are in the system as well.
The best fly fishing for trout will be up near Croton dam, as this is where most of the #18 green caddis are hatching. Fish emerger and dry fly patterns on 4-5 weight rods, with 9′, 5x leaders and it may be helpful to taper down to 6x tippet.
Smallmouth are feeding heavily in lower light conditions and can be caught on both top water poppers and waking flies, as well as subsurface with sinking or sink tip lines, fishing crayfish and baitfish patterns on 6-8 weight rods, with 6-8# tippet.
Early run Chinook salmon are in the system, but not in big numbers just yet. The fly angler can pursue these early run fish, but patience is the name of the game, as they can be rather moody when considering taking a fly. The best approach to get a “biter”, is casting a streamer in the color schemes used for lake MI trolling lures (think chartreuse, yellow, bright green, hot pink, etc) with a lighter sink tip – a 10-15′ section of T-8 sink tip would work well – on a 9-10 weight rod and 15-20# tippet. Since many fish are in deeper pools and runs in the early migration, some will be suspended in the top part of the water column and these are the fish you’re looking to get. A quartering down stream cast, slowly stripping back diagonally to the fish, it your best bet.
Another approach to early run salmon is casting-retrieving lures such as Rapala’s and Thundersticks, with 30# braided line, on good 10 ball bearing spinning reels, seated on 7-8′, one piece rods, rated for 10-20 # line.
Other spin fishing options for the Muskegon river now would be for smallmouth bass, using similar top water poppers as one would with fly gear, as well as casting-retrieving Rebel Craw lures and 3-4″ baitfish imitations.
We’re on the front end of the salmon season, it’ll be here in full come another couple weeks !
Present water temperature in the low to mid 60’s.
Pere Marquette River
The Pere Marquette river – PM – is running a bit above average flows due to recent rains, but coming down quickly, as the PM does due to the dominance of sand throughout the watershed and river basin.
Fishing on the PM right now is all about the salmon, with some probing behind them for early steelhead and resident brown trout. This is the time of the year to catch a trophy trout during the day, as they’re suckers for the easy meals that are salmon eggs……so a well placed cast and drifted egg pattern, has the chance to score big on any given drift.
Some salmon are still being fished with spin gear-bait & tackle in the lower river and this may continue for another couple weeks the way things are looking right now.
We’re still shy several thousand salmon on the PM, but they’re trickling in and although we won’t see the numbers we had last year, we’ll still have some decent salmon fishing for another few weeks.
Rods of choice for salmon are in the 9-10 weight range, along with reels with good drags and spooled with either running line for drift fishing -“chuck-n-duck”- or floating line for indicator fishing. Both rigs tapered down to 10# tippet, fishing nymphs and egg patterns.
Present water temperature in the low to mid 50’s.
The Manistee river near Wellston, MI is running a bit above average flows due to recent rains, but coming down slowly and due to return to normal this week.
Fishing on the Manistee is a mixed bag of resident brown and rainbow trout up close to Tippy dam, as well as smallmouth bass middle and lower river, along with fall run Chinook and Coho salmon from Tippy all the way down to Manistee lake.
Trout are starting to congregate near salmon spawning grounds, where they’ll pack on weight getting ready for the colder winter months. Some hatches are occurring to provide limited dry fly fishing opportunities, but they’re dwindling by the day.
Smallmouth are actively feeding now and will be until water temps drop to the point where they begin their trip down river, to Manistee lake where they will spend the winter. Both top water and subsurface fishing can be done for smallies right now.
Fall run Chinook and Coho salmon are being fished the most right now, but we’re not seeing the numbers of fish that “should” be here the 3rd week of September. Some fall steelhead are around as well and eager to take a nymph or egg pattern when they float by.
As we get into the heart of the fall season, we’ll see more salmon and certainly more fall steelhead behind them.
Present water temperature in the upper 50’s.