I’ve only trolled for salmon before. How is this different?
This style of fishing is done right in the Big Manistee River, where clients themselves are casting plugs or cured eggs 100% of the time to various fish-holding spots in the river. Casting accuracy is very important, as the fish tend to hold very tight to cover. Trolling from a charter boat is a very effective way to present lures to King salmon, Coho salmon and steelhead when they are in the open water of Lake Michigan. Here, in a river system, trolling is nearly impossible. In the rivers, fishing by casting or backbouncing is much more productive, because lures and cured eggs can be presented in places that trolling simply cannot reach.
What type of gear do we use for this kind of fishing?
The gear that we use for fishing is all top-of-the-line equipment. I use Shimano reels spooled with PowerPro braided line. Each reel is matched with a 9 or 9 1/2-foot Lamiglas or G.Loomis rod, built specifically to handle the powerful surges and runs that salmon and steelhead are so well known for. These length rods allow anglers to not only make long casts across the river’s current, but also have a soft enough tip to not rip the lures and egg presentations from a fish’s mouth. These rods also have the power to steer fish out of or away from the logjams when necessary.
Doesn’t braided line spook the fish?
Surprisingly, the braided line does not typically spook the fish. Salmon and steelhead become very territorial when they enter the river systems to spawn. When we cast plugs to these fish, they become very agitated, and strike out of pure aggression because they perceive the lure as invading their space. These strikes are absolutely ferocious. Only occasionally will a fluorocarbon leader be necessary when casting plugs. It is the lure that draws the attention and aggravates the fish into striking, not the line. For steelhead and many egg presentations, we often downsize the line and employ fluorocarbon leaders. This allows a much more stealthy presentation.
I’ve heard that people snag salmon with this plug casting technique. True?
Absolutely false! People do snag fish, but not using this technique. Over the years, I have only snagged 2 fish with this technique. While many people may claim that because the lures that we use have treble hooks on them, that we must be snagging fish, but it’s actually very difficult to do so. The artificial baits that we use have a long deep-diving bill on them, actually deflecting over cover quite well. This same property that makes the baits deflect cover so well is also the same property that makes it very hard to actually snag salmon. The bill of the lure shields the hooks from snagging on fish. Most of these claims come from individuals who have never tried this casting technique or didn’t know how to properly fish this technique. Last year, every single one of the salmon that was boated with me was hooked in the mouth. There are a few snagging techniques that people do use, but Manistee River Guide Service does not use these tactics and discourages their use. Proper fishing techniques and presentation leads to legally hooked fish.
Can we keep the salmon or steelhead that we catch?
Provided that you have the appropriate license from the Michigan DNR, you are welcome to keep your limit of salmon. These fish are quite large, though, and very often, clients find that only 1 or 2 fish is more than enough for the table and freezer. When practical or possible, I always like to practice CPR-Catch, Photo and Release. This means that even if you boat and keep your limit of salmon, we can certainly continue fishing, using catch and release tactics. I encourage steelhead customers to not keep their fish, as many of these fish are able to successfully spawn.
Are they good to eat if they’re in the rivers?
That depends. Salmon just entering the river systems are usually very bright chrome colored (chromers as we call them). These are the best eating fish from the rivers. Once the salmon enter the river systems, they begin to change physically. Coloration begins to change from chrome to a goldish color, and then to a darker brown. Males develop a large kype, or hook jaw. What does this mean in terms of table fare? The more colored a salmon is, usually the less desirable it is for the dinner table. The flesh becomes a little more washed out in color, and will become mushy. While eating fish that have been in the river systems a long time and become dark in color won’t hurt you, it’s definitely not as appealing as one that is fresh from Lake Michigan and still chrome colored.
What time of year is best if I’m planning a fishing trip?
The salmon fishing in the rivers really starts picking up by early to mid August all the way through the end of October. Usually the first two to three weeks of September can be prime, when the salmon run begins to peak. This is when the most chrome fish are in the system. As September moves into October, there will usually be a higher quantity of fish in the system, meaning more numbers, but fewer “eaters.” Every year is different, and is dependant on the weather. Many steelhead enter the rivers in the late fall and will spend the winter in the Manistee River. We can target these fish almost all winter. As the snow begins to melt, more steelhead fresh from Lake Michigan will enter the river, making an early spring run. This is generally from early March on into mid to late April, with some fantastic steelhead fishing.
Where kinds of accommodations are there where I and/or my family can stay?
Manistee is a popular vacation spot, not only for sportsmen, but families alike. For hotel information, please visit the Tripadvisor link below:
What else is there to do in Manistee, Michigan?
Manistee is a beautifully quaint historic town on the shores of Lake Michigan. There’s plenty to do once your day of fishing is done, including a very busy casino that’s just a few minutes up the road. The casino hosts numerous musical and comedy acts throughout the year. Another option is for a round of golf. Manistee National Golf and Resort, has 2 challenging and upscale courses to play. There are also several other acclaimed courses right around the town of Manistee. Up the road about 15 minutes or so is Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club. This is a public course beautifully sculpted into the landscape, overlooking Lake Michigan. Rivaling Pebble Beach in beauty, Arcadia Bluffs was ranked #10 on the top 100 golf courses list published by Golf Digest Magazine. Arcadia Bluffs has an awesome restaurant as well, complete with a superb sunset view. And then there are the parks and beaches. With the city right on the lake, there are miles of sandy shoreline to enjoy, including Orchard Beach State Park. Manistee National Forest is also just a hop, skip and a jump away.
For more information, please visit the Manistee Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at VisitManisteeCounty.com
What can we expect to see on an eco-tour?
An eco-tour is conducted from the jet sled just like the guided fishing trips. One of the most common sights is our great nation’s icon, the Bald Eagle. On the river, it’s not uncommon to see a dozen or more of the eagles soaring overhead. Otters, White tail deer, Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons, Egrets and Sandhill Cranes are also fairly common sights. And, with a good set of polarized sunglasses, it’s actually pretty easy to spot fish. Storms and spring run-off can affect the clarity quite a bit, but generally, the water is very clear. The river runs through portions of the Manistee National Forest, which has a very high black bear population. While no threat to us in the boat, if we’re lucky, we may be able to spot one!
I’m an avid photographer. How close can we get to some of the wildlife?
At times, the wildlife along the Manistee River is quite spooky, either flying away or fleeing seemingly at nothing. Other times, we are able to get quite close. We will conduct the eco-tour strictly from a boat, so we are limited only in how close the wildlife itself is willing to let us approach. I will do my best to position us for that National Geographic type shot! I would definitely recommend the use of a camera that has a zoom lens. It is my experience that, no matter how close we are able to get to the subject matter, photographers always want to be closer, and wish that they could zoom in tighter. Unfortunately, wildlife doesn’t sit still for long, and being ready is paramount!
I’ve heard a lot about the area’s bass fishing. Can we go bass fishing?
You bet! We actually are able to target bass right in the Manistee River. These fish aren’t quite as big as their cousins that live in the many inland lakes, but they are just as scrappy, if not more so due to the fact that they spend their entire lives living in the river’s current. However, if you would like to specifically target the area’s fantastic smallmouth bass fishing, I am also the proud owner and operator of Traverse City Bass, which is a light tackle and fly fishing guide service out of Traverse City. Although I primarily fish the Grand Traverse Bays, I also trailer my Ranger Z-520 to many inland lakes. Please visit www.traversebass.com for more information.
What forms of payment do you take?
At Manistee River Salmon, I try to accommodate several forms of payment for your convenience. I accept personal checks, cash, credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express) and PayPal. Any of the mentioned forms of payment can be used to cover the deposit, as well as the balance of the trip itself.