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Finding walleye in any season

| MONDAY, APRIL 24, 2017

Looking for a challenge? Try fishing in West Michigan


Walleye fishing in May is a hushhush affair. Most of the fishing is done at night. If you’re a caster, you’ll want to slip out on your local breakwater with a nice 5-inch X-Rap or other jerkbait and get ready to cast. You’ll cast and cast and cast and eventually, you’ll be rewarded. This technique works on any of our local breakwaters and continues into June some years. At the same time, prior to the BY BRIAN MULHERIN weeds really growing in, you’ll SPECIAL TO THE DAILY NEWS want to give trolling with stickbaits a try. ame a fish that’s challengDAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO You’ll want to modify your planing to catch, great to eat and Pat Bentley holds a walleye that fell prey to er boards for glow sticks or some plentiful in West Michigan. a stickbait early in the season. kind of stick-on reflector or light If you answered salmon, you so you can shine a flashlight and were close. Dan Zatarga see how they’re arranged. Walleyes are the best answer. holds a Bear Lake Run 50 to 100 foot leads behind It’s taken decades of work by walleye. your planer boards and fish at the Michigan Department of Natabout 1.5 mph. ural Resources and groups like This pattern works on all area the Mason County Walleye Assolakes in May and into June. ciation, but there are now fish- lakes from Silver Lake to Bear rivermouth lakes are also producWhat follows is a walleye calenable populations of walleyes in Lake and many in between. The tive at certain times of year. dar for Michigan. SEE CALENDAR, PAGE 3



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CALENDAR: A month-to-month guide FROM PAGE 2

‘Fish aren’t so easy to troll up now on most bodies of water because the chopped weeds foul all of your gear. Try casting Beetle Spins into the gaps in weedbeds in 4 to 8 feet of water — in daylight.’

JUNE Watch your local Outdoors page for the date and time of the annual Mason County Walleye Association banquet. It’s time to give back and show some appreciation for the effort that local volunteers put into this fantastic fishery.

Brian Mulherin

JULY Fish aren’t so easy to troll up now on most bodies of water because the chopped weeds foul all of your gear. Try casting Beetle Spins into the gaps in weedbeds in 4 to 8 feet of water — in daylight. Yep, it sounds crazy and most of you won’t try it. That’ll be your loss.

AUGUST Water temperatures are hot now, so it’s time to break out those crawler harnesses and jigs and try deep trolling or jigging. Use a walking sinker to keep your offerings weed-free. Troll slow and check for weeds often. If you know

anyone who likes rock bass, invite them along. Jigging can be equally effective. You’ll want to spend some time graphing unique elements of your local lake – humps, troughs, sub-

you’ll run into some nice smallmouth bass, too.

may find a couple nice walleyes for the livewell.



When it gets cool enough to bowhunt, it’s time to put your early spring tactics to work again. Run stickbaits behind planer boards at night. Stay outside the weedlines and be ready for some fun.

Head back to your August jigging spots but this time bring some jigging spoons tipped with minnowheads along with your Jiggin’ Raps and minnows on bare jigheads. Fish one rod two inches off of bottom and another four feet above it. Some days they’ll want the low one jigged and other days they’ll want the high one jigged. Make sure you drill at least 8-inch holes and bring a gaff.

merged points and turns. Then park over them and start NOVEMBER jigging with Snap Raps, Jiggin’ Try throwing super-sized jerkRaps, jigheads with minnows and baits or muskie baits like the Phanjigheads with plastic. tom around cabbage beds. You Be prepared for some fun, as might not see a muskie, but you

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| MONDAY, APRIL 24, 2017

Make the best of your bass fishing this summer BY BRIAN MULHERIN SPECIAL TO THE DAILY NEWS

‘I find that one place many fishermen overlook — and one of the best weedlines on the lake — is the inside weedline.’


ass fishing is often a carefree, fun way to spend a day. Until it isn’t. Cold fronts happen and they usually happen when you have a day off. So while crankbaits, flat-sided crankbaits and spinnerbaits may produce lots of fish for you at different times of year, sooner or later you realize you’re just exercising with faster-moving baits. If you fish long enough, you learn to cringe when someone says “it’s supposed to be a beautiful day.”

Brian Mulherin

and keep enough tension on your line that you will notice a strike. A good hookset also helps.

Post-frontal conditions What is a cold front? It’s an air mass, but what you need to do is that it takes your nice overcast day with some chop and over the course of hours gives you a bright, still day. You can catch bass with the methods described above after a cold front – in fact, the first six hours after a cold front are often outstanding fishing with spinnerbaits. But then things settle down. Way down. Whether you believe that atmospheric pressure can affect a fish or its swim bladder or its teeth is immaterial. What you need to know is that even if we don’t understand the reasons, the effects of a cold front passing are predictable and real. My personal opinion is that fish like some overcast because they are sensitive to light. The reason they stop eating isn’t because their teeth are sore, but because they gorge themselves as the front passes and whips up the lake a little. Then they retreat to digest. It’s a theory I don’t dwell on much, I just change my plan of attack when I know blue skies are coming. Fish will generally stick closer to cover and not move as far to pursue your offerings. So that bass that might have lashed out at anything within a sixfoot radius of the stump it calls home a couple hours ago now won’t move more than a foot in any direction and it’s going to want a long, hard look at anything it ingests.


Jigs Early in the season, I really like a good rubber-legged (now often silicone legged) jig. These jigs gained popularity through the 1980s and ’90s and had a brief resurgence a few years ago when people started experimenting with different jighead shapes. In Michigan, you’re better off without the “football” head jigs. I go with something that will slip though weeds and has a bristle weedguard. I never really enjoyed fishing jigs with pork rinds, but I love the plastic trailers like Craw Frogs that make my jig look more like a retreating crayfish. In the South, people will use jigs in specific ar-

Longtime readers know I’m the international ambassador for small tube jigs. I love a 3-inch tube on a jighead that’s a quarter ounce or less in weight. This requires that the high winds that immediately follow a cold front have calmed DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO down, but once it goes high skies Dave Rose of Grawn admires two bass that fell prey to tube jigs on and flat water there’s nothing beta relatively clear day on Portage Lake. ter than a tube jig. I position my boat along identiThis bass took a fiable weedlines and work my jig purple-and-black along slowly, whether by swinging jig early in the it back to me on tight line, dragseason after ging it on bottom or doing some faster-moving hops and twitches. baits produced I find that one place many fishno bites. ermen overlook — and one of the best weedlines on the lake — is the eas like timber floodings. In Michi- it into the body of the worm. Pull inside weedline. Everyone focusgan, I use them wherever, but more the point of the hook out the other es on the deep weed edge, but on early in the season than late in the side of the worm and then pull the our sand lakes, there’s a very stark season. worm out a little so you can bury shallow weed edge that you can My favorite combination is a pur- the point just under the surface drag a small jig along. (You also ple or blue jig with a black trailer. of the worm. If you did it right, it find some bonus fish here like big should be completely weedless. bluegills or walleyes). A bullet sinker completes the Worms Texas rig. To make it a Carolina rig, Changing conditions Plastic worms have been around you’ll want to put a two-to-foursince the 1940s and they’ll be foot leader on the hook, tie on a The old saying about cold fronts around for another 70 years. barrel swivel and put a big barrel goes that they kill the fishing for They’re popular because they sinker above the swivel. This will two days and there’s a cold front work. When the weeds get a little keep your offering suspended off every third day. too thick for jigs, a plastic worm the bottom just a little. It’s not quite that bad. Plus, cold rigged Texas style or Carolina style Although I don’t recommend it fronts can often be offset or reset is the way to go. for cold fronts, you can even put a by other conditions like incoming To Texas rig a worm, grasp the buoyant worm on the Carolina rig storms, high winds and full or new nose of the worm and insert the to keep it suspended a foot or two moon phases. You may also find point of the hook about a quar- off bottom. that river fish and fish near cool ter inch, pull the hook through The key to being a good plastic water inlets are less affected by to the eye, rotate it and re-insert worm fisherman is to fish it slow weather changes.

MONDAY, APRIL 24, 2017



Small boat trolling on Lake Michigan BY BRIAN MULERIN SPECIAL TO THE DAILY NEWS


hen people come to Lake Michigan, they have a handful of reactions: “I wonder how far across it is?” “I wonder if the water is warm?” “Boy, there’s gotta be some fish out there if I could get to them.” This third reaction, is of course, the only sane response to finding a large new body of water. So how do you get to the fish in Lake Michigan? First, you’re gonna need a boat. A 14-foot-long deep V will be fine on some days, not on others. But just getting a boat out to the fish is only part of the problem. This article is to help you with the rest of the problem: How to catch big fish from a small boat.

Deep thinking The first problem is that, while a nice big body of water, Lake Michigan isn’t chock-full of fish. The fish school up and wander. How will we ever pin them down? Starting out, you’ll do what the fish do: Follow the crowd. The concentrations of boats are either straight out, southwest or at Big Sable Point depending upon the date, the weather and the water temperature. When you get to those locations, you have to get your lures down to the fish. How do you get lures down 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 or more DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO than 100 feet deep? Trolling with a small boat is a matter of setting up your boat to hold more rods and determining what kind of rods you’ll use to take lures deeper. I’m glad you asked. There are three main ways: downriggers, divdevice. If you have questions on I like 20-pound test on my downers or weighted lines. Each of these what your boat needs, visit www. rigger rods and I like the Okuma carry some specific rod and reel size 30 reels. There are different quirements. And we’ll get to those. quality levels to the reels and certainly different brands. Penn, DaiDownriggers wa and Shimano all make good Boat setup This, to me, is the fundamental reels as well. Your boat will probably work for Brian Mulherin method to get lures down to fish. I run long leads on my downrigsalmon fishing, but you’ll want to Downriggers are easy. You clip gers if I’m not running too many consider some investments. The on your line, put your reel in free- other lines. I might run 10-foot first is a good depthfinder. You PVC contraptions that work. My the rare event that we have four ca- spool mode, put your thumb on leads or 20-foot leads. I know peoneed to know how deep the water 17-foot boat has two “trees” made pable fishermen on board. the spool and send your line down ple who run 50-foot leads, but I is where you’re fishing. In some by Great Lakes Rod Holders in Free More rods doesn’t always mean into the deep. How deep depends don’t find that necessary. I believe spots – like at Big Point Sable, this Soil. I can put three rods on each more fish, but it ups your odds by on water temperatures, but I gen- my downrigger balls are attraccan be critical information. of these. increasing the amount of water erally run mine 20 feet apart — tants to the fish, so I want my lure We discussed that there are speThen I have rodholders on each you can cover. 60 and 80 or 80 and 100 or some close to them. However, some becialized rods for fishing. You’ll of my downriggers and then a couYou’ll also need a marine radio, such. A good downrigger rod is an lieve rotators spin larger circles if want to consider investing in rod- ple more that are mounted to the flares and enough life preserv- Ugly Stick. I like a rod about 8 feet you run them farther back. holders. I recommend something gunwale on each side. I can fish 10 ers for everyone on board — plus long, but a little longer or shorter made of aluminum, but there are rods comfortably and up to 12 in a throwable personal flotation doesn’t matter much. SEE GEAR, PAGE 7

‘I know people who run 50-foot leads, but I don’t find that necessary. I believe my downrigger balls are attractants to the fish, so I want my lure close to them.’



| MONDAY, APRIL 24, 2017

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GEAR: Drivers, lines and lures their divers. These are shock absorbers that can protect You’ll find what works for your line and knots from you, but starting out, you’ll breaking on a violent strike. find that shorter leaders are Rotators with flies or meat easier to manage. rigs are extremely effective behind divers. FROM PAGE 5


A diver is a weighted, keeled disc that attaches to your line. You set it to run near or far from the boat and it dives deeper depending on how much line you let out. Divers are very productive for many charter boats and tournament boats. Again, leader length is a factor. I like 6-foot leaders because I can net the fish while the rod is still in someone’s hand. Others I know run longer leaders and bring in fish hand-overhand. I have to admit that longer leaders do better on the tournament boats I’ve been on. I run superline on my diver rods, but you can invest in rods with roller guides and run wire. Some boats run wire “low divers” and monofilament “high divers” to cover more water. The problem with monofilament and divers is that monofilament stretches and makes it difficult to “trip” a diver if you hook a fish. Tripping a diver is kind of a long, smooth hookset motion that causes a little wire guide on the front to break loose and take the dive angle out of the diver. Many people opt to run rubber snubbers behind

Weighted lines If you ever hear someone say 600 feet of copper or “full core,” this is what they’re talking about. I prefer leadcore because at 2.5 mph, I feel like most of the time, I can get to fish with a full core. Opinions vary widely on the depths you’ll achieve with the various lengths of weighted lines, but if you start out with a 3-color, a 5-color and a full core, you’ll be able to cover the top 60 feet of the water column pretty well, especially when used in conjunction with your other lines. If I had only two rodholders on my boat, I might go with two full core rods because I can control my depth well enough to catch fish in all but the hottest of summers. But hot happens, and when it does, copper is the better option. You can achieve more depth with less line out, which makes a happier experience for the crank with the crank in his or her hand. The drawback to copper is it can take up more space on a reel, so expect to pay quite a bit for the luxury of being able to fish deeper. You’ll

also need some magnum planer boards for the longest copper rigs, while you can get away with Walleye Boards on most leadcore lines.

Lures, lures, lures Lures are the easy part. Buy glow spoons in a variety of patterns. I also am partial to mixed vegetable, lemon ice and NBK spoons for daylight hours. You’ll also want a variety of orange spoons when you know steelhead are around. When it comes to rotators, you want a good supply of greens and blues. The same goes for your meat rigs, although a variety of colors helps just like with spoons. When I say rotators, I generally mean Dreamweaver Spin Doctors. DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO Although paddles are Reel selection is critical in salmon fishing because different lines take up more space. also popular as attractants, they’re not exactly rotators. They work, though. Both flies and meat rigs in similar or contrasting colors can be effective. Meat rigs are preferred on the big boats, but if you don’t like the mess or expense, you can still catch Paddle Boats fish on flies. Finally, we have an abunCompact Pontoons dance of lake trout around, Swim Rafts so I recommend picking up some spin-and-glow baits Floating Docks and a few “tin can” dodgers to pull them behind. You’ll want to throttle down and put these in the mud in about 50-70 feet of water through July.

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