Lake Michigan Tackle by Season

September 27, 2017

Being a guide and charter captain on Lake Michigan, one of the most common questions I get is, “What do I need to fish for trout and salmon?” In this article, I will be covering each season/species and what tackle you will find in my fishing bag for shore fishing.

Tim Hyvonen Michigan Fishing Tackle by Season

Spring
Spring is possibly one of the most productive times of the year. Once the ice comes off of the rivers, the steelhead will start making their annual spawning run. On the lake side, winter brown trout and coho salmon can be caught as well.

For early spring steelhead, the preferred method is spawn sacs floated through deeper holes, under a Raven float with a single hook and a couple of split shots. Over the years many anglers have turned to using beads.

For brown trout and coho salmon, you will always find a classic standby on my rods - a Little Cleo, typically blue/silver, orange/gold or green/silver. Acme Kastmasters are another very good go-to as well. If casting spoons isn’t your thing, jigging 1/4 oz to 3/8 oz Gamakatsu darterhead jigs with a Gulp! Minnow is a proven technique.

Summer
As the spring turns to summer, shore fishing can be phenomenal if the winds are out of the west and the bait and salmon move close. Both casting spoons and using jigs and Gulp! are the preferred methods. Instead of using Little Cleos, I like using K.O. Wobblers as it has a larger profile and much more action while retrieving. As the summer drags on, the water starts to warm up and the salmon move out, don’t think that’s the end of your shore fishing. Brown trout naturally like warmer and dirtier water. If you can find an outflow of a river after a heavy rain, fish the edge of the mud line with casting spoons and crankbaits like the Flicker Shad and Flicker Minnow.

Fall
Once the nights start getting colder and the days getting shorter, it’s time to get your crankbait collection, jigs and casting spoons ready. As the chinooks start to stage to make their annual spawning run, they can be caught from shore in the harbors and river mouths up and down Lake Michigan. I see it from time to time, people being overly aggressive with their presentation. Slow it down. When throwing Smithwick Rogues and Rapala Scatter Raps, I like to utilize a rip-pause technique, with an extended pause, 10-15 seconds. If the chinooks are extremely picky and don’t want to see Gulp!, crankbaits or spoons, a trusted fallback is using a chunk of skein (spawn still in the membrane) under a float. The trick to keeping the skein on your hook is to use a snell knot on your hook and pushing your mainline back through the eye of the hook creating a loop. Place your piece of skein in that loop and pull tight.

Winter
As the fall starts turning to winter and all of the salmon have made their way into the rivers, don’t think your season is over. This is when the brown trout and steelhead start moving into the harbors and action can be nonstop. This time of year, I prefer to use one casting rod and two float rods, one with a spawn sac under a float, the other with a tube jig and wax worm. One rod I will have set 6’’ to 1’ off the bottom and the other I will keep suspended 3-6’ under the surface. While waiting for my floats to go down, I will cast crankbaits to keep myself busy. Berkley Flicker Shad, Flicker Minnow and Smithwick Rogues are my crankbaits of choice. Just like the fall, I utilize the rip-pause technique for a few casts, then I will make a few casts with a slow, steady retrieve. Typically, the best time for brown trout and steelhead in the harbors from Kenosha to Milwaukee is one week before the water turns to ice.

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