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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Related Products

Acme K.O. Wobbler Spoon
Acme K.O. Wobbler Spoon
8 Colors available
Acme K.O. Wobbler Spoons excite fish by sight and sound! Gamefish are sensitive to the vibrations created by baitfish on the move. K.O. Wobblers mimic this sound with their precision engineered "Sonic Flipper Tail". Once they are drawn by the sound, gamefish are excited into striking by the K.O.'s flashing tail and seductive side-to-side wobble. It's an offer they can't refuse. Acme K.O. Wobbler Spoons are made in the U.S.A.
$5.49 - $6.79
Acme Kastmaster
Acme Kastmaster
47 Colors available
Acme Kastmasters feature a balance that produces wild lure action without line twist. Because of the aerodynamic design, these are great distance casting lures. Kastmaster's catch fish from pan sized trout and panfish to bragging size salmon and stripers, in both fresh and saltwater. Machined from solid brass, these lures won't break, bend, or corrode and retains their luster even after repeated uses in saltwater Acme Kastmasters are made in the U.S.A.
$2.99 - $8.99
Acme Little Cleo Spoon
Acme Little Cleo Spoon
44 Colors available
Acme Little Cleo Spoons are very versatile, taking various species of gamefish around the world. Acme Little Cleo Spoons are available in a wide variety of sizes and colors suitable for use on a variety of gamefish, ranging from trout and panfish to stripers, pike, and muskie. The unique hump-backed shape of the Little Cleo results in a seductive, wiggling action as the lure is drawn through the water. The illusion created is one of a baitfish, acting in an erratic, confused manner. This trigger...
$3.49 - $7.99
Berkley Flicker Minnow
Berkley Flicker Minnow
31 Colors available
With insight from some of the top professional anglers, the Berkley Flicker Minnow features a tournament-proven design that dives deep quickly. The Flicker Minnow has a slender minnow profile that creates maximum flash and tail action as it plunges into the strike zone. When it seems like nothing is working, this crankbait will produce bites. Walleye and bass love this bait's remarkable and unique action. Pro Slick Flicker Minnow colors provide an oil slick finish that naturally reflects light f...
Berkley Flicker Shad Crankbait
Berkley Flicker Shad Crankbait
20 Colors available
One of the most productive trolling baits, the Berkley Flicker Shad Crankbait perfectly mimics a walleye's favorite meal. The Flicker Shad features a familiar profile with an internal rattle to attract hungry fish to your area. Individually tank tested by Berkley to run true, this crankbait creates a rolling action that emulates a fleeing baitfish to trigger deadly strikes. The Flicker Shad is outfitted with sticky sharp Mustad treble hooks to penetrate the mouth of a walleye easily.
$3.99 - $4.99
Berkley Gulp! Alive! Minnows
Berkley Gulp! Alive! Minnows
6 Colors available
Berkley Gulp! Alive! Minnows provide more attractant and better action than other minnows on the market. They feature a realistic profile and split tail to entice and trigger strikes from panfish and trout. These minnows are packaged in Berkley's "Magic Gravy" that enables you to recharge your baits by putting them back into the jar. With a natural presentation in action, scent, and taste, the Gulp! Alive! Minnows easily replace the real thing for increased durability and longer lasting results....
$5.99 - $9.99