By Steve Weisman
How is this for a change? Fishing in 23’ of water on West Okoboji for bluegills on Sunday and 150’ of water for steelhead and salmon on Lake Michigan the following Wednesday. Well, that is exactly what my grandson, Hunter and I recently did.
The main purpose, of course, was for the family to get to see my wife’s two nephews and their families in Green Bay. What is a trip to Green Bay without a trip to Lake Michigan. So, while the rest of the family spent a day together, Hunter and I headed for Algoma and a fishing trip with Scott Osborne, owner of RV Charters (www.rvcharters.net/).
Since the bite was an early one, Scott wanted us to be heading out by 4 a.m. Luckily, Scott also owns Rivers Edge Condos, which is located right on the river just a short distance from the mouth of the harbor heading into Lake Michigan.
Even though there was no wind, we knew there would still be constant 2-3’ swells caused by the wind the day before. So, Hunter and I both took motion sickness medication just in case. Sure enough, as we left the harbor, we could feel the boat as it rocked with the swells.
Let me tell you just how dark it is heading out on Lake Michigan in a 40’ Viking yacht (called the Ree-Lax VII), but what else can two fishermen do when the best bite is by 5 a.m.?
By 4:20, Scott had us in 150’ and he and his first mate, 15-year old McKenzie were busy getting 12 rods out at anywhere from 50-120’ down, three with downriggers, so they were closer to the boat, and several on planer boards up to 200 yards back. Each was baited with an artificial lure with the hot bait being a super glow Green Hulk Moonshine Trolling Spoon. Trolling speed ran between 2.2 and 2.3 mph.
Sure enough, about 4:45, Scott shouted, “Fish on!” Being a good grandpa, I gave the honors to Hunter! Of course, I had to rib Hunter a little bit as he reeled and reeled and reeled…200 yards. Now that’s a long way to reel in an 8+ pound steelhead trout along with the planer board that was used to keep the lines separated. Three times we could hear the steelhead leave the water as it tried to shake the spoon. Finally, the steelhead was spent and as Hunter kept its head up, McKenzie deftly netted the thrashing fish. Soon she had the hook removed, and the first fish was in the cooler.
Although the bite was not fast and furious, over the course of the next four hours, we boated an additional four steelhead and one small king salmon. It was just enough to keep us interested. During the breaks in the action, I had plenty of questions to ask. Ideal temperature for the best bite is usually in the mid to high 50s, but today’s temperature was 68-69 degrees which definitely slowed the bite, making the them a little more finicky.
For me, seeing the bite was difficult, because the rods with downriggers were already bowed under the weight and the rods with planer boards were bouncing with the ebb and flow as they cut through and bobbed over the swells. Scott explained, “It’s not easy to see, but when you are out here every day, you get used to looking for something a little different.” Sure, when a big king nails a spoon, that’s pretty easy to see. Other times, it might just be a different movement of the rod tip or as Scott put it, “Sometimes you just have a feeling that the lure is not running true.”
About 20 minutes after Hunter nailed his first fish, I got my chance. Sure enough it was on the same rod with a planer board and line out 200 yards. Let me tell you that’s a lot of reeling, and, yes, Hunter did give me a bad time. “Come on grandpa. Don’t be a wimp!” My response as I paused from time to time, “I don’t want to horse him in!” Ya right!
McKenzie as the first mate was always busy. She did the netting, took out the hooks, got the fish out of the net and then handed it over to us for a photo. After the fish went in the cooler, she would hose down the deck. She sat alongside Scott watching for the telltale bite. Every once in a while, she would go over to a reel and let out some extra line to drop the spoon down a few feet or reel in some line to raise the spoon in the water column. The way she maneuvered around, McKenzie definitely had her sea legs! Both made an excellent team.
Too soon the five-hour trip was over, but as with all fishing trips, it was a great time. It was fun to see Hunter catch his first steelhead and to watch him get used to the constant roll of the boat. Feeling the power of a steelhead as it ran off some line and then went airborne trying to shake the lure, I’ll always be able to see those acrobatics! My only regret was not seeing Hunter take on a 20+ pound king salmon. That will be for another day, and yes we will be back!