Thursday, October 17, 2013

2013 Lake Michigan Salmon Run, One to Remember

The Fall of 2013 will go down as one of the better Salmon runs in recent memory!  With a warm and fairly dry month of September and first half of October, the Salmon continued to stack up in the lower sections of the tributaries and around the pier heads rather than blast way upriver.  The size of the Salmon this fall is also quite impressive, with anglers having a legitimate shot at landing a 25 plus pound Salmon in any of the ports along Lake Michigan!

The sheer numbers of fish stacked up in small areas resulted in some action packed fishing for both boat and shore fishermen alike.  Many fish were taken on the standard spoons and j-plugs, but the crank bait bite and skein bite was red hot!  Racine, Milwaukee, Port Washington, Sheboygan, and many of the other ports to the north have all experienced hot action over the past month.

Most of the mature Salmon have now made their way upriver to their final resting places, but there are still some decent Cohos available for those still looking to pursue them.  Brown Trout and even a few Steelhead are also beginning to enter the tributaries and harbors around Lake Michigan on their annual spawning migration.  These fish can be caught using the same tactics, in the same areas as the Salmon!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Milwaukee Harbor King Salmon Showdown

This past weekend was spent in Milwaukee celebrating my brother in law James' birthday.  I somehow managed to fit 2 fishing poles into the already packed vehicle just in case the opportunity to fish presented itself.  We spent the weekend at his place, which is only 2 miles from the Milwaukee Lakefront, and James had mentioned that he would like to try fishing in the harbor.

After spending the day with the family and celebrating his birthday, it was now 10:00pm and the ladies were toning things down.  Since it was James' birthday, when he asked to go fishing he was met with absolutely no opposition!  We grabbed a couple poles, my Frabill net, and a small tackle box I had prepared just for this circumstance.

Within 15 minutes we were casting off the break-wall at McKinley Marina in hopes of tangling with a giant King Salmon!  It didn't take long for me to hear James yell "I think I got one!"  I instantly knew he was hooked up, as I heard several violent splashes and watched his Ugly Stick double over!

Despite being fairly prepared to actually catch a Salmon, we were still caught off guard and had to react on the fly to figure out how we were going to actually land the fish.  I crouched over the wall and reached my fully extended net towards the water only to find that I was still 2' from the surface!  I then began walking down the wall in search of a ladder to climb down, since all break-walls must have built in ladders on them for safety.  I found one about 100' from where James was fighting the fish so I yelled for him to guide the fish my way.

After a solid 10 minute battle, I skirted down the ladder and was able to net his huge Salmon and hand the net up the ladder!  This fish was even bigger than we realized, going 39 inches and weighing around 25 pounds!  The fish still had good color, and was still tight with skein.  After a few pictures and high fives we were right back at it!

To my amazement, James was yelling "I got another one" within ten minutes!  This time we were prepared and much more smoothly landed his second Salmon of the night, another huge hen King Salmon!  This was his second fish on a #7 Flicker Shad that I had given him earlier in the day as a birthday present! 

I asked James how he was catching his fish, and he said that he was just casting his Flicker Shad out and bringing it back in slow and steady.  I decided to watch him cast a couple times and quickly realized that his retrieve was much slower than mine.  I slowed my retrieve down, and about 20 minutes later I was had a Salmon absolutely crush my Flicker Shad!

The fish hit my lure on the third crank, and immediately began screaming line!  The fish had my spool of 8 pound Power Pro on the mono backing twice, but eventually I was able to gain on this fish and guide it into the net along the ladder.  This fish was nearly identical to the last fish James had caught, going 22+ pounds easily!

My father in law Jim was now wondering what he was doing wrong, so we explained to him how slowly we were retrieving.  About a half an hour later, Jim had a brief hookup with another Salmon, but it just wasn't his night as the fish shook free after a few good head shakes and jumps. 

This was the end of our action for the night, but we were all pleasantly surprised to catch those three massive King Salmon and created a fish story we will be telling for years to come!  I don't make it as far south as Milwaukee too often, but when I do I need to remember to bring my fishing pole along!