There’s been a persistent rumor in recent years that fishing in Lake Huron has gone dramatically downhill, that the Michigan DNR has reduced stockings by 50 percent, and that alewives, the favorite food of salmon, have nearly disappeared.
So, Buckeye anglers these days are mostly heading for the west coast to Ludington and thereabouts. I found it hard to believe that Lake Huron was dead or nearly so, so last week I drove up to find out.
My plan was to base at the Days End Motel along Michigan 23 on the south edge of Tawas City, and spend a day fishing with the manager, Gene Kirvan, who also is a longtime charter boat captain who fishes out of Oscoda. And after I checked in and unpacked, I asked him about prospects for the next morning. “We’ve been doing well making some good catches of lake trout and a few king salmon and steelhead,” he said. “Salmon fishing will pick up as August progresses and the fish move in closer with spawning on their minds. It’s going to be good weather tomorrow. We should catch some.”
The next morning at 6 I was in the AuSable Huron Camper Marina and heading for slip 92 where Kirvan was making ready his 27-foot SeaRay, the Calypso II. A few minutes more and we were parting the clear blue waters of Lake Huron heading east. Kirvan captains a good boat with all the necessities, GPS, a radar system, two fish locators, and around the stern five downriggers and two dipsy divers. It was indeed a perfect morning with just enough breeze to make a light chop and visibility good enough to see the shore 51⁄2 miles away.
The lures on lines end were mostly four-inch spoons with names like Yellowtail Silverstreaks, Janet Jacksons and Black Screwballs, while the dipsy divers were rigged with flashers and Funky Chickens. Nothing much happened for an hour, just a single release that produced nothing.
"It might take an hour or two before they get serious,” this veteran captain said. “There was a full moon last night, so the fish could see to feed in the dark. They probably won’t feed again until at least 7 a.m. While we waited, Kirvan explained why so many Ohio anglers were catching so little in Lake Huron. Seems they were trolling by old tried and true methods using magnum spoons and seeking out the 50 to 55 degrees these cold-water fish prefer.
But salmon and trout now were feeding on abundant smelt and emerald shiners since the demise of alewives, and these are smaller bait so four-inch spoons were the best size. And while the fish like colder temperatures, they still must follow the bait schools, so they were living higher and warmer.
Kirvan had barely explained these basics when a pin snapped and I was at the back of the boat fighting a bucking, whipping rod. A very nice lake trout. Minutes later another trout hit a Yellowtail, and before I could work him in, a third took a Janet Jackson.
Then there was a quiet dry spell while I breathed fresh lake air and looked around for other boats (just two). Then action started up again, and by 9 a.m. we’d pulled two limits of dandy lakers. No salmon that day, but I didn’t mind. The laker fillets were yellow as butter, and when my wife fried up a couple, they were as tasty as any freshwater fish I’ve eaten.
It’s worth pointing out that there’s more to do in this area than fish. There’s a fine swimming beach in Tawas City, and more swimming and great bird watching at Tawas Point State Park. There’s kiteboarding, sailing, and kayaking at Tawas, and good canoeing, tubing, and kayaking in the AuSable River at Oscoda. You can even ride a paddlewheel riverboat in the river. Lots to do.
For details on fishing or to book a charter, call Gene Kirvvan at (989) 739-2313 or visit www.calypso2.com. For general information on the area, call (800) 55-TAWAS. And here’s a final thought. Those who would just like to go up and fish should find action on the North Pier at Oscoda come September. Fish at night, since that’s when the salmon run, and use four-inch flourescent spoons. You just might hook a dandy, or several of them.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org n Biologists with the Division of Wildlife estimate 56 young peregrine falcons fledged from 19 successful nests across the state this year. In 2006, a record 60 peregrine falcon chicks fledged from 18 nests. “We had a record high number of successful nests this year,” said Dave Scott, peregrine falcon project coordinator. “However, eggs at some nests did not hatch, and this reduced our total production compared to last year.”
n Pheasants Forever is doing well and celebrating its 25th anniversary. “The Habitat Organizer” celebrates 25 years as one of the leading and most efficient non-profit conservation organizations in the country. More than 650 PF chapters have spent nearly $200 million on wildlife habitat projects and education, benefiting wildlife on 4.4 million acres across the continent.
n Families Afield is making a lifetime impact on young hunters, thanks in part to efforts by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Of the states that offer “apprentice” hunting licenses last year for first time hunters, with due thanks to the Families Afield program, six, including Ohio, can offer trackable results of the promotion. Based on state agency estimates, FA brought 34,000 new hunters to the sport who will spend $10.1 million on primary hunting equipment over the next year.