The temperature was hovering at about 70 degrees, but the change was on the way. A cold front approaching from the west was about to put an end to the mid-March record temperatures we’d been enjoying. It was time to go walleye fishing in Michigan, maybe for the last time before the season ended.
End to the Mid March for Walleyes
I was well aware that I didn’t have much time. There was little time for fishing between errands and attempting to get this website up and operating. I figured I could get a couple of hours in before dinner and before it began raining.
I decided I didn’t have enough time to launch my boat, so I went bank fishing below Rogers Dam. Rogers is a Consumers Energy dam located on the Muskegon River in Big Rapids. This barrier prevents walleyes and other species from migrating upstream from Hardy Pond.
Rogers is an older dam, the final of a sequence of three dams on the Muskegon River between Big Rapids and Muskegon. The Croton and Hardy dams attract the most attention, but the river below Rogers is famous for its walleye migration. Years ago, walleyes from Lake Michigan were trapped using hand nets and released above the dams during their spring spawning excursion. These fish’s relatives may now be found all across the Muskegon River. The Hardy Dam Pond is home to a large population of these fish.
These fish are the forefathers and moms of the majority of Michigan’s planted walleyes. From Rogers Dam downstream to the US-131 highway bridge, the river offers some of the greatest walleye spawning habitats in Michigan. Each spring, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources collects virtually all of the eggs and sperm required for hatchery operations from this section of the river using electric shocking devices. As a result, the Muskegon River from Rogers Dam downstream to the expressway’s southbound bridge is blocked from March 15th until the Walleye season reopens on the final Saturday of April.
When I arrived at the dam, four other fishermen were fishing in the area with various jigs and crankbaits. After speaking briefly with one of them, I discovered that the fishing had been sluggish, with just one walleye taken in a previous couple of hours. I began by casting a white jig with a twister tail. After a few castings, nothing. I switched rigs since I knew time was of the essence. I used an orange Northland jig with a minnow on it. One hit came from many throws, but I missed it. Nothing after a fresh minnow and numerous throws.
I am normally a patient fisherman. I may be too patient at times, not changing methods or colors as often as I should. Today was unique. I was under a time crunch, and the fish was as well, with the front coming. The fisherman to my right was likewise often changing lures but to no effect. So let’s go back to the tackle box. It produced a quarter-ounce chartreuse lip stick jig this time. The casting was restarted with a large minnow.
The first throw with the new product produced a satisfying bite. The hook was placed too late, and a walleye got a free meal at my cost. A bite, on the other hand, was promising. A new minnow was introduced. Another bite came on the second throw with this fresh minnow. I let the fish go, counted to five in my head, and set the hook. On the opposite end of my line, there was a walleye. The fifteen-inch eater was quickly caught, and another throw was made. The minnow and jig swung downstream, and I felt another bite. Another eater soon arrived on shore, adding to the future fish fry inventory.
Things appeared to slow down after landing a “smalleye” of barely thirteen inches. The other fishers had noted my achievement and had turned on the tackle switch. Another pair of fishermen snuck by me downstream to work the hole that had been so successful for me. They couldn’t find the key component, minnows, no matter how hard they tried. Walleyes favored large spot tail shiners as bait. I attempted a couple of smaller perch minnows but was unsuccessful. I was the only one who had minnows.
I put on another huge minnow and repeated the same procedure. I was throwing upstream and as far as I could into the water. I’d let the jig and minnow float downstream, bouncing off the bottom. I’d retain a tight line and keep an eye on the bait’s drift. The bait was just downstream from me in the productive hole at the end of the drift. On the retrieve, I would just bounce the bait in. I would reel it in gently with a tug, then let it bounce back a few feet and repeat the process. This is when the fish struck. I’d let the fish have the very huge minnow after a strike. My many years of live bait fishing have taught me to let the fish take it. My method of being patient and not setting the hook too soon is gently counting to myself. Today, a count of five proved to be the most effective. Any shorter, and I’d get my minnow back; any longer, and it’d be time for a new one.
Another walleye, this one an eating size male approximately sixteen inches long, was quickly caught and landed. Throughout my fishing trip, a few small raindrops had fallen. The lowering sky was now revealing an intriguing lightning pattern. Suppertime was nearing, as was the pouring rain. Three walleyes would make a great feast, so I returned to Big Rapids for supper.
Never allow time, or the apparent lack of it, to be an impediment to your fishing. As I become older, the old adage “any time fishing is better than any time at work” takes on new significance for me. Because of my hectic schedule, great all-day or even half-day vacations are quite restricted. Now, if I have an hour, I’ll go fishing. Today it paid off. Three plump juicy walleyes, numerous failed strikes, and a little one released to grow had resulted from an hour and fifteen minutes of fishing. I could have taken a maximum if I hadn’t ran out of huge minnows or had a few more minutes. That’s how it goes.
The cold front has finally passed. 70 degrees have been replaced by snow and temperatures are just above freezing. Maybe one more trip before the walleye season ends, but I’d best bring a coat.
After the Walleye Season
Even though the walleye fishing season has ended in interior lakes and streams, the season on the big lakes is still active and producing fish. In addition to the fact that they are producing fish, the fish are, to say the least, rather large.
You may be wondering what your options are for acquiring these fish. Then go on over to the pier that is located closest to your preferred walleye lake or stream that discharges into Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, or Lake Superior. Bring along a sturdy rod as well as an assortment of stick baits (Rapalas, Bombers, etc.).
Walleye fishing from a pier might be difficult, but it’s always exciting! Check the color of the offering being used by other fishermen by either asking them directly or leaning over their shoulders to see it. You are going to need a net, namely a long net. The sea level is often quite low, and it may be as much as eight or nine feet lower than the pier at times. Make sure the handle of your net is nice and lengthy. Try to get as near to the bottom as possible while fishing. Countdown This is made possible via rapalas. In addition to that, you may use heavy sinkers or a dropper weight on a bait that is floating or suspended in the water.
Put on warm clothing. The breezes that come off of the lake may sometimes be rather chilly. On account of the possibility of the waves washing up on the pier, it is advisable to dress in something that is water resistant. At the very least, footwear that are waterproof. However, use caution, since if something seems risky, it probably is. In the event that the waves are crashing and surging high over the pier, you should not go out onto the pier.
It may be a lot of pleasure to reel in one of these massive walleyes. However, despite their size, these fish don’t have very good appetites. Only one large fish weighing at least four pounds and the lesser fish should be kept. Take pictures of the larger ones, but don’t keep them; the majority of the larger fish are females on their way to spawn, and you shouldn’t keep them.
On the Michigan side of Lake Michigan, you may want to check out these areas: Benton Harbor, Holland, Grand Haven, Muskegon, and Manistee. Alpena, Oscoda, Tawas, and Au Gres are all great places to visit on Lake Huron. Be certain, though, that you fish downstream from the beach; any body of water that is upstream of the beach is not a good lake. I wish you the best of success, and if you land a large one, don’t forget to send us an email with a photo so we can post it on the boasting board.