2017-07-06 / Columns

Outdoors This Week in the Eastern U.P.

By Stephen King

It’s the middle of summer, and the time is right for fishing. Just about everything out there is biting. (As a matter of fact, I am pretty sure I saw the robin that lives in the tree next to my house downtown, trading night crawlers to the tourists for pasties.)

This is one of the best periods of the year for fishing. People are catching just about everything that is out there. Rivers and streams are loaded with fish and they are biting. The lake fishermen are picking up the usual walleyes, pike, and pan fish. The people out in the big lake are also doing pretty good. Check with your local bait shop for details about what is biting where, but you may find, as I did, that everyone reports about the same news: The fishing is good!

Let’s talk about general small boat fishing on the small water. On most of the smaller inland lakes around the Eastern Upper Peninsula, there are usually a lot of fish to be caught. A lot of people who like to fish don’t get to do it a lot, and even some of the people who do fish a lot could use a tip or two. I will do my best to share a couple.

First, if you watch the TV shows and read the magazines, you’ll notice there are a couple of things they talk about regularly. One is structure. The other is presentation. These are two of the really important things to know about if you want to catch fish while you’re out fishing.

Which brings up another point: A lot of people who go out fishing really don’t care that much if they catch anything. It’s about relaxing and enjoying the lake. I know a lot of people who enjoy fishing like this. If you don’t catch many fish, you don’t have to deal with cleaning fish, which, for a lot of people, ruins a good day of fishing.

I like to catch fish, and learned a lot from my dad and relatives, shows and magazines, and spending time with some really talented fishermen. When I had a chance to spend a day fishing with a World Champion professional, through my work as an outdoor writer, I kept my mouth shut, listened, and watched. Over the years, I’ve picked up a lot of really neat techniques.

First, structure. The biggest mistake most fishermen make is either not thinking about it, or not realizing what they are looking at. Some think of using big reefs, natural or man-made, or big points and dropoffs. is These are good places to start. But, don’t ignore smaller things. Look for transition zones, like the edges of a good sized patch of cabbage. Fish just love to hide in there and ambush food as it swims by. For pike, they are looking for small fish. Same with gills and perch; they are looking for either smaller fish or creatures like leeches or minnows. Fish love to live in the bulrushes, so toss that lure along the edges and see what pops out.

For river fishing, if there is good grass along the banks, toss a spinner or other lure just outside the grass line. Retrieve it very slowly, just fast enough to keep the spinners spinning or the stick bait moving. You will be amazed what pops out.

Then, there is presentation. Finding structure helps you find the fish. Presentation is how you catch them. Here, there are two basic ideas. You toss out some bait and wait for something to come along. Or, you use a moving target, either casting or trolling. Casting gives you more chances at a spot that you are pretty sure is holding fish. Trolling covers more water and gives you a better chance of just tripping over one.

As I have stated before, do not drift. Some people love to fish like this, and if all you want to do is relax, this is not a bad way to go. It isn’t really still fishing, however, and it isn’t really trolling. You’re not giving the fish a really good chance to check out your bait.

If you want to catch more fish, find the structure,, then think presentation. I like to still fish. That is, I like to find a likely spot, drop an anchor, and jig. I usually fish with two poles. One, I toss out with a bobber and let sit. The other I vertically jig.

For pan fish, I use about a 1/8- ounce jig. I thread on a piece of a night crawler, then, drop it down to the bottom. Next, bring it up about a foot. Don’t make any huge motions. What I do is to try and make it twitch. This simply drives the fish nuts. I’ve watched fish in clear, shallow water, and they see this and think it’s an injured baitfish. Instinct takes over, and they nail it.

Almost always, the pole I jig with gets me more fish. The bobber spreads out my effort over a wider area. Usually, if there is anything in the area, they will bite just about immediately. If you don’t get a bite in a few minutes, move. Don’t get stuck on this pattern. Some days, the fish move up off the bottom. You can find them by moving your bait up and down in the water. This is where the bobber bait also helps. Vary the depth from just below the surface to just above the bottom. More often than not, the bottom is where you will do the best.

So, take to the water and enjoy yourself. No matter whether you are just out and about on the boat, kicking back and enjoying the day, or are really after the fish, the whole point is having fun.

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