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The Top Three Michigan Walleye Summer Bites

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Crawler harnesses are working well for Lake Erie, St. Clair River, and Saginaw Bay walleyes.

Crawler harnesses are working well for Lake Erie, St. Clair River, and Saginaw Bay walleyes.

Walleyes–just about everyone’s favorite table fare when it comes to fresh fish–can be tough to target in the dog days of summer. But three Michigan walleye fisheries better known for kicking out lots of fish in the spring and fall are going strong right now.

Lake Erie

The Michigan waters of Lake Erie aren’t widely known as a spectacular walleye fishery by the time mid-August rolls around and the bulk of the population migrates eastward, but this year, plenty of fish are there–and they’re biting.

“It can be real weedy this time of year,” says Captain Paul Doute of Angler’s Quest Guide Service who normally focuses more on perch this time of year. “If the wind is out of the northeast, it can be really tough, but if it’s blowing southwest, west or northwest, conditions can be great.”

He said the best area is out in front of the Fermi Nuclear Generating Station near Monroe, more specifically, the Estral Beach area.

“Anywhere from Stony Point north to the south end of the Banana Dike in 22 feet of water,” Doute says. “Crawler harnesses will work, but you’ll catch a lot of junk fish like white bass and sheepshead, so I prefer spoons”

Doute likes small- and medium-sized spoons from Warrior, Stinger, and Silver Streak among others, and says the best color patterns include purple, pink or chartreuse–and sometimes a combination of all three.

“Kevorkian (a metallic purple finish) is usually a good one, along with Frankenberry, Shrimp and Firetiger,” he says.

He notes that most of the fish are suspended 12 to 15 feet down, and he prefers putting metal blades in front of their faces with Big Jon Mini-disks and No. 20 Jet Divers. He said leadcore works, but because you need to check your lures often for weeds, the divers on shorter lines make fishing easier.

“Troll at 2.2 to 2.7 mph,” Doute says. “Lots of perch are in the area, too, and you can expect to catch them on the small spoons, too.”

St. Clair River

Captain Dan Chimelak of Four Seas Charter Service (586-481-0333) and owner of Lakeside Fishing Shop in St. Clair Shores says walleyes are cooperative on the St. Clair River for anglers using a couple of different methods.

Walleyes eat up spoons with pink, purple, and/or chartreuse on Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay.

Walleyes eat up spoons with pink, purple, and/or chartreuse on Lake Erie and the Saginaw Bay.

“They’re getting them slipping the current with crawler harnesses right where Lake Huron empties into the river,” Chimelak says. He said the technique is to point the boat into the current and employ a bow-mount trolling motor just fast enough so the harness blades spin, letting the current carry the boat backwards.

“Use a two-ounce bottom bouncer on an inside rod and a four-ounce bottom bouncer on a longer outside rod, put the rods in a holder and enjoy a beverage while the current takes you down stream, sinkers bouncing bottom in 20 to 26 feet of water right on the shipping channel edge,” he says, adding that a floating jig in place of the two-hook harness helps keep the bait above the bottom weeds.

He says the local technique of “whipping” is also effective. This calls for anchoring and letting a one- to two-ounce weight on an 18-inch dropper take a pair of pencil plugs tied 10 feet apart to the bottom. The technique is to chug or “whip” the plugs forward, letting out a bit more line with each whipping motion so the lures cover water behind the boat. A short, stout rod makes it easier on the angler.

“You need thin 30-pound test FireLine as the main line, and 30-pound test leaders because you end up reeling the weight to the rod tip and hand-lining the fish the rest of the way in,” he says. “When walleyes hit it, they hit with the ferocity of a muskie.”

Chimelak encourages anglers to remember that from the Blue Bridge to the mouth at Lake Huron, the size limit is 15 inches, while the size limit is 13 inches in the rest of the river.

Saginaw Bay

Joe Raymer, a former charter captain who works at Frank’s Great Outdoors in Linwood says the recent cooler-than-normal weather has kept the walleyes in the Lower Bay longer than most years.

He recommends launching out of Linwood, setting up in as little as 10 feet of water and trolling out deeper to “The Cigar,” an 18-foot hump that is surrounded by 22-foot depths. From there, troll northeast towards “The Black Hole,” which is less than five miles away.

“You can catch them however you like with crawler harnesses, spoons or crankbaits such as Storm Hot-N-Tots,” he says.

In shallow, he says, the bite can be fast and furious when the fish are there, since they move shallow to feed.

“In 10 to 13 feet, the fish are only five to six feet down,” Raymer says. “In deeper water, they’re 15 feet down and lots of them are flat on the bottom, so you can catch fish with bottom bouncers and crawler harnesses run right on the bottom.”

As for colors of Hot-N-Tots, the metallic chartreuse Antifreeze pattern and yellow and orange Sunny Cove pattern have been especially effective. For spinners and spoons, he says “anything with purple or pink on it” has been deadly. Small Junior Silver Streak spoons in Pink Panies, Pink Squirrel, and Purple Squirrel patterns have been in high demand, he says.

“It has been a banner year on the bay,” Raymer says.

For a Linwood-area charter, Raymer recommends Bay Outfitters or Boomerang Fishing Charters.

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Images by Dave Mull

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