Michigan trout season begins

May 9, 2014
On the PM in the flies only section on the opener.

On the PM in the flies only section on the opener.

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11-year-old Lincoln Judge caught his first PM steelhead on a fly.

11-year-old Lincoln Judge caught his first PM steelhead on a fly.

The last Saturday in April marked the 2014 Michigan trout opener. It allows anglers to fish sections of streams and creeks that have been closed to fishing since September 30, 2013. Examples in our area are Little South Branch and Middle Branch of the Pere Marquette, the Baldwin River and parts of the Little Manistee. Walleye season also opened on Saturday and the Big Manistee, Lower PM and Muskegon still had good numbers of them in the river system due to the cold spring.

I had been fishing the Muskegon River earlier last week and had some fantastic success for steelhead.  I have guided on the Muskegon River for 21 years and about 15 years ago on the trout opener I saw what was the busiest river I have ever seen. It seemed as if every steelhead and trout fisherman in Michigan with a boat or fishing rod was down there that day. Since then I vowed to myself to stay away from it on the trout opener.

I chose to fish on the Pere Marquette on the trout opener with the fact that there are still some steelhead in it in fishable numbers, and of course the resident brown and rainbow trout. We found several groups of spawning steelhead to cast to. The problem we were having was getting very many fish to bite. They were what I call “stale” fish. After a few casts they would end up scattering up or down into the pocket water nearby the gravel bar. The low clear water and older fish was not a good combination for catching. We fished several holes and pockets for either fresh fish or drop back steelhead on the Pere Marquette that day as well. Despite a half dozen battles we were unable to bring a steelhead to hand on Saturday. We did land a couple of resident rainbow trout with heavier steelhead gear.

The trout rods stayed in the boat all day. The black stoneflies had been hatching on sunny afternoons and can offer some great early season dry fly fishing. The clouds and cooler day kept the hatch from happening and the trout from rising. I did not bring streamer rods with us due to the low water- our main focus was steelhead. The best conditions for streamer fishing are during rising water in the 50 degree range. Fishing with streamers or Rapalas during rising water can be a great experience. We have a lot of smaller salmon fry and steelhead smolts in the river and the brown trout make them an important part of their diets. Flies or lures that imitate smolts or fry are a great choice.

The reports for brown trout fishing in Lake Michigan remain very positive from Whitehall to Manistee. Catch rates are up, with various sized browns being caught. I will not have a chance to go after them until the weekend if the weather permits.

The recent rains and warmer weather will get the Morel Mushrooms growing so if you are out trout fishing while walking through the woods keep your eyes open.

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