— Matt Whitney, Whitney Charters
Spring has finally arrived and so have the kings.
The fishing heated up even faster than the air with limit catches made up of king and coho salmon this week. Each day has been a little different, as the fish continue to move, but starting out your morning in 80 feet of water and working out until your arms are tired seems to be a pretty good plan each morning. You'll find fish throughout the water column, but if you have bait in the top 30 feet, you'll want to make them bigger bait like the standard size Dreamweaver spoons as there is a sizeable population of 10-13 inch king salmon up there feeding on anything shorter than they are.
I have had good success on coho and big kings on a 75-foot copper rig with a UV Dreamweaver Wrecking Ball this week. That same pattern on both silver and gold Super Slim blades have been excellent on braided line divers fished 150-175 feet back. Coppers from 150-300 feet deep have all been producing this week but the bite has been good enough on downriggers that if you don't feel like doing a lot of reeling, you're in luck. You can leave those rigs in the rod rack.
The fly bite has been picking up all week, as many of the bigger salmon have moved deeper and riggers fished from 60-120 feet and combos paired with the weather have been very productive. The 11-foot White Paddle has been a steady producer with the Poofster, Illusion and Oceana flies being the most consistent, but fog and rain have meant that you'll want to have the Blue Bubble, Pickled Sunshine and other glow flies handy.
We've been running our combos about 30 inches behind the ball and focusing on a trolling speed in the 2.4 to 2.7 mph range. Spoons are also taking their fair share of fish. It's been hard to beat the Blue and Green Jean patterns in low light with the Jager Bomb (gold and silver), Flea For All, Ali Gator, NBK, and Capt. Gary patterns picking away at fish during the rest of the day. As I mentioned earlier, we've been running the larger versions of most of these spoons to try and limit the number of small kings we catch but fishing deeper seems to be having the same effect.
If you're heading out during the late afternoon, the fishing is good, but it hasn't been quite as fast the morning. Expect to head out further to find active fish, as it seems like the fish inside are asleep on the couch after a Thanksgiving meal. You'll still find some nice kings out in water over 200 feet deep, but you'll also find a few more coho. I personally don't mind this, as coho are delicious, but if you're looking for a bruiser, kings up to 29 pounds have been reported over the last couple weeks, they seem to be hanging a little closer to shore. Don't shy away from dragging some large plugs to try and target a trophy but don't be surprised if a three-pound coho winds up eating that, too.
Good luck and get out there.
— Rich Wilson, Vice president of the Grand Haven Steelheaders.
In spite of visibility problems because of dense fog, fishing off Grand Haven this past week has been very productive. While I have heard reports of some fish in shallow water, most action has been offshore in 120 to 200 feet of water. Limit catches of kings and cohoes have been quite common with all age classes of kings being caught.
Paddles and flies in blue and white combinations have been very productively fished deep on downriggers or divers. Try fishing them from 65 feet down to 100 or more. Blue or various Moonglow spoons are effective on dark or foggy days fished on lead core or copper. Bright patterns such as Mixed Veggie UV or Captain Gary's UV work best on bright days.
Our best action came on Paddles down 80 feet or more, riggers with spoons for 45 to 65 feet down and seven colors of lead with a Stinger Jordo. Please consider releasing smaller kings when possible, as they are the future of our fishery.