Fishing heats up on Lake Michigan

Emma Dale • May 11, 2017 at 10:00 AM

When Gene Braaksma heard the king salmon bite was on in Grand Haven, he and his buddies knew they had to get out on the water. 

Braaksma, of Hudsonville, along with friends Bruce Jabaay and Todd Miedema of Jenison, landed six kings on Wednesday morning after netting eight salmon on Monday.

“We’re all three friends,” Braasksma said. “We all go to the same church. We know it’s a nice place to fish and we heard the fish were biting, and the fish bit.”

When the salmon are biting, it doesn’t take long for the word to spread throughout the fishing community — especially when cool waters bring the popular game fish up close to the piers. 

More than a hundred boats dotted the Lake Michigan horizon early Wednesday morning. Some were anchored several hundred yards south of the piers fishing for perch, while others criss-crossed in front of the channel mouth pursing salmon. 

Cory Melvin, who captains aboard Tammy Too charters and also is co-owner of Fish-On Bait & Tackle in Nunica, said fishing for perch and salmon has been on fire the past few days. 

“Perch has been red-hot,” Melvin said. “They’re catching very large perch, mainly on minnows and spikes. That’s out in the hole off the Bil-Mar. The last two days, it’s been nice and flat out there, so guys have been able to get out and go again.

“Then the big fish have been even better than the perch. They’re catching cohos from 180 to 230 feet of water, so offshore, and the larger kings are being caught from 40-70 feet of water.”

Melvin said the alewives, which the salmon feed on, are schooling relatively shallow as they seek out the warmer water flowing out of the pier heads from the Grand River. 

It’s not unusual to catch cohos this time of year, but Melvin said the big kings are a bonus. 

“It’s kind of a pleasant surprise,” Melvin said. “Generally, we’ll get some kings, but not the size we’re getting. Our biggest today was 17 pounds. We caught nine this morning, and six of them were 15 pounds or better, and the others were nice 8-10 pounders. They’re super healthy right now, and there’s a good amount of them.”

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