Follow Up: Lake Michigan Salmon Stocking Workshop (and another survey!)

Hey there ChicagoTroutBum’s.  Hope you had a great weekend.

The Lake Michigan Salmon Stocking Workshop took place this past Saturday in Michigan.  A complete video feed of the workshop can be found by CLICKING HERE.
Full links to the agenda, etc. can be found HERE.

And finally, fisheries managers from Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan are asking for your input regarding this issue.  Tell them what you think by filling out this survey HERE.

Do you even care if Lake Michigan is stocked with salmon?  Are you a Steelhead junkie who bemoans the apparent lack of chromers in Wisconsin Tributaries?  What are your environmental concerns?  What do you think?  Tell them in the SURVEY and tell us in the comments section below.

Late January Chrome

Our good friend Brian was able to spend a bit of time on the Root today and was rewarded with this mid winter buck. As you can see by the bugger in his mouth, Brian was drifting a 2 fly rig with an egg on top and a bugger as the trailer. While nymphing is usually the way to go mid winter, fish will still take a fly on the swing. He was letting his indicator rig swing at the end of each drift, a great way to cover water, and got the take on a tight line. Very nice work!

The chips were down…or were they

Greetings from the East end in Upstate New York. Today could not have started out crappier as far as the fishing was concerned. I was really anxious to get out there today and I have been planning today’s trip for several weeks. I personally will not go out fishing with flies I did not tie myself and every couple years I start my fly box fresh. So I have spent the last several weeks retying flies in my box, updating patterns, etc. It’s been a nightmare with lots of long days and anticipation for the project to be finished so I could go out fishing.

Needless to say I had high hopes when I got to the river today. When I woke up I really didn’t feel like driving the hour and a half to the river I wanted to fish so I decided to stay more local and fish a stream I like to call “The Zoo”. I figured pressure wouldn’t be too bad since it was Monday and all. Fishing reports from the area have not been phenomenal (which I know can be deceiving to some) so I should be okay to fish there. Much to my dismay the water was high and off color but not altogether unfishable so I waded in and began flogging. What I did not anticipate is that warmer weather was going to bring people out so by the time it started to warm up I had plenty of company, not a ton of people for that stream but enough to make this fish hog uncomfortable. All in all the fishing was alright, at least for the guys fishing sacks, these guys were hooking up regularly to my left and right and really pissing me off. I did manage to get this one brown that I snapped a crappy picture of. After landing that fish I felt quenched enough to take off for the day, four hours of fishing for one fish, a day I consider pretty shitty but it just wasn’t happening for me.

While I was packing up my gear at the car I decided that one small fish wasn’t enough for me so I decided to head off to a small creek nearby given the high water conditions to look for clearer water and more solitude even though that was doubtful. Yet to my surprise when I got there, the parking spot had no cars in it although the stream looked pretty low. My better judgement got a hold of me though so I got out to check it out and the first pool I looked at held fish. I knew this was going to be fun but I still had my doubts as to success given the skinny clear water but I strung up and headed down.

The first pool was by far the biggest pool on the creek and I wasn’t sure how to fish it at first given the pool’s stagnant looking water so I went to a technique I used successfully on small ponds in the dacks and tied on a sparrow. I made my first cast, started a figure eight retrieve and got two fish to follow all the way back to me. Game on. I made my second cast to the head of the pool and did my retrieve to where I thought the fish were and let it sink. Two strips later and I hit the wall. This was a big fish for this water and I had a hell of a time landing it on my six weight but perseverance and a little horseplay got it done, one of my favorite fish to date. Unfortunately my camera was wet in my pocket from the morning so the picture came out a crappy but I did get good video of it.


After all that excitement I wasn’t sure I could pull another fish from there given all the commotion but I had tried to keep the first fish at the tailout so I tried again, two strips….fish on. This fish was smaller but put up a great fight and once again, fish in hand. I also managed to get good video of this fish.
After flogging that pool for another twenty minutes it was clear that the rest of the guppies weren’t having it so I went upstream to where it gets really skinny and proceeded to find fish after fish in every spot deep enough to hold one. I managed to get two more fish to cooperate by using as much stealth as possible. All in all this was one of my best days steelheading, I’ve landed more fish and I’ve landed bigger fish but this was just one of those days where the pieces came together, I made good choices and performed when I needed to, I will remember today for a long time to come.

To sum it up the bigger water on Lake Ontario and Erie in the Buffalo area is high and stained but there are plenty of fish to be had with a little perseverance. The smaller streams are skinny but holding enough water to keep fish and with runoff from the warm weather the next couple days I expect to get fresh runs anytime now. This week fishing pressure is generally low and may stay that way for the remainder of the week. If you have the time I highly suggest coming out this way. Suggestions are the Cattaraugus, Eighteen Mile in Burt, Johnson’s Creek, and Oak Orchard.

The chips were down…or were they

Greetings from the East end in Upstate New York. Today could not have started out crappier as far as the fishing was concerned. I was really anxious to get out there today and I have been planning today’s trip for several weeks. I personally will not go out fishing with flies I did not tie myself and every couple years I start my fly box fresh. So I have spent the last several weeks retying flies in my box, updating patterns, etc. It’s been a nightmare with lots of long days and anticipation for the project to be finished so I could go out fishing.

Needless to say I had high hopes when I got to the river today. When I woke up I really didn’t feel like driving the hour and a half to the river I wanted to fish so I decided to stay more local and fish a stream I like to call “The Zoo”. I figured pressure wouldn’t be too bad since it was Monday and all. Fishing reports from the area have not been phenomenal (which I know can be deceiving to some) so I should be okay to fish there. Much to my dismay the water was high and off color but not altogether unfishable so I waded in and began flogging. What I did not anticipate is that warmer weather was going to bring people out so by the time it started to warm up I had plenty of company, not a ton of people for that stream but enough to make this fish hog uncomfortable. All in all the fishing was alright, at least for the guys fishing sacks, these guys were hooking up regularly to my left and right and really pissing me off. I did manage to get this one brown that I snapped a crappy picture of. After landing that fish I felt quenched enough to take off for the day, four hours of fishing for one fish, a day I consider pretty shitty but it just wasn’t happening for me.

While I was packing up my gear at the car I decided that one small fish wasn’t enough for me so I decided to head off to a small creek nearby given the high water conditions to look for clearer water and more solitude even though that was doubtful. Yet to my surprise when I got there, the parking spot had no cars in it although the stream looked pretty low. My better judgement got a hold of me though so I got out to check it out and the first pool I looked at held fish. I knew this was going to be fun but I still had my doubts as to success given the skinny clear water but I strung up and headed down.

The first pool was by far the biggest pool on the creek and I wasn’t sure how to fish it at first given the pool’s stagnant looking water so I went to a technique I used successfully on small ponds in the dacks and tied on a sparrow. I made my first cast, started a figure eight retrieve and got two fish to follow all the way back to me. Game on. I made my second cast to the head of the pool and did my retrieve to where I thought the fish were and let it sink. Two strips later and I hit the wall. This was a big fish for this water and I had a hell of a time landing it on my six weight but perseverance and a little horseplay got it done, one of my favorite fish to date. Unfortunately my camera was wet in my pocket from the morning so the picture came out a crappy but I did get good video of it.


After all that excitement I wasn’t sure I could pull another fish from there given all the commotion but I had tried to keep the first fish at the tailout so I tried again, two strips….fish on. This fish was smaller but put up a great fight and once again, fish in hand. I also managed to get good video of this fish.
After flogging that pool for another twenty minutes it was clear that the rest of the guppies weren’t having it so I went upstream to where it gets really skinny and proceeded to find fish after fish in every spot deep enough to hold one. I managed to get two more fish to cooperate by using as much stealth as possible. All in all this was one of my best days steelheading, I’ve landed more fish and I’ve landed bigger fish but this was just one of those days where the pieces came together, I made good choices and performed when I needed to, I will remember today for a long time to come.

To sum it up the bigger water on Lake Ontario and Erie in the Buffalo area is high and stained but there are plenty of fish to be had with a little perseverance. The smaller streams are skinny but holding enough water to keep fish and with runoff from the warm weather the next couple days I expect to get fresh runs anytime now. This week fishing pressure is generally low and may stay that way for the remainder of the week. If you have the time I highly suggest coming out this way. Suggestions are the Cattaraugus, Eighteen Mile in Burt, Johnson’s Creek, and Oak Orchard.

The chips were down…or were they

Greetings from the East end in Upstate New York. Today could not have started out crappier as far as the fishing was concerned. I was really anxious to get out there today and I have been planning today’s trip for several weeks. I personally will not go out fishing with flies I did not tie myself and every couple years I start my fly box fresh. So I have spent the last several weeks retying flies in my box, updating patterns, etc. It’s been a nightmare with lots of long days and anticipation for the project to be finished so I could go out fishing.

Needless to say I had high hopes when I got to the river today. When I woke up I really didn’t feel like driving the hour and a half to the river I wanted to fish so I decided to stay more local and fish a stream I like to call “The Zoo”. I figured pressure wouldn’t be too bad since it was Monday and all. Fishing reports from the area have not been phenomenal (which I know can be deceiving to some) so I should be okay to fish there. Much to my dismay the water was high and off color but not altogether unfishable so I waded in and began flogging. What I did not anticipate is that warmer weather was going to bring people out so by the time it started to warm up I had plenty of company, not a ton of people for that stream but enough to make this fish hog uncomfortable. All in all the fishing was alright, at least for the guys fishing sacks, these guys were hooking up regularly to my left and right and really pissing me off. I did manage to get this one brown that I snapped a crappy picture of. After landing that fish I felt quenched enough to take off for the day, four hours of fishing for one fish, a day I consider pretty shitty but it just wasn’t happening for me.

While I was packing up my gear at the car I decided that one small fish wasn’t enough for me so I decided to head off to a small creek nearby given the high water conditions to look for clearer water and more solitude even though that was doubtful. Yet to my surprise when I got there, the parking spot had no cars in it although the stream looked pretty low. My better judgement got a hold of me though so I got out to check it out and the first pool I looked at held fish. I knew this was going to be fun but I still had my doubts as to success given the skinny clear water but I strung up and headed down.

The first pool was by far the biggest pool on the creek and I wasn’t sure how to fish it at first given the pool’s stagnant looking water so I went to a technique I used successfully on small ponds in the dacks and tied on a sparrow. I made my first cast, started a figure eight retrieve and got two fish to follow all the way back to me. Game on. I made my second cast to the head of the pool and did my retrieve to where I thought the fish were and let it sink. Two strips later and I hit the wall. This was a big fish for this water and I had a hell of a time landing it on my six weight but perseverance and a little horseplay got it done, one of my favorite fish to date. Unfortunately my camera was wet in my pocket from the morning so the picture came out a crappy but I did get good video of it.


After all that excitement I wasn’t sure I could pull another fish from there given all the commotion but I had tried to keep the first fish at the tailout so I tried again, two strips….fish on. This fish was smaller but put up a great fight and once again, fish in hand. I also managed to get good video of this fish.
After flogging that pool for another twenty minutes it was clear that the rest of the guppies weren’t having it so I went upstream to where it gets really skinny and proceeded to find fish after fish in every spot deep enough to hold one. I managed to get two more fish to cooperate by using as much stealth as possible. All in all this was one of my best days steelheading, I’ve landed more fish and I’ve landed bigger fish but this was just one of those days where the pieces came together, I made good choices and performed when I needed to, I will remember today for a long time to come.

To sum it up the bigger water on Lake Ontario and Erie in the Buffalo area is high and stained but there are plenty of fish to be had with a little perseverance. The smaller streams are skinny but holding enough water to keep fish and with runoff from the warm weather the next couple days I expect to get fresh runs anytime now. This week fishing pressure is generally low and may stay that way for the remainder of the week. If you have the time I highly suggest coming out this way. Suggestions are the Cattaraugus, Eighteen Mile in Burt, Johnson’s Creek, and Oak Orchard.

December Steelheading


The cold weather is on the way and with that in mind, Will and I spent a bit of time on the Milwaukee this weekend. Saturday was wet and cold with rain on and off all day long. We went 1-2 with this bright and rosy male being the only fish brought to hand over the weekend. Sunday water levels were up; Will, David, and Niall had a fair number of active fish that all were well versed in escaping crafty anglers. Hopefully we keep this warm (ish) trend for a while as the fishing is good and should continue to be good for a bit longer.

Steelheaders

Many anglers label themselves as being a “hardcore steelheader”, a “steelhead junkie”, or a “metalhead”. Being affixed with such a label, for many anglers, is the pinnacle. A right of passage. To have such a designation typically involves thousands of hours spent in the car and on the water, seriously cold feet, too many fishless days to count, triumph, defeat, frustration, a pissed off spouse…. the list goes on and on. True steelhead anglers are a different breed, willing to stand in the freezing cold, wind, snow, and rain all day, for the chance at catching a fish. Persistence and confidence are driving traits in this elite class of anglers.

Over the years, many debates have been brought to the table regarding whether or not Great Lakes steelhead are truly steelhead. Like their west coast counter parts, they don’t spend the vast majority of their lives roaming the Pacific. Which is the basis for most arguments. But whatever your opinion, nothing can be taken away from the Great Lakes steelheader. This eccentric group of anglers devotes their lives to the pursuit of anadromous fish.

Rick Kustich, a well known Great Lakes steelheader, author, guide, and conservationist has seen and heard both sides of the east coast / west coast steelhead debate. The following is a series of questions Rick was kind enough to answer. His vast knowledge on steelhead fishing across North America is humbling to say the least.

Having fished steelhead all over North America, do you feel the Great Lakes region gets the respect it deserves for being a world-class steelhead fishery?

Rick: I believe that the Great Lakes steelhead fishery is beginning to gain the respect it deserves particularly from anglers in the East and Midwest who recognize that such a high quality experience can be found within a few hours drive. Now that there is better information available on Great Lakes steelhead behavior and fly fishing techniques, a better environment exists on many rivers. And many anglers are expanding their approach to truly discover all that the fishery has to offer. Tighter regulations and a greater emphasis on wild fish production has also raised the quality of the fishery. However, west coast steelhead anglers may not be as convinced. But each year I have experiences in the Great Lakes that are on par with those of the British Columbia rivers that I fish each year. The fact that I use the same two-handed rods, lines, tips and big, seductive flies in each region says a lot about the similarities in the fishing.

Some western anglers do not consider Great Lakes steelhead to truly be steelhead, since they never return to the salt. What is your stance on this topic?

Rick: I have had discussions with biologists that have studied tissue data from both west coast and Great Lakes steelhead with the conclusion that there is no anatomical difference between the two. There does not seem to be some special mechanism in a west coast fish that allows it to pass from salt to fresh water that isn’t present in the genetics of a Great Lakes fish. The quality of a Great Lakes fish however, is determined by its brood stock. There are many established wild populations in the Great Lakes with quality genetics originally derived from west coast fish that have developed over generations. There are also many hatchery programs where much care is given to collecting breeders from a high-quality pool of returning adult steelhead. However, in a few instances the drive to generate high numbers of hatchery fish by a few states has produced poor quality offspring which could be deemed inferior to the minimum standards of the true appearance and spirit of a steelhead. Certainly the argument can be made that steelhead are native to Pacific coast rivers and that there are certain esthetic qualities found in the pursuit of native species. I certainly feel that way when fishing in British Columbia. Unfortunately, in California, Oregon, Washington and even lower BC, hatcheries are playing an increasing roll in maintaining steelhead returns.

Having been a long time guide, as well as a published author on Great Lakes steelhead, do you still find yourself learning while on the water?

Rick: I am still learning every day I am on the water. It is often a driving force behind what I do. I am continually trying new rods, lines and rigging to more effectively cover the water that I fish. I try to keep my mind open to new fly designs or in fresh ways to approach my favorite pools from the prospective of increasing both the quality of the experience and overall production. But most importantly I am always in the process of becoming more familiar with the water that I fish. Knowing and thoroughly understanding the water is the key to enjoying the river and consistently hooking steelhead.

What do you enjoy most about fishing for steelhead?

Rick: Quality of the experience has replaced the quanity of the catch as I have matured as a steelhead angler. I now enjoy all aspects of the pursuit as much as the hooking and landing of a steelhead. It is one of the reasons that I fish exclusively with a two-handed rod and a swung fly. I so enjoy the rhythm of casting and fishing in this manner. Mastering the Spey cast is a life-long activity in itself. Time melts away when covering the water while Spey fishing and there is nothing like the take of the fly on a tight line swinging in the current. I will never tire of the pull or grab of a steelhead when fishing in this manner. I am always waiting for the next pull.