Most people know me as an all around type of fisherman. I don’t discriminate against any species of fish. If it swims then I will fish for it. However, if I had to make a list of my favorites then chasing after Lake Michigan salmon would be pretty high up on the list.
I have been fishing Lake Michigan for many years now and the art of trolling for big salmon has always been a constant battle. Just when you think you have it down to a science something changes and you have to adapt and overcome to put more fish in the boat.
Lately the lake has been an unforgiving body of water and the fish are not cooperating with us at all. Limits are hard to come by and the big Kings are few and far between. This has made for some long days on the water; however during these long days what is really happening is a teaching/learning experience is taking place.
When I say teaching, the fish and the lake are doing the teaching and the fisherman is doing the learning. Through trial and error we are working out all the kinks in our spreads and working with our electronics to find fish.
Speed, direction, depth, and temperature all play a big role in your success, however bait choice can turn your slow day into a fast paced heavy action type of day. I know that it goes without saying that if you don’t have the right bait down there you won’t catch fish, but I am not wanting to focus on the style of bait as much as the size of the bait. As the old saying goes “big bait, big fish!”
Some of the more recent fish that I have cleaned have had large baitfish in their bellies. This forage is often times up to 6” in length or even more. What this tells me is that these fish are finding the larger forage base out in the lake and taking advantage of this protein rich baitfish.
Given these findings I have adjusted my offerings to meet or even exceed the forage that the salmon are feeding on. Switching out standard spoons with Magnum size spoons has proved to be a game changer in putting more fish in the box. Warrior Spoons make some great Magnum glow and standard spoons that always find their way into my spread.
These spoons are not only larger in size but they also create much more of a disturbance in the water that tends to bring fish into your spread. They have a much larger profile and give off much more flash or color in the water. This larger profile is something that can be seen from a much longer distance in the clear waters of the lake.
Something that I have been playing with to bring even more attention to my mag spoons is the use of a single O size silver or white dodger ahead of the spoon. Yes dodgers are typically used with flies, however by adding a longer leader to the back of the dodger and putting on a magnum spoon you now have a huge attractor as well as a larger profile in the water.
Magnum spoons aren’t the only way to go about putting more fish in the boat. Keeping with the “bigger is better” mentality, switch up your dodgers to larger flasher style paddles and run larger profile flies behind them. I typically run 4” Sig's Rigs pulse style flies as these not only contain the standard Mylar material, but also a silicone skirt that adds more bulk and pulsation to the fly.
When the coho are becoming had to catch on the old standby of a 00 orange dodger and peanut fly then it is time to go bigger here as well. Switch out the 00 dodger for a 0 dodger and either stick with the peanut fly or take a 4” fly and with a pair of good scissors cut an inch or two off of the skirt. The larger attractor tends to bring these curious fish into your spread and the bulkier fly behind the attractor will entice them into a strike.
Meat rigs are being seen on more and more boats as the years go by. When I say “meat rig” what this really is is a special plastic head that allows you to put a salted hearing strip into it and secure it with a toothpick. The head is designed to spin in the water and it has a leader with either a double or single hook setup that trials slightly behind the hearing.
These meat rig heads are also then combined with a long leader that has two to four small teaser style flies on the line. These are secured in place with small toothpicks. The final piece of this rig is the extra large paddle style rotator that attaches to your line. All in all this rig can extend up to 6’ in length and when in the water it can rotate in a very large circle that often can bring in fish that otherwise would not have seen your spread.
Changing things up in your presentation has always been the way to put more fish in the boat, however going bigger is something that is often overlooked. Many times I have seen people actually go the other direction and drop down a size.
Don’t be afraid to change things up and put some bigger hardware down in the water the next time you are out. Keep in mind the goal is not only to find the fish, but to get them to bite. These larger offerings are something that these fish are finding hard to resist and as you will find out they will put more limits into your cooler at the end of the day.