Courier-Leader & Flashes

Fishing Opportunities Besides Ice-Fishing

As I write this, friends have started ice-fishing. However, we have nearly a week of warmer temperatures and possibility of rain. There is one type of fishing during the winter that I really enjoy. This type of fishing is half catching fish and half the camaraderie with other anglers.
I enjoy winter fishing on a river. If I am dead serious then I will pull out a pair of waders. There are countless streams in the state that offer walleye, steelhead or a combination of the two. We will cover the serious angler aspects shortly.
We spend a fair amount of time on the Kalamazoo River between Douglas and the Allegan Dam or the Black River near South Haven. Without giving away all of my locations or having a few friends getting mad at me, all I can say is that there are places where you can sit in your truck and watch your rods.
Other locations such as the Allegan Dam or the boat launch in South Haven are well established spots where many anglers can fish. The Allegan Dam is perhaps my favorite location. Walleye, steelhead and crappie are caught during the winter.
Our system is very basic and simple. Not sayings it’s the best but it’s’ the one we use the most. Minnows are used the most. Our basic rig uses a three-way swivel with a short dropper to a sinker. A longer dropper line is attached and we use a K&E Stopper Lures floating jig head. The floating jig head keeps the minnow riding just off of the bottom.
With this rig you can fish a deep hole or bounce it slowly across the shallow gravel flats. Just change the sinker weight to match up to the depth and objective. You can also use the Glow Jig head from Stopper Lures.
We use the glow jig head for walleye, steelhead and the crappie. When targeting walleye or crappie we use a minnow. When targeting steelhead we use a wax worm or a wiggler.
Another basic rig that we use is the Carlisle Slip float. Once again we alternate between a floating jig head and a glow jig head. There is an art in matching up the proper float and bouncing the rig with the current. Carlisle floats offer a few models just for river fishing in the current.
Add just enough split shots so that your float is vertical and that you jig is just bouncing and ticking the bottom. A floating jig head should just barely be kissing the bottom. When the float stops, set the hook.
Crappie anglers should search out tree limbs and stumps. On the Kalamazoo River anglers will find miles of limbs, tree trunks and stumps in the water. This is where we change things up slightly. We still use the glow jig head but we use either a 14 or 16 foot rod.
The secret is reaching out from shore and dropping your float into the openings, alongside of a tree trunk or a stump. Remember, you are fishing from shore. Expect to lose a few between the wood tangles.
Wade fishing for walleye is a blast. If we have an early warming trend walleye from Lake Michigan will start their migration. Safety is a concern and I enjoy the very shallow streams where I can see the bottom. This is sight fishing at its best.
I would suggest a wading jacket or vest. Keep things to the minimum. We use pill bottles to hold extra jig heads, floating jig heads, split shots, etc. I like walking upstream looking for any type of current break.
A log, an undercut in the bank, a depression or a hole will hold walleye. Walleye avoid direct current except when spawning. Get used to looking for any object that might block the current. Polarized sun glasses come in real handy.
Our group releases all of the female walleyes caught. Most of the males that we catch are between thirteen and eighteen inches. Our crappies run between eight inches and up to fifteen inches. Enjoy the winter fishing season here in Michigan.

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