WI: Lake Michigan fishing off to fast start

Milwaukee – In capsule form, Lake Michigan fishing so far this
year on the Wisconsin side of the lake has developed into an
awfully good show.

To the south, from about the Manitowoc-Sheboygan area to the
Illinois line, coho fishing has gone bananas, according to most
charter captains. To the north, it took a little longer to get
going, but as of last week charter captains were making good
catches of kings and rainbows, despite the fact that lake
conditions are considered two weeks behind normal.

Jim Hirt, who runs Blue Max Charters out of Milwaukee, said he’s
been a charter captain for 30 years and has never seen coho fishing
like he’s had recently.

“Outstanding,” was his one-word response to questions about success
on the big pond. He’s been fishing near shore in 45 to 165 feet and
using green colors. He said the other good news is that small-boat
fishermen can get out and enjoy the sport without motoring “10 to
12 miles into the lake.”

Brad Eggold, the DNR fisheries team supervisor for the Southeast
Region, concurs. “The early coho fishing has been very, very
excellent, from Port Washington to the border.”

Eggold said he’d been surprised by what he called the lack of a
“temperature break” in the water column, which usually allows
anglers to target fish at a specific depth range, though some
captains are reporting warmer surface waters and lower temperatures
starting down at about the 10-foot level. Eggold said a lot of 3-
to 5-pound cohos are being caught.

Wind seems to have been less of a factor so far this year.
Sometimes, Eggold said, with the wind all over the compass,
targeting fish becomes difficult, but with the low early season air
temperatures, the water has been consistent. Another factor is the
question of how well last year’s alewife population responds in the
next couple of years.

“We had pretty good reproduction last year,” Eggold said, “and if
we get two or three more good year-classes, the fishing is going to
continue to be good.”

Mark Sobeski, Maritime Charters captain out of Milwaukee, also
reported this year as one of his best so far, with catches of 10 to
20 cohos a day – and a few rainbows – on orange flashers in 90 to
250 feet. The kings are being caught in 20 to 100 feet, Sobeski

For Tim Wojnicz, of FinQuest Sport Fishing out of Kenosha and
Waukegan, Ill., it’s all been about the calendar. “We’re about
three weeks behind,” he said. “You remember how lousy the weather
was in April? Well, we haven’t caught up. But, hey, I’m not
complaining. The cooler water has kept the cohos (near

He said coho fishing has been as good as it’s been in at least the
past three years.

Kurt Pokrandt, who runs Silver King Charter out of Racine and
Milwaukee, was equally enthusiastic about southern Lake Michigan

“It’s been outstanding,” he said, with “limits or near limits every
trip so far. Usually our early fishing is in the Racine area (for
cohos), but this year it’s been just as good in Milwaukee.”

Pokrandt said the water temperatures have been holding steady, not
so much because of wind, but because the weather has been cold.
That is beginning to change, and a thermocline is beginning to

“We’re having one of the best Junes on record,” said Capt. Ray
Kunesh, of Lil Tiger Too charters in Manitowoc. “The cohos have
migrated (from the south). We are taking 20 to 30 fish almost every
trip and 70 percent of them are cohos. And the rainbows also are

Kunesh was fishing in 80 to 150 feet of water and using various
blue colors and dark green.

Todd Olson, with Kewaunee Charter Fishing, has been targeting kings
with blue and green flies. White dodgers are his first choice . He
also reports rainbows are starting to bite.

Farther north, a couple of Sturgeon Bay fishermen are divided in
their opinion.

Michael Cefalu, of Lynn A Fishing Charters, said fishing had been
“pretty good” and was “starting to pick up,” but still was about
two weeks behind last year. He said rainbows were in the mix, and
there seemed to be a good forage base of alewives.

Fritz Peterson, on the other hand, said king salmon harvest has
been excellent, with quite a few fish close to 20 pounds and none
under 12. Peterson, who operates JE Fishing Enterprises, has been
using flat lines in 150 to 160 feet, calling orange a good

Captains at Algoma and Kewaunee reported some good catches last
week. Algoma charters were coming in with mostly kings, but also a
few rainbows, cohos, and lakers. Most of the action was 2 to 5
miles out, with the kings coming 50 to 100 feet down, a little
deeper on sunny days. The rainbows were in the top 50 feet.

Brian Ebben, a captain on the Predator at Kewaunee, said many
captains at that harbor were having 10- to 20-fish days of mostly
kings and rainbows. His best day was a 22-fish day with 10 kings
and 12 rainbows.

“It’s been a gas catching the rainbows – they’re right on top,”
Ebben said.

The DNR Lake Michigan fishing report is cautioning all boaters to
be aware of the orange flags and buoys that mark commercial trap
nets. Accidentally snagging a net could ruin the day for both the
commercial and the sport fisherman, the DNR said.

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