Weather is causing delay in salmon run
By Kenny Darwin Correspondent
Grand Rapids, Mich. — Michigan salmon anglers are somewhat
perplexed by recent fishing results. Unseasonably warm weather has
the fishery in a state of flux.
In August, cool nights and chilly Great Lakes water temperatures
sent chinook up traditional salmon tributaries like the Big Grand
Rapids and Pere Marquette, officials say. Then, warm weather and
southwest winds brought warm water and salmon retreated to the
comfort of the cold water found deep in the Great Lakes, far from
This has put pier and surf fishing on hold, but big-water
trollers are finding kings still biting in deeper water. Rarely are
kings available to trolling fishermen this late in September, but
the unseasonably warm temperatures have the fall salmon spawning
runs in a holding pattern.
A DNR fisheries crew looking for salmon data recently shocked
part of the Grand River in an effort to find salmon. They found
only six fish in waters that traditionally hold hundreds at this
time of year. They were greeted with extremely low water levels,
little stream current, and river water temperatures near 70
September is traditionally peak season for stream salmon
fishermen, but many Great Lakes tributaries are experiencing low
“That could all change this week and the famous Au Sable River
could have a good run of kings,” reported Jim Johnson from the
DNR’s Alpena Fish Research Station. “Warm water stacked at the
river mouths has halted Lake Huron salmon migrations at Tawas,
Oscoda, Harrisville, Alpena, and Rogers City.”
Johnson said Lake Huron kings are expected to average about 7
pounds this year, although some fish that have migrated from Lake
Michigan could weigh as much as 18 pounds.
“Salmon fishing has been extremely tough this fall; even our
latest catch data show only one out of three Great Lakes boats is
catching fish,” Johnson said. DNR biologists expected fewer fish in
rivers and harbors this fall because Lake Huron is suffering from a
forage fish crash, but no one predicted the adverse effect
unseasonably warm weather would have on sport fishing.
In Little Bay de Noc, water temperatures last week were still
around 69 to 71 degrees. Salmon are just starting to show up in the
The St. Marys River water temperature was hovering around 67
degrees and chinook trollers were seeing increased catches. The
Atlantic salmon fishery on the St. Marys is the best ever this
Overall, Lake Michigan salmon fishing is on the slow side with
warm water is keeping fish in water up to 100 feet deep. Rain,
wind, and cool nights will create conditions that will eventually
draw salmon from the depths and into area spawning streams.
Steve Griffin, Michigan Outdoor News field editor, reports that
ideal salmon water temperatures in Platte Bay were almost 90 feet
“That’s weird for this late in September,” he said. Some coho
are beginning to congregate in east Platte Bay to prepare for runs
up the Platte River. No salmon had run the Platte as of the middle
of last week.
Salmon fishing has been good in Grand Traverse Bay where kings
are stacking up to run the Boardman River. Good catches are coming
50 to 80 feet down in 100 to 120 feet of water, reports indicate. A
large school of kings was congregating last week in the hole found
at the mouth of the Boardman River close to the Holiday Inn.
Frankfort anglers are catching a few salmon off the pier and by
trolling the harbor in the early morning and late evening. Trollers
are taking fish in 100 feet of water off Point Betsie and the
Herring Hole. Homestead Dam on the Betsie River had a good run of
kings that produced good action, but anglers are now waiting for a
second wave of fish. The M-22 Bridge near Alberta has been
producing good catches of kings in the early mornings and late
Grand Rapids and Ludington pier fishing has been poor, but
trollers are taking good catches of kings 60 to 80 feet down in 60
to 130 feet of water.
At Grand Rapids, anglers have been concentrating on the steep
drop-off along the bank found in 100 feet of water. Ludington
charters have been running seven miles north to the sharp sloping
bottom along the area from the state park bathhouse to the point.
Here, deep water is less than a half-mile from shore, and the
abrupt drop-off is an ideal location for spawning salmon to
congregate in the converging currents.
Some kings are being caught by wading fishermen casting lures at
the mouth of the Sable River. The Pere Marquette River has had two
runs of summer chinook, but the main fall school has yet to
Boaters fishing Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Grand River
are having good success during early morning and late evening as
salmon charge the piers, then return to the safety of the big lake.
Pier fishermen also are taking good numbers of fish. Decent numbers
of salmon have moved into the lower Grand River.
Muskegon has good fishing in the deep water found far out in
Lake Michigan, around the piers and in lower Muskegon Lake. Most
salmon are caught before daybreak and at sunrise.
Salmon are in a bit of a holding pattern, somewhat stuck in the
Great Lakes by unseasonably warm weather, yet willing to strike
trolled lures as though it was still August. Major runs are yet to
arrive in most Michigan tributaries. If the weather stays warm, the
good stream fishing will not arrive until mid-October.