Warm January brings mixed fishing results

Unseasonably warm conditions spark early
steelhead runs

By Kenny Darwin Correspondent

Grand Rapids, Mich. — Michigan’s warmest January in recorded
history has created some hot fishing. The unseasonably warm weather
highlighted by thawing snow and rain, has brought early runs of
Great Lakes steelhead to state streams.

Fishing has been productive for those who have taken advantage
of the weather and made trips to local Great Lakes tributaries. The
recent cold snap will slow runs, stack steelies into deep holes and
create some superb winter trout fishing opportunities.

“We lost most of our snow and the warm rain raised Big Manistee
flow 50 percent above normal, which excited steelies into moving
upstream,” said Ray Schmidt, owner of Schmidt Outfitters.

“There is no ice on Manistee Lake, which helps to promote
mid-winter migrations. As soon as the recent cool weather
stabilizes, we expect excellent catches.”

Schmidt said most fish average between 7 and 9 pounds and seem
eager to snap flies.

“Most steelies will be found in deep holes and runs because they
are not ready to spawn. The fishing is much better than last year,”
Schmidt said. “Our catch is way up, and with the water clearing, we
will boat plenty more bright steelies in February and March.”

With the arctic cold front zooming down on Michigan, expect
steelies to crowd into holes. Many steelhead anglers are predicting
more outstanding action for those willing to brave the

Anglers have caught good numbers of fish on the Grand River in
downtown Grand Rapids, the White River near Hesperia, and the Rogue
River near Rockford. Water levels there are slightly above normal,
and stream temperatures running in the upper 30s low 40s have
brought waves of Great Lakes steelies into the tributaries.

Good numbers of chromers are stacked in the St. Joseph River at
Berrien Springs Dam. Anglers there are waiting for river levels to
drop and water conditions to clear from the warm-water runoff.

Lots of smaller 3- and 4-pound fish are being caught on the
Boardman River at Traverse City, according to DNR sources.

Fred Steuber, owner of Silverside Outfitters and Guide Service
in Newaygo, agrees that fishing has been very good so far this

“Stream temperatures on the PM (Pere Marquette) came up to 40
degrees during the January thaw and steelies poured into the river
system with the increased temperature and flow. The Muskegon also
got a healthy run of new steelies when rising water and rain
signaled it was spring, although it was January,” he said. “Right
now, fishing is excellent on both systems, and stabilizing
conditions will clear the water and help fish to see our fly

Steuber said the PM has dropped to where anglers are able to
wade in it, but the Muskegon serves up the best catches from
boaters that can work the long runs and huge holes.

January’s warm weather and high water has brought a fresh run of
steelies to state rivers, which are producing good action. Even if
winter returns the fish are in the rivers and will remain there for
the rest of the season.

Ice anglers frustrated with poor

By Marty Kovarik Correspondent

Southern Michigan — “It’s absolutely deplorable. I’ve never seen
anything like it in 35 years of ice fishing,” said Dan Chimelak.
“With all the people off for the winter and not being able to go
ice fishing, it’s terrible.”

Chimelak, owner of Lakeside Fishing Shop in St. Clair and
Farmington, is one of a great many bait shop owners, fishing tackle
retailers, and ice fishing fanatics who are feeling the heat this
winter and don’t like it. According to Chimelak, there’s no good
ice to speak of in southeastern Michigan, whether on rivers, inland
lakes, or Lake St. Clair.

“They’re hand-lining and jigging for walleyes in the Detroit and
St. Clair rivers,” Chimelak said. “I’ve never seen anything like it
at this time of year.”

What’s ruining the fun for ice anglers, especially on Great
Lakes bays and large inland lakes, is the record-breaking January
warm weather.

The unseasonable warm weather can be blamed on a prevailing west
to east flow of Pacific air that kept arctic air bottled up well
north in Canada, according to the National Weather Service.

Last month was the warmest January ever recorded in Flint, and
the third warmest in Detroit.

The average mean temperature in Detroit in January was 35.3
degrees, and five days the high temperature was in the 50s

“It was 10.8 degrees above normal,”said Steven Freitag of the
National Weather Service station in White Lake. “That’s very
extreme. In Detroit, there were only two days that it got down to
freezing or below. Twenty-nine days in January were above freezing.
That’s very unusual. Even the inland lakes didn’t freeze.”

In Flint, the average mean temperature was 32.7, which is 11.4
degrees above normal.

Andy Gorske, from Frank’s Great Outdoors in Bay City, said
conditions aren’t very good in his area, either. Anglers started
hitting first ice on Saginaw Bay in December, fishing for perch in
the shallows, and were preparing for a long ice-fishing season when
the warm weather pulled the plug.

“The colder weather formed ice before Christmas,” Gorske said,
“and then somebody turned up the heat and we lost it all.”

Gorske said there’s no ice at all now on Saginaw Bay, and
walleye anglers are either fishing open water or heading north for
ice thick enough on which to walk.

“They’re fishing the rivers in boats when they can,” he said.
“But heavy rains got the rivers raging. The rains blew out the
river mouths though, and a few guys are getting out there and
jigging and trolling in boats.”

With no hopes for good ice, Mark Martin’s Ice Fishing Vacation
School, which was to be held in Saginaw Bay in early February, was
first postponed, then cancelled.

“It’s very disappointing,” Martin said. “The students, sponsors,
and media always have a great time at these events and there’s a
lot of work put into them.”

Dave Rose, from WildFishing Guide Service in Graun, said there
is little hope that people will be getting out for the annual
whitefish run in Grand Traverse Bay.

“Usually if Traverse Bay isn’t frozen by early February, it’s
not even a consideration,” Rose said.

Larger lakes, such as Elk, Torch, and Crystal, are wide open at
a time when you can usually drive on them with four wheelers and
snowmobiles, according to Rose. Mid-sized lakes that began freezing
were turned sloppy by late-January rains. Some of the smaller lakes
in northern Michigan had 7 to 8 inches of decent ice as of last
week and are providing some fishing, he said. Anglers who are
searching for Grand Traverse Bay whitefish and perch are restricted
to boats.

A little farther north in the Petoskey area, outdoors writer
George Rowe reports good fishing on the inland lakes where ice
formed. Many people are taking advantage of the mild temperatures,
he says.

“It might be the best ice-fishing season we’ve ever had,” Rowe
said. “I’ve never seen more people on the ice.”

In inland areas of the Upper Peninsula, most of the lakes froze
solid and people are taking advantage of the balmy winter weather.
However, some of the larger lakes and Lake Superior bays are

According to meteorologist Kevin Cruppi of the National Weather
Service in Marquette, the average temperature in Marquette in
January was 24.0 degrees. This easily breaks the previous record
high January mean temperature of 22.0 degrees set in 1990.

As an example of how unusual this January was, there were no
below zero temperatures observed at the Marquette station, and this
is only the second January on record with no sub-zero readings.

In addition, there were only two days in January when the
mercury fell below 10 degrees. The previous record was January 2002
when only seven days dipped below 10 degrees. Even more amazing,
especially to Upper Peninsula residents, is that there were no days
in January 2006 when the daily high was under 20 degrees.

Steve Koski from Indian Country Sports in L’Anse said Keweenaw
Bay is wide open. Munising Bay, which usually provides a great
January and February whitefish bite, is also ice-free.

One of the bright spots across the state for big-water walleye
fishing is Little Bay de Noc.

“We had a good start with the cold December and the lack of snow
that helped form ice,” said Chris Wahl from Bay View Bait and
Tackle in Escanaba.

“They’re not fishing as far south as usual but there’s a good
foot of ice on the north part of the bay.”

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