Summer is time for lake herring

Sault Ste. Marie residents Gary Sibbald netted this summer  herring for Rob Ware. Photo by Tom Pink

Although it may change in the coming years if Michigan DNR efforts prove to be successful, but the summertime lake herring bite in our state has traditionally been something that lures anglers to Lake Huron’s Les Cheneaux Islands, the lower St. Mary’s River, and Potagannissing Bay, north of Drummond Island and DeTour Village.

Knowledgeable anglers find lake herring or ciscoes at all times of the year in other places, including Grand Traverse Bay and several inland lakes, but for many of us, herring fishing translates to July in the Eastern Upper Peninsula. 

I belong to a group of fishermen who have been taking an annual “herring trip” in the lower St. Mary’s and Potagannissing for more than a dozen years. In the early years, it was easy to find fish. We often caught them at Lime Island, fishing from shore off the wall of a former freighter refueling station. These days, we need to search for them among Potagannissing’s many islands and bays, and this year was no exception. 

Sometimes the spots where we find fish are obvious – we look for bays and sheltered spots where the water is slightly warmer and mayflies are hatching. Once anchored, if you see mayflies popping to the surface around your boat, odds are you are in for some good fishing. 

Often, gulls will lead us to those places, but more often than not, other boats do. It doesn’t take long for word to travel when someone has found herring – bent rods and landing nets flashing in the sun tell the story to passing anglers. Half of the fun is in the hunt for a place to drop the anchor – and sometimes we’ll raise and lower it a dozen times in a day as we try different spots. 

As of the middle of July this year, it seemed as if the bite was just getting started. The St. Mary’s River and northern Lake Huron are a bit cooler than they have been by this time in recent years. Even if you’re hearing the “run” is over, you may want to give it a try. Little pockets of water hold mayfly hatches and herring well after most of the fishermen have moved on to find walleye, perch and salmon. For the herring fisherman, it pays to be persistent.

Categories: Blog Content, Michigan – Tom Pink

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