Spring trout fishing trip provides unusual catch
Sometimes you have to take what Mother Nature hands you.
The Michigan DNR Fisheries Division stocks hundreds of thousands of trout in Michigan streams and rivers across the state each spring, just in time for the late-April trout fishing opener. In southern Michigan, where summer hold-over is often limited due to low, warm water, it’s often a put-and-take fishery, paid for by our license fees.
One of those streams close to my home gets over 6,000 brown trout each spring. I hadn’t fished it in several years – since my stream-fishing buddy passed away – and decided to give it a go last weekend.
This is small stream fishing. With very thick foliage along the stream bank and beyond the only option for fishing in the section of the creek I call home is a short, compact spinning rod and reel combo. A collapsible rod would be perfect.
Spinners, flies, spawn and nightcrawlers will all catch fish. However, there are a lot of creek chubs here and over time I’ve found that spinners and minnows will catch more browns than chubs – most of the time.
I donned my hip boots and polarized sunglasses and headed to the creek with a dozen “crappie” minnows in a small milk jug and a couple of my favorite spinners. I find it a lot easier to navigate the thick tangles along the creek with a cut-out milk jug holding my minnows rather than a hefty, cumbersome minnow bucket. Stealth is the secret to maneuvering along the creek. I left another dozen minnies in the car in a minnow bucket with an aerator so they’d be fresh later on.
The weather was perfect, bugs were still at a remarkably low level, the forest around me was just starting to bloom. It seemed as if every bird in the recreation area also was impressed with this marvelous Michigan morning and were serenading each other with springtime melodies. I marveled at the wonderful surroundings as I slowly worked my way along the creek. But the bite was rather slow.
The stream was running high and fast due to some recent rain in the area and a few of my favorite holes had expanded to colossal size. I had to add a couple split shot to keep my minnow down in the water, but finally got a hit – a 6-inch creek chub had found my offering.
After catching a couple more chubs on minnows, I switched to a spinner and immediately landed a 7-inch brown. My outlook brightened and I continued on through the tangles and log jams.
About an hour later, without much action, I came to a beautiful pool that had been created by efforts of our local chapter of Trout Unlimited. After running a spinner through the pool a couple times without a bump, I switched back to a minnow and caught another small chub. A couple casts later I felt a good hit, and set the hook on what I assumed was a good-sized brown. This is what I’d been waiting for.
Adrenalin surged through my veins as I worked hard to keep the fish in the middle of the pool and away from the tangles and sunken logs along the edge.
With light line and closed quarters we had a dandy battle. But when I slipped the net under the fish I quickly realized it was not a trout but another chub – the largest I’ve ever seen. Creek chubs usually run between four and six inches in length and while they don’t make good table fare, they fight like crazy. The foot-long chub I had on the end of my line gave a fight that would rival any 12-inch brown.
Because of it’s size I wasn’t completely sure it was a chub. I sent a picture to my local fisheries biologist who confirmed it was in fact a creek chub.
“Yes, that is a creek chub,” he responded in an email. ”The large mouth and dark spot at the front base of the dorsal fin are good identification characteristics.
“Too bad creek chub is not a Master Angler category,” he added. “That one looks like it would qualify!”
Just my luck. I finally catch a Master Angler-caliber fish and it has to be a dang creek chub.
By early afternoon it was time to pack up and head home. I never did connect with a keeper brown, but my encounter with that monstrous creek chub gave me a rush of excitement and another fishing story.
Sometimes you just have to roll with the flow.