Imagine the thrill of fighting a fish so long that your arms hurt. Imagine being back to the dock by 8 a.m. with a limit of hard-fighting, tackle-busting, great tasting King salmon. Imagine the aroma of fresh salmon cooking on the grill in a bed of onions, lemon pepper and butter. Hey…you don’t have to imagine it, you can experience it, it’s happening right now in the Bay de Noc area. Salmon fishing has been very consistent over the last ten years or so. The Michigan D.N.R continues to stock local rivers with salmon, and there is evidence of some great natural reproduction occurring in local streams also. As with any species, many factors determine numbers and size. The biggest factor in the Bay de Noc area is the abundance of baitfish. The main forage of salmon in the Bay de Noc area are alewives, a 3 to 6 inch fish that thrives in deeper, colder waters, providing the ultimate food source for hungry salmon. When alewife numbers are up, the average size of the salmon goes up, when baitfish numbers are down, the size of the salmon goes down. One thing that’s for certain, whether a fish is 8 lbs or 20 lbs…they’re all fun and provide some great sportfishing opportunities.
The salmon fishing in the Bay de Noc area usually gets going around the end of June and lasts right up until the first part of September. It’s at this time that the mature salmon start moving to their natal rivers and streams where they will spawn and die. Most of the salmon action in the Bay de Noc area takes place in two locations. The first area is from Escanaba south to the Ford River can and the second area is just south and east of Big Bay de Noc in the Fairport area. Fairport lies at the tip of the Garden Peninsula, and is a beautiful area to visit even if you don’t wet a line. Standard tactics apply when fishing for these giants of the Great Lakes. Downriggers and Dipsey Divers are the preferred methods to take spoons, flaher/fly combos, and plugs to the depths where the salmon prowl. Fish are usually caught in depth ranges from 60 to 150 feet of water. Early and late in the day are the best times to fish, but plenty of fish are caught all day long for those of you that just can’t get up at 4 a.m. for the early bite. If you don’t have a boat, no problem, salmon start migrating up area streams in the weeks just after Labor Day, providing great opportunities for the shore-bound angler. Rivers such as the Bark, Ford, Escanaba, Days, Whitefish, Fishdam and Sturgeon all have good runs of salmon and are open to fishing.
For those of you who have downriggers, set your lines up just as you would if you were fishing for salmon and use small salmon spoons about 30 feet behind your downrigger weight. A good speed is about 1.5 miles an hour. This has proven to be an excellent pattern over the years.
Salmon fishing is also quite good in the waters south of Escanaba. Approximately six miles south of Escanaba is a navigational buoy known as the Ford River Can. This buoy marks the west side of the shipping channel. Trolling along this bank with spoons offers some exciting times. This fishery usually takes off during the middle of July and will last for about 6-8 weeks. Salmon can also be caught from the bank along the Escanaba Harbor entrance in late September and October.