Good old internet research – asking questions on the forums, looking up fishing reports, studying the weather – revealed to us a few different ideas on how we might best maximize those hours that lie between now and our chartered trips. The idea of walking out and casting spoons beneath the lighthouse, watching the sun set on the 5th largest lake in the world seemed a fine way to unwind from a long drive and kick the weekend off.
Small world. The first guy we meet at the end of the pier-head is someone from the Michigan-Sportsman.com forums. Super nice guy. In fact, couldn’t help but to notice, throughout the weekend, that this town was full of just generally nice people.
I truly wish I had a good “fish story” to tell here, but I really don’t. We cast glow spoons out into Lake Michigan for a couple hours with nary a nibble. One fellow on the pier had one on for a bit, but lost him. The simple serenity that comes with watching the sun go down on a lake dying to convince you that it’s really a little ocean, and this is just a silly disguise, while fishing at the base of lighthouse with friends…can at least help make the lack of action a bit more tolerable. Sometimes the moment can be defined by more than a number. This was one of those moments. We greeted our beds relaxed, satisfied, and eager for what the next day would hold for us.
With most of Sunday free – our charter set to sail at 3:00pm – we wanted to try another tactic under advisement of the locals. We scouted a spot on the way into town, and if cars lined up along the river, and people shoulder-to-shoulder were any indication, our reports were dead-on.
The Pere Marquette river gently rolls towards Lake Michigan, pausing to form Pere Marquette Lake, which serves as a protective harbor for Ludington, and the location for all docks and marinas and such in this area. The salmon work their way from Lake Michigan through the canal at the pier heads, into the lake, eventually working their way into the Pere Marquette River. A couple of bridges east of town were target destinations, offering access to favored (and well-known, apparently) salmon waters this time of year.
Our morning started
early, with Nick and I making a chilly, foggy run to the river, armed with Storm Fire Tiger Thundersticks. A bit of early casting resulted in a fish on for Nick, but it shook off. Not before I was able to get a look at it, and it looked to be a silver (coho) in the 5-7lb range, at least at my best guesstimate. Our first “almost” salmon. We were getting closer.
A couple local fellows stopped to chat a bit. Have I mentioned how great the locals are? Friends were made, and we were invited to tag along to a better spot. We ended up right at the confluence of the two arms of the Pere Marquette and the lake bearing the same name. Salmon just below the surface swam upstream right before us, some closer resembling submarines than than the fish we are used to catching under our spider-rigs in Kansas. We continued to cast for awhile, but with no success. We did have a couple very nice fish come out around us though, and I helped a local gent net his. These were 18-20lb fish, and I was stoked. With the only fish being caught on salmon eggs on the bottom, and knowledge that the free continental breakfast was about to end, we made a mad dash for sustenance and to gather the other half of our party to strategize next steps…
After sneaking in a post-breakfast power nap, a voting majority had us tracking down the necessary terminal and salmon eggs at a perfect little bait shop to head back to the river location where we had seen success. With full disclosure that the “bite” there is virtually nonexistant outside of the couple hours surrounding sunrise and sunset, it was decided that a light wonderfully breezy, sunny and 65 degree couple of hours on the banks of a beautiful river watching ducks and geese fly over us in western Michigan would be a perfectly acceptable way to pass the time until a 3:00pm charter boat. Beat the heck out of a hotel room.
Pass the time we did. Catch fish, expectantly, we did not. To be fair, it must be stated that we were in fact in pursuit of greater things than the mighty Chinook, or the clever Coho itself; we desired a shot at doing it on our own, at digging our heels in and fishing for the sake of fishing, savoring the local flavor, and being a bit closer to the nature of things. This afternoon would be all about catching. This morning was about fishing…
And so we gave it the old college try. In the end, we learned a few things, saw a completely different side of salmon fishing, and got more than a little excited for the afternoon ahead.