I think, no I know that this is the first fishing trip I have taken with my wife that we didn't get a single picture of a fish that was caught. We went to a different part of Michigan this year in search of new waters to wade. As it usually does for a first time to any new area, it takes a couple of days to get your bearings, and locations that are open to the public for fishing. We fished in the Platte River and at mouth of the river into lake Michigan. We also fished the Betsie River in Benzie county. The two rivers differ in that one is primarily a Coho stream and the other a Chinook stream. The Betsie River is about the size of the Current River at Cedar Grove and the Platte River is about the size of the lower end of Little Piney Creek. They both have good current flows with no dead water.
I enjoy fishing in the surf of the lake, but the fishing can be pretty tough with a fly rod, especially when the wind is blowing, and it seems to blow up there all the time. We could see the Salmon swimming around, but they were not on the "bite" as they call it up there. The weather was great for sight seeing, but terrible for fishing. Bright sunny skies and temperatures in the 80s. The salmon were stalling out in the lake waiting for high water and cooler temperatures. When the weather turns cold and rainy they seem to move up the streams a lot better. Someone told me that if the temperatures get cold for several days in a row it triggers a good "push" up the streams.
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Mouth of the Platte River Mouth of the Platte River Chasing Cohos on the Platter
If you look close you can see the bait rigs stuck in the sand in the background. The bait fishermen were not catching many fish, so you can imagine how hard it was for the metal flingers and of course the fly flingers as well.
Our trips are family sight seeing trips as well as fishing trips. This is my wife with our going on 18 year old family pet and one of the light houses we visited.
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This is actually the Old Mission light house at the tip of Old Mission Peninsula in the Grand Traverse Bay.
This was another stop for us on a day of sight seeing. Sleeping Bear Dune is a must see if you are ever in the north country of the lower peninsula. This is a National scenic area that covers several square miles of shoreline. The tallest sand dune can be seen for miles and miles. It stands 450 feet above lake Michigan and looks like a white wall from a distance. We could see it clearly from Point Betsie, about 15 miles away.
The Platte River is clear, tight and an excellent fly eater. If I return, I will take a short rod the next time. A 9 foot rod is not a good choice for this stream. I recommend an 8 foot 7-8 weight rod. These guys are very strong, and can get up around 12 pounds, but most of them are 5-8 pounds. The gentleman you see next to me is a local fisherman named Andy. I was fortunate to meet him and get some excellent advice on fly fishing for these elusive silver flashes. Andy has been doing it since 1953 so he knows how to get it done.
The Cohos that migrate up this tiny stream have the ability to find every snag, and log in the stream. They don't jump like the Chinooks, but they are called the silver bullet for a good reason. They can get from point A to a snag in the stream before you can spit. I talked to a fisherman that had been there a week, and he told me he only netted 6 fish. The problem with fishing for these migratory fish is that you are dependent on the DNR allowing fish to swim up the river for spawning. The Michigan DNR has two Weirs (fish dam) on this stream. A lower weir, close to Lake Michigan and an upper weir where they stop the fish and transfer them to a hatchery for milking. When the numbers in the lower weir reach an acceptable number they release them for their trip up the river. I was told that the DNR actually harvest some of the fish for sale to a cannery and that after they take the eggs and milt from the acceptable donors those fish are also sold to a cannery. The exception to harvesting is with the steelhead. The same steelhead can return year after year to spawn so they are milked and released, but all the salmon die after they spawn the first time so they are havested.
The largest fish of this trip was a 19.6 pound (38 X 20) Chinook I caught on the Betsie. We brought home 1 king and 3 silver bullets, all the other fish we caught were released. I did let one fellow have a couple of kings that he helped net. I didn't measure all the fish, just the fresh one that I kept for the smoker. Some were smaller and some could have been larger, I just didn't measure them. I do know that I straightened out a #8 TMC streamer hook 5 times on fish that were foul hooked, or headed to a log jam just a little up stream from where I was fishing. Most of the time, if they are foul hooked, you can give them some slack line and the hook will fall off. If the hook is in too deep you can hold the line to the rod and the hook will usually come out when they make a run or the hook may straighten out if it is small enough. The Chinooks are difficult to net by yourself, especially if they are over 20 pounds. The only problem I had with fishing on the Betsie river, was all the snagging going on. I would guess that 8-9 out of 10 fishermen were snagging fish. They put a blob of roe on a hook, or a charetruse piece of yarn about 3 or 4 feet below 3 #2 split shot and when a fish swims into the line, or they see the yarn close to a fish, they jerk the hook into whatever flesh the hooks find and then drag the fish in with 30-40 pound line. Most of the fishermen were using big spinning tackle and some of them had fly rods, but I wouldn't call it fly fishing. I wouldn't even call it chuck and duck, it was more like slinging or tossing. It was disheartening to watch them use that type of method to catch fish. I always keep walking further and further up or down the stream from the parking lot to get away from as many of those guys as I can. Most of the time I can walk far enough to get away from all of them or maybe just one other guy that has the same idea as I do.