2014...where to begin, it started great but overall was a struggle. I think that could be the theme for the Poseidon crew. With the ever changing Lake Michigan food web, the year to year variations in fishing are becoming very noticeable. So lets take a look back and see what worked in 2014 and the general state of the lake as we noticed it. Our first trips of the year didn't start until Mid-May as we purchased a "new to us" Tiara 31 Open at the end of April. Named the Poseidon we've definitely grown to enjoy the added space this vessel provides.
We slipped the boat in Racine in May and June, and returned to our home port of Milwaukee for the rest of the season after the Salmon-A-Rama was over in July. For the most part this worked out great as the May/June King salmon fishing started off with a bang!!! Our first six trips consisted of limit or close to limit catches with almost half being Kings and the rest Coho with some steelies and lakers mixed in. The King fishing was so good at the start of the year we ran mainly King spreads starting right out of the gate in May.
By June the kings were starting to become less consistent but still present in decent numbers and with the Coho and Steelies around we continued to have great trips.
Unfortunately, as we suspected that great fishing was not going to continue all season. By the end of June our once hot bite had fizzled and by the start of July Kings had become down right scarce. To say July's salmon fishing was disappointing would be putting it mildly, frankly it sucked. Most days out we'd be lucky to pick up a couple decent Kings than work on grinding out fish by burning fuel and hunting offshore for Steelhead and Coho. Now the Laker fishing in July was fantastic, in fact for big Lakers its the best I've personally seen. It was common to catch multiple 15#+ Lakers every day out, our largest of the year was a record for us tipping the scales at just over 20#'s. Most of these trout came up high in the water column on mag spoons, not what you think of when you're talking Lake Trout but that was the ticket for most of July.
During the July trout hunts browns were on the menu as well, and we had many a slow day salvaged by chasing brown trout. Brownies can be an absolute riot to catch especially once they get some size. We caught more Browns this year then during any year in recent memory, mostly because we targeted them but it's good to see that fishing remaining strong.
Finally during a couple week stretch in mid August we had the great King fishing we've grown to expect during the hot summer months.
Now this fishing only lasted a couple weeks right before the Kings started to stage at the river mouths, but they were very nice sized on average with a good amount of upper teen and low to mid 20# fish in the mix.
As was the case all year long as soon as we got that King bite dialed in it was over. Our end of the year September fishing was nothing spectacular on the staging Kings, slower than normal for sure but still consistent enough on nice mature kings.
So that's my general take on the year lets now look at what worked for the Poseidon crew.
Kings – 139 Total (85 on Flasher Flies, 41 on Spoons and 13 on Plugs)
Best King Flasher Fly Combos 2014:
- 8″ “Dragon Slayer” Pro-King Flasher with Milwaukee Minnow.
- 8″ “Green Salmon Flute” with Milwaukee Minnow.
- 8" Pro-Troll "White Double Glow" with Bullfrog.
- 8" "Snow White" Pro-King Flasher with Super Frog.
Now there was a smattering of different flashers we used over the course of the year along with various flies, but none was as dominant as the Milwaukee Minnow. The Milwaukee Minnow with the Dragon Slayer and other chrome flasher combos alone took almost half the King salmon we caught on the year and was the fly on 7 out of 9 lines during our 1st place finish at the Kenosha Coho Classic. The Dragon Slayer Milwaukee Minnow combo also helped our team place 6th at the Racine SU Open as well as a 3rd during the Racine Super sweepstakes Tournament.
It really was the year of the Milwaukee Minnow on those May/June Kings, and that has become a pattern we've noted over the years. For whatever reason Kings seem to really target the Milwaukee Minnow during early summer, and this year was no different. The oddity of the year was Naughty Leprechaun not producing like its usual self, normally it's one of the best patterns on the great lakes but not for us last year. Naughty Leprechaun's slack was made up with Super Frog and Bullfrog being the most dominant patterns for us throughout August.
Spoons were far better for us last year on Kings than they've been in a long time, mainly due to how the lake setup. During July we fished a lot of shallow water Brown and Laker sets with lots of board lines spread out away from the boat. Spoons seem to work best on your shallow 5 color or less setups on shallow fish and the kings were always mixed in with the trout especially when we had ice cold water right on the shore.
Best King Spoons 2014:
- Moonshine "Cyclonite" Mag.
- Michigan Stinger "NBK" Mag.
Coho's – 62 Total (53 on Flasher Flies, 9 on Spoons)
Coho's were a semi-consistent catch during the year, if you went offshore hunting for them. It by no means was a Coho bonanza except during the usual May time frame. We didn't spend much time really targeting these fish as they more or less target you. Most of our best Coho baits are often "King" baits as most Coho's don't know the difference by June and will readily take full size rigs. They can be very color selective depending on the day but are generally far more willing than Kings.
Best Coho Flasher Fly Combos 2014:
- 8″ “Dragon Slayer” Pro-King Flasher with Milwaukee Minnow
- 6" Orange Dodger with Milwaukee Minnow Peanut or Milwaukee Minnow Mini.
- 8" MI Stinger "Black Friday" Flasher with Pop's Pearl Frog.
Lake trout were your most consistent catch if you wanted to target them. We really only target Lake Trout during tournaments and for the most part are a catch and release fish for us unless mortally wounded. While we only landed 55 Lakers that number is deceiving and could be much higher even surpassing our King catch if that is what we really wanted to target.
The bulk of our lake trout were caught during July up high in shallow using spoons on boards, totally opposite of what you'd expect. The rest of the lake trout were either targeted on the bottom or near bottom with spin n glo's and peanut fly combos or caught while chasing Kings with the flasher fly combos. The Spin n Glo's paired with a peanut fly for the hook were really good, and about as close to a guarantee in the fishing world as it gets. Our peanuts are hand tied on Owner 2x strong #2 hooks and work perfect in this application, unlike many peanuts which are tied on light wire #4 hooks.
Best Lake Trout Lures 2014:
- Moonshine "Cyclonite" Mag.
- 8" Opti Dodger "White/Pearl Glow" with a "Clown" Spin n Glo and Martini peanut fly.
Steelhead – 31 Total (16 on Spoons, 15 on Flasher Flies)
Steelhead are the schitzo's of the fishing world. Sometimes they only want your shallow lines way away from the boat other times they'll crush a shallow diver rod next to the boat or even a flasher fly rigger down 100ft. They are simply all over the place. Rarely do they need to be specifically targeted as they're as likely to hit your "King" bait as the rod you specifically set out for them. Here were our top three lures, one from each category. It was hard to pin down a top three considering of the 31 bows we landed we caught them on 19 different baits!
Best Steelhead Lures 2014:
- 8″ “Dragon Slayer” Pro-King Flasher with Milwaukee Minnow
- 6" Orange Dodger with Milwaukee Minnow Mini.
- Proking "Magic Man" Mag Spoon.
Brown Trout – 32 Total (27 on Spoons, 5 on Plugs)
Now this is the most Brownie's we've caught during the summer months in a while. For the first time in forever we spent a decent amount of time targeting this often elusive trout. The large ones in particular can be very fussy on bait color and location, think spot on the spot. Now we had a few spoons that were smoking hot, but I'm not going to put those colors out there for the world to see as everyone needs a few secrets! Browns like Lakers are a catch and release fish for us, they actually put up great battles and are a riot to catch but not my favorite on the grill.
Overall it was good first season in the new boat. Hopefully next year we'll see an improvement in the King fishery. I'm hopeful as the 2012 year class of alewives was pretty good which should have led to a decent survival rate of young of the year king salmon in 2012, which will be our mature 3yr old fish this year. Here is to a warm winter, and early spring!
Happy Holidays to everyone.