During the summer months in Northern Michigan charter fishing for salmon and trout on Lake Michigan takes up the majority of my time. Although I don’t get to “catch” the fish except while fun/tournament fishing, my passion for big water trolling comes from the game of constantly figuring out what the fish want to eat.
I am a huge believer in “program fishing” salmon. When I decide what baits to run, I look at things from two points of perspective: what draws the fish into my spread and what makes them commit to biting a bait. That changes throughout the season. Spoons and flies were the rule in the spring. The bite has since switched to meat rigs.
I try to shoot for the most natural presentation and aim at imitating a school of alewives that will draw fish into the spread from a distance. We always troll at least three flasher/fly or flasher/meat rig combos. The large turbulence the flasher makes while being trolled attracts fish into your spread. Even if they’re not producing some days, always run a couple of them and change colors/sizes until you find a combo that works.
On Lake Michigan in August and September it’s hard to beat meat rigs. Most days in late summer and early fall they take 50-75 percent of the salmon we catch. When we fish meat rigs we either run herring strips or strips of sucker belly. As most Great Lakes anglers do we brine/cure them in Fire Brine and Fire Dye. It makes them last longer, gives them vibrant colors and helps the scales shine.
Brining these strips allows you to match the hot color and dial into the hot bite. I like to match the color of brined bait with the color of meat rig/flasher I’m running. There are also times when it seems all the fish want is UV. It can be really hard to beat a UV herring strip on a UV flasher/meat rig (keep mind all colors of Fire Brine and Fire Dye are UV except natural). Normally, we use blue, purple, green, natural and chartreuse color baits. Which work best depends on water and light conditions. This is why we bring an array of colors with us.
Curing your strips of herring or other meat is simple. It’s a no brainer, actually. Here’s what you need to do:
Step 1: Place your meat strips into a container and add your Fire Brine or Fire Dye (or both). If you want strong, vibrant colors mix the Fire Dye with the Fire Brine.
Step 2: Let your meat soak in the brine for 24 hours. You can get away with much less, but I like to let it sit a day to attain full penetration.
Step 3: Remove meat from brine and let it air dry for one hour on each side.
Step 4: Add a layer of salt on your meat if you plan to freeze it or simply use it fresh.
Trolling for salmon can be an art. I hope this blog will help you become a more successful angler while trolling for salmon this year on the Great Lakes.
Editor’s Note: Kyle McClelland runs XXL Chrome Chasing. For more info please visit http://www.chromechasing.com.