Forage in the Harbor
Laker and Rainbow in the Boat
I knew something was up in the harbor. As I took the turned on Hwy 57 and got that familiar first view of Baileys Harbor, I could see a large raft of seagulls and black cormorants splashing, diving and generally making mayhem in the middle of the bay. I was pretty sure what was happening. A look-in at the marina basin confirmed it. The recent south winds had moved a large batch of alewife to the west shore and the marina was filled with schools of the little silver fish. This could be good thing. Alewife comprise much of the forage for the many salmon, trout and other predators in Lake Michigan. Great Lakes anglers have a love/hate relationship with alewife. The arrival of this invasive species in the early 50s changed the ecology of Lake Michigan forever. On the other hand, it was to attempt to control alewife numbers that most of our salmonnoids (Chinook, Coho, etc.) were introduced. This strategy worked pretty well, in fact at times, too well. To the extent that the predators started eating all kinds of other forage including many of the indigenous species. Without bringing up a whole debate on the virtues or hazards of introducing non-native species to any system (a debate best done over a couple of beers), suffice it to say that much of the stocking program has been geared toward achieving a balance in the new ecological system that is now the reality in Lake Michigan. The salmon and the alewife are inexorably linked in Lake Michigan. Sometimes there is not enough food out there for the predators in the system. Other times, there is plenty or maybe too much. This season may turn out to be a case of the later. Although in recent years the alewife numbers have been down, this may be a rebound year. We shall see as the season progresses.
What is not in question is that there were tons of the little fish in the harbor Thursday. Paul and I headed out to see if these bait fish had drawn in the predator that we are after. After all, we are near the top of this "food chain". We headed out in the evening with diminishing south winds and mostly clear skies. The water temperature in the harbor was in the low 50's, but once we got out into the lake it was much cooler. Most of the water we fished in was about 45F at the surface ranging from 44-48F. We set out lines and in less then an hour one of our planner boards bounced back indicating "fish on"! We boated a fat, 7 pound, 25.5 inch (get this) Lake Trout. Now catching lake trout near shore is not that unusual this time of year. What was weird is that we were in 95FOW and our spoon was running only about 5-10' down. This fish was definitely being drawn by the prospect of an easy meal of alewife. We trolled for a couple more hours seeing lots of activity on our sonar in the top 25 feet. We could see forage as well as some large "hooks" indicating larger fish. Plenty of seagull around as well. We finished up the evening with a rush of excitement. As we were starting to pull lines, the same board we got the laker on shot backwards and 200 feet back a very large fish was making some spectacular leaps. After a really fun battle we boated a 34", 13.2 pond Rainbow. Beautiful fish!
No salmon for us tonight, but once they arrive, I think they will have plenty to eat. Early indications are that we may be in for another fun season on the lake.
Tight Lines, Bruce
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