GOING DEEP FOR SUMMERTIME KINGS
By: Capt. Lee Haasch
In my 40 years fishing Lake Michigan I’ve learned that weather plays big part in fishing. Not really a news flash now is it? I’ve also come to accept that there is nothing we can do about the weather, and grumbling really never made a difference in boxing more salmon. Watching trends and weather patterns, well let’s say only makes you ALMOST like a TV weatherman, only it doesn’t pay as well and really doesn’t help in filling the fish cooler either.
While this season started a bit late after a record cold winter, everybody was wondering if summer would ever get here. And if the Farmer’s Almanac is close to correct, we may be seeing some pretty warm temps in July and August. This could mean that the cooler water temps we had this spring may not only catch-up to normal, but slide to the warmer stage.
The one thing that remains constant, “Kings like cold water!” This is shaping up to be a season where successful salmon fishermen in mid to late summer will be the ones that go deep for the kings. Now, how deep and when is always up to Mother Nature, but here are few tips and tricks to help you adapt to the dog days of summer.
Knowing when and where is to not too hard, when water temps on the surface creep into the upper 60’s and even low 70’s, it’s not too hard to notice that the kings have vacated the higher water column. Like that hot summer day when we prefer the hammock and fruity drink to mowing the lawn, kings tend to go deep and slow down and relax a bit. I’ve always likened the king to a feeding and eating machine, and they are. Kings really relate to bait and not to structure which tells you they swim and eat. Kings in shallower water go to the bottom and conserve energy for low-light feeding periods, but most will move out deeper and go deeper as water temps rise on the surface and warm water columns expand deeper and deeper.
Now, we are used to catching kings 70, 100 and 120 feet down, but what about when the kings and warmer water plunge to 170, 200, and even 300 feet? Not that many years ago, that meant unreachable fish, after all who would crank a rigger 200 feet? For that matter, who even had more than 200 feet of cable to reach that far? With a 10 lb. weight you would need 300 feet of cable to get down 200 feet. Well, hand cranks are out of the question, and even old electrics wouldn’t last very long under those conditions. And 10 lb. weights? Really, if you need to fish below 200 feet, you will need 15 lb. to 20 lb. weights to keep your line from tailing back so far. That takes a magnum style down rigger to handle that load. Traxstech’s new Elite model downrigger handles a 24+ lb. weight at 200 feet per minute speeds and Big Jon, Cannon and Scotty all have magnum models designed to handle 20 lb. weights.
Setting up for the deep kings is pretty simple. First, make sure your downriggers are equipped with at least 400 feet of good 150 lb. steel downrigger cable. Check your cable often, as a 20+ lb. weight will let you know in a hurry if you have a bad spot. Next, locate a couple 20+ lb. weights, these have become more readily available, and you should only need a couple. Fishing at these depths, will make it almost impossible to run more than two riggers at that depth. Currents can tangle the riggers if you try running them too close together. For downrigger poles, I run 7’ Ugly Stick GX2’s with Abu Garcia Alphamar reels and spool them with 50 lb. Stren Sonic Braid. The biggest problem with deep fish is hook set. With that much line out monofilament lines will have too much line stretch and also belly so far back from the rod tip to the release that it makes it difficult to get and keep pressure on the fish to get a decent hook set. With Sonic Braid, I have no line stretch and the line cuts the water so well that I have minimal belly in my line and I see the bite almost immediately. You can also get instant pressure on the fish, thus increasing the bite to catch ratio. I like to tie a 30 foot leader of 25 lb. Trilene Fluorocarbon from the sonic braid to my bait. Keep in mind that this is the only part of your line with any stretch and be careful to not try to overpower big fish.
When active fish are that deep, I like to try to get more than two rigs deep. To do this I convert my Slide Divers to run deeper by installing their ultimate kit. This kit simply exchanges a heavier weight and adds a larger ring to the diver. With this kit you can run the Slide Divers well over 100 feet down. In fact, with Sonic Braid, and on a #2 setting, you gain 1foot of depth for every 2 feet of line let out. I have successfully run Slide Divers well over 150 feet down with these kits. Also, with the warmer water, the advantage to Slide Divers is the ability to lengthen the leads and slow the rotation of the flasher presentation. Bear in mind that those deep kings, although they like to stay in the cooler water, will occasionally feed up into warmer water and then slide back down. So, I will run 1 lb. balls on my big board rigs and with 200 feet or more of line to capitalize on those fish cruising upwards for a quick meal.
Deeper kings tend to be a little less aggressive in the darker waters, so I like to slow my speed just a bit and also switch from 8 inch flashers to 11 inch flashers with slightly longer fly leaders. 28 inch to 32 inch leaders on the flies seem to work pretty well.
Getting to deeper water is also key. Off the port of Algoma we can get to deeper water pretty easily. 200 feet of water is only about 5 miles out, and drops about 40 feet in depth for each additional mile out from shore. With the deepest part of the lake just east of Algoma harbor, I know the cold water is never far away and all it will take in late summer is a good blow from that direction to roll in cold water and more kings to the near-shore, but until then, I’ll be ready to go deep!
For more information of fishing the Algoma area visit the chamber website at www.Algoma.org. For current fishing reports or information on charter fishing check out my report page at www.FishAlgoma.com. From Captain Lee and the crew aboard the GRAND ILLUSION 2 – good luck and good fishing!