Nearshore Marine Zone Forecasts
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Lake Michigan Observations
Lake Michigan Coast
Lake Michigan is the fifth largest fresh water lake by area in the world with a surface area of over 14 million acres.
AREA: 22,404 square miles
VOLUME: 1,180 cubic miles
The Lake Michigan Coast shoreline is 1,640 miles long.
Lake Guardian Video of Lake Michigan bottom will be used to estimate the extent of invasive quagga mussel coverage on the Lake Michigan floor.
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Lake Michigan Coast Fact:
If you measured the coast of every island on Lake Michigan, it would total 238 miles.
Lake Michigan is the only Great Lake that is totally inside the United States of America. The name "Michigan" comes from the Ojibwa Indian word "mishigami", meaning "great water."
Lake Michigan is 307 miles long and 118 miles wide with an average depth of 279 feet and a maximum depth of 923 feet.
The world's largest fresh water sand dunes line the Lake Michigan Coast
The Milwaukee Reef runs under Lake Michigan from Milwaukee to somewhere between Grand Haven and Muskegon. It divides Lake Michigan into northern and southern pools. Each pool has a clockwise flow of water because of rivers, winds, and the Coriolis effect.
Winds from the west usually moves the surface water toward the east. This moderates the temperatures of the western Michigan coast. There is a difference in summer temperatures of about 5 to 10 degrees between the eastern and western coasts of Lake Michigan.
Lake Michigan's surface is 577 feet above sea level, which is the same as Lake Huron
They are connected through the Straits of Mackinac at the top of Michigan's lower peninsula. Both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are 20 feet lower than Lake Superior which is fed by the connecting St. Marys River. Lake Erie is 9 feet lower than Lake Huron which feeds it through the St. Clair River (through Lake St. Clair).
Lake levels are usually higher in October and November, and are the lowest in the winter
Twelve million people live on the Lake Michigan Coast with Chicago and Milwaukee as its largest cities
46 million people visit the Lake Michigan coast each year, spending over 12 billion dollars
Lake Michigan Coast
PHOTOS BY BILL LINDNER
Dissecting Modern-Day Devices
By Mitch EeaganMany of the portraits twentieth-century artist Norman Rockwell painted portrayed anglers catching panfish – the rod in hand usually nothing more than a cane pole.
Why such a simple stick (literally)? It was the rod of the commoner in the early 1900’s; only the elite could manage a split-bamboo casting or fly rod into their budget. To boot, wooden and metal rods wouldn’t make their debuts until the mid-1940s.
During this era, the techniques used to pluck bluegills, crappies and perch from the drink were as simplistic as the gear: 10 feet of sewing thread, a long-shanked hook, few tiny split-shot sinkers and a cork to suspend a garden worm – fresh from an old coffee can – off the bottom.
But what could not be projected via Rockwell’s brush strokes was the fact that the catching was only grand if the fish were within a 20-foot lob from shore or a tiny rowboat.
Fast forward to what an artist would create today, and, other than the enthusiasm seen on the angler’s face, the scene would look quite different. The cane pole would be replaced with a multitude of rods in different lengths, actions and powers. Precision-made reels would adorn those rods, spooled with technically-advanced line. Sonar and GPS would be seen in the background, while insulated bait containers holding live bait and tackle totes full of artificial baits would be depicted at foot.
That era is now…But just because the modern angler owns a boatload of newfangled equipment doesn’t mean they’re going to land a limit of panfish. The fact is, it’s more learning where panfish roam throughout the seasons, as well as how to use all that gear to its maximum potential, which turns fishless days into a full livewell.
CommonalityIf you absolutely love catching panfish, then you have something in common with fishing guide Brian “Bro” Brosdahl. The professional angler—who lives in the Grand Rapids, Minnesota, area—guides clients to great catches year-round.
“There’s more to catching panfish than just plopping a float with an angle worm skewered on an Aberdeen hook out into nowheresville,” says Bro. “You first have to find those fish, then figure out what they want and then utilize your gear to present it in a way that the fish will eat it. And the right rods will also help you get those fish out of heavy cover and to the boat.”
To find fish, Bro relies on a Humminbird HELIX 10 SI GPS. But how he uses it, as well the rods he selects, depends on water clarity.
Look out belowIn stained water, where fish aren’t as apt to scatter with a boat’s hull hovering 10 to 15 feet overhead, Bro will utilize the Helix’s standard 2D sonar as well Down Imaging to decode the type of structure and fish. The edges of weed beds, woody areas or rock piles are by far the best. Once over a fish, he’ll use the Spot Lock feature on his bow-mounted Minn Kota Terrova electric trolling motor to stay in place rather than toss an anchor over the side, which, inevitably, will spook fish.
Bro then has his clients lower their baits directly under the transducer at the rear of his boat so that the offering can be seen on the sonar. “It’s like ice fishing,” he claims. “You’ll see the fish come in, and then you can raise or lower the bait right into the strike zone.” He employs the transom’s transducer rather than the electric trolling motor’s as he feels the unit’s prop continuously turning on and off while in Spot Lock will eventually put fish down.
This is where shorter rods come into play. Bro’s choice in this situation is St. Croix’s 5- to 6-foot ultralight-power Panfish Series rods, which keeps rod tips and baits close to the gunwale and within the sonar’s cone. His reels are spooled with 4-pound-test Sunline monofilament.
Generally, tiny twister-tail bodies threaded onto 1/32- to 1/16-ounce jig heads are a good choice for vertical presentations. However, since Bro’s technique is so ice-fishing like, he’ll also tie on Northland’s Mud Bug or Hexi Fly and nip on a few waxworms for scent.
Small spoons, like Custom Jigs & Spins 1/16-ounce Slender Spoons, and jigs such as the company's Rotating Power Minnow (RPM) are great choices as they have the fullness and locomotion to get the biggest panfish in the school to bite.
Custom Jigs & Spins' Rotating Power Minnow (RPM) has quickly moved to the head-of-the-class in the vertical swimming bait category. Crappie Connoisseurs are well aware of the RPM's capacity to stick schools of suspended fish.
The answer is clearAs the lakes Bro fishes become infested with the invasive water-filtering zebra mussel, they become clearer by the day. In turn, he’s had to alter his tried and true below-the-boat techniques in some waterways.
“This is where Humminbird’s Side Imaging comes into play,” he says. With that technology I can find structure and fish hundreds of feet out to the side without them even knowing I’m there, and then make long casts to them.”
Bro’s go-to is Northland’s 1/16-ounce Thumper Jig tipped with a live shiner or chunk of crawler, or safety-pin style spinners with grub bodies on a 1/8-ounce jig head, in which he’ll slow-roll the baits over the weed tops.
Frabill's new Dual Bait Bucket cleverly houses it's aeration system in the lid, eliminating the need for hoses and battery housing hanging on the outside. It's quickly becoming the go-to system for panfish anglers. Photo courtesy of www.frabill.com
Casting these heavier baits, however, requires a longer, heavier-action rod. Sticking with the St. Croix Panfish Series, Bro with use the 7- to 8-footers, as they can toss an ultra-light jig yet have the power to make a good hook set with a lot of line out; even in a strong wind. And speaking of line, he’ll beef up to 6-pound-test for this technique.
Another practice—similar to using those vintage cane poles—is to use the 10- or 11-foot Panfish Series and pull ‘gills and crappies up and out of the mats of milfoil, thick cabbage or out of brush piles.
“Heavy line used in thick vegetation is not a bite killer,” Bro claims. “And this system calls for it. I’ll use 10-pound-test mono over any other type of line, and then use an 8-pound-test fluorocarbon leader. And the heavier line couple with those long, moderately-fast-action rods will pull bluegills out of the holes before they have the chance to wrap up in the weeds, or, pull out the occasional bass or dogfish that takes the bait.” Superline, he says, will slice into vegetation and seize up when reeling in.
Modern-day advantageWhen it comes to catching panfish, cane poles will do just fine… As long as you don’t mind limiting yourself to only a few choice moments to fish.
Use sonar to your advantage, and bring along a few different rods, and you’ll be catching bluegills, crappies and perch all year long.
Although proud of his modern-man status, Bro Brosdahl isn't bashful about fishing with floats when panfish prefer either slow-moving artificial baits, or live bait is the only item on menu. Photo by Bill Lindner