by Dave Foley

Unlike downstate areas, these trout waters won’t be crowded. Although there may be several hundred trying their luck on Opening Day, in the Cadillac area, crowding is not a problem. It’s likely an angler will fish a stretch of river and rarely see anyone. Hundreds of miles of trout habitat are close by in steams like the Pine, Little Manistee, Betsie, Manistee, and Pere Marquette. The Clam River, which flows through the city, is designated as a brook trout blue ribbon trout stream when it reaches the Missaukee County line.

Although some streams are already open for trout fishing, these are primarily streams hosting runs of steelhead. The vast majority of trout waters, however, remain closed until the last Saturday in April.

Success usually comes to those sliding worms, nightcrawlers, or wigglers into holes or deep runs. Anglers tossing spinners or minnow imitation plugs do well, but the key to fishing in this cold water is to work these baits slowly. The trout aren’t as aggressive as they will be later when the water begins to warm up. Early season fly fishers rely on nymphs, streamers, and wet flies. Later in the season, when most the hatches occur, dry flies will become the bait of choice.

Trolling minnow imitation crank baits like Rapalas or nightcrawler harnesses is probably the most popular technique for taking gamefish. Others hope to entice pike and walleye by still-fishing with minnows suspended under bobbers. Probing hard bottom areas with minnows or nightcrawlers on slip sinker rigs can also be productive. The fish are there. Finding them means changing locations until the bites start coming.

Walleye, which aren’t as quick and agile as pike, do much of their feeding in low light or during the night when their prey is less active. Some troll after dark using Rapala-type lures. Another popular technique finds wading anglers casting lures to the edge of deeper water after dark. Although the ends of the canal between Lake Mitchell and Cadillac is the best known spot, good catches are made along certain sections of shoreline. Successful anglers tend to be tight-lipped about these locations.

Opening Day not only kicks-off the trout, pike, and walleye season, it begins what most feel is the best month of fishing during the year. A case can be made that more good fish are taken during May than are caught then during the months of June, July, and August combined. That’s as good a reason as any for being out there fishing on Opening Day and in the weeks that follow.

By Dave Foley: “Dave Foley is an outdoor enthusiast who takes every opportunity to be out on the trails, roads, and waterways of the area.”