5/4/2023 Waukegan Fishing Report
The coho bite is still going strong and the bait is stacked. The fish moved out to 25’ - 40’ feet of water with 27’-30’ being the best today. Dodger/Flies and spoons are productive. Our best spoons are still the Michigan Stinger UV NKB and UV Killer Dolphin on the riggers down 10’. We’re upsizing to 2” sliders flies on most 00 and Stubby dodgers as well. Best fly colors, which should be a staple in everyones arsenal are Green/Mirage, Green/Lime Edge (Two-Tone), Green/Spectrum, Battalion 1 (available from Rapture Trolling flies and best run behind a fire dot dodger), Blue/Green/Gold, and Black/Blue/Purple. We’re running Rapture Trolling flies as our 2” sliders.
It’s nearing time to begin running the 8’ dodger with 3” and 4” flies too. These perform well on the dipseys and the riggers alike. (Remember when moving up to 8’ dodgers the leader should be of 50# test Fluorocarbon tied at 24"). Our go to combos are Orange Dodger with Aqua or Pearl Green/Rainbow Silver and the Chrome Dodger with a White Fly w/green or blue beads.
Tip of the week - Finding the King Salmon (South West Lake Michigan)
In the spring the kings are out there. However, we tend to not target the kings as charters or recreational anglers alike when the coho are in town. Charters are filling coolers w/ coho and many recreational anglers use the seasonal coho to hone in the skill set and develop confidence salmon fishing. Kayak anglers also get to have some great fun during the seasonal coho inshore bite. When comparing the Coho to Kings, one very important item to note is the feeding pattern. Coho bite comes at first light and throughout the day. While Kings on the other hand are primarily a predawn/dawn feeder and again at dusk into the first couple hours of darkness. Exceptions being a full moon when the king bite might turn on a bit later in the evening. Put a spoon in front of a king mid-day and it’ll most likely get bit too.
If you want to target kings in the spring you must be on the water at the correct times and running a king presentation which would be heavy in magnum glow and UV spoons along with some flasher/ fly combos. Next - fish outside of the coho. Right now the coho are in 25’- 40’ of water and the kings will be outside them in 50’- 70’ of water. The kings will move inshore at their peak feeding windows to gorge on the same bait the coho are. Magnum spoons shine in the spring because they match the size of the pre-spawn alewives.
In the transition of the thermal cline setting up is when we often can target both species as they will share the same water. The kings will be deeper in the water column, while the coho are higher. Kings prefer to lay low below the thermal cline in temps around 42-44 degrees. We'll present king baits in the lower 3rd of the water column we are fishing.
Later season and going into summer the coho will tend to push farther off shore. Anglers following the coho or looking for steelhead are going to go right past the kings to get there. Opposite of spring, the kings have a tendency to dwell in the shallower water inside of the coho. As an example, if your fishing coho in 120’; the kings will be in 70’-100’. Although we cannot tell you why, we can tell you that 40 years on the water has proven this time and time again. Often we set lines at 70’ and troll east toward deeper waters from the west shores. We’ll pick up a couple kings right away. Then things go dead until we hit the coho in deeper water. Same thing happens trolling back in on occasion. As a charter, we can’t target just the kings because the numbers are not as they were decades ago so we need to go for action… whatever species that may be. However, a recreational angler may grind em’ out and tournament anglers should be knowledgeable of this as well. Fishing later season kings we use standard size spoons to better match the new year class of alewives conceived post spawn in May. Michigan Stingers, Moonshines, and Super Slims work particularly well.
When the winds blow hard for days post thermal cline development, this formula goes to hell in a hand basket. An example would be a west wind for days in August will push cold water toward the western shore. You’ll find the water temp on the surface drops to 48 degrees right outside the harbor, what should you do? Set up in 20’ and start working those kings in shallow water pre-dawn. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve caught a handful of kings in the first 20 minutes of the charter before we even get to 40' of water. Here’s another scenario. The winds blow strong from the North for a few days in August. This pushes the warm water from down by Chicago back up north as the water in the lake moves as a conveyor belt. We go out and find the water is 70 degrees top to bottom all the way out to 120’. This becomes challenging water to fish for the best of us. Go deeper and go North to find thermal clines set up and fishy waters.
Finally, come fall the spawning kings will begin staging outside of the harbors in shallower waters and can often be caught by the harbor mouths especially in the evening. J-plugs perform well in front of the pre-spawn kings. However, the non-spawners; the 2 and 3 y.o. kings will remain in the deeper water near bait.
We hope this helps you put a 30+ pounder in the box this season. Good luck and tight lines.