October 6, 2007 this time study began
Pine Creek
Manistee County, MI  
By Capt. John King
Then, updated every year

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Dead Kings
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Salmon Spawning
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Pine Creek Bridge

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Decaying King

Home Salmon Busters™ Great Lakes Info Tips and Trix Capt. John's Log

You Tube video taken on Oct. 7, 2012

Completing Circle

Understanding just how to catch fish on the Great Lakes is only one part of the life cycle of our Great Lakes fish.  The salmon leave Lake Michigan and enter the rivers, or streams to come full circle.  Procreating the future generations.  Some things are too important for being buried in my Captain's Log entries and this is one of them.  That's the motive behind this page.

Kings start trickling in the Big Manistee River system sometime soon after the 4th of July.  This continues to build thru the second week of September, then seems to be on wane by the 4th week of September.  The Kings transition from lake fish (silvery coloration) into mature fall spawners and turn various shades of black, brown, and yellowish.  Upon entering the rivers, streams, or creeks the Salmon develop a slim coating seldom seen on the big water, unless you catch a very dark mature harbor King.

Coho tend to run slightly later then Kings, but both can be spawning on the redds (gravel fish nests) at the same time.  Males generally position themselves slightly downstream from hens, or females.

Natural Camouflage

If you compare photo number 5 (shot with flash on) and photo number 6, you'll see how nature protects these fish.  This would be more self evident if the Salmon were in a undercut deep bank in 5 feet of water.  As the salmon age, some type of fungus starting growing on the fish in case you were wondering what the white splotches were.  Steelhead in the spring will exhibit this same type of markings after spawning, just like the Salmon do.

Quicktime Movies

Movie 1 (5.6 megs)     Movie 2 (8.5 megs)     Movie 3 (16.3 megs)     Movie 4 (19.4 megs)

Movies 1 & 2 are better suited for dialup users.  I recommend movies 3 & 4 for high speed connections, ...unless you have a lot of patience with dial up.  Please keep in mind, I am not a Steven Spielberg, or George Lucus, but you will capture the natural flavor of being in the creek with waders on, sloshing around amidst naturally reproducing Salmon.

Seeing things in the first person can give a better handle on what goes on during the spawning process.  The movies should give you a pretty good idea.  You'll see fish spawning in less than a foot of water and in most cases, the fish will be on gravel.  Left undisturbed, spawning Salmon are loud from the thrashing around.  They do this splashing stuff in an effort to bury/anchor the eggs under gravel.  That way the water flow provides oxygen to the fertilized eggs. 

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On Gravel
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Camo King
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Scattered Eggs
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Eggs Close-up
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In photo numbers 7 and 8 you'll see free floating eggs that drifted into slack water.  With the tons of eggs being dropped, a large amount will not get buried under gravel.

The whole spawning ritual is directed propagation of the species.  The number of eggs in a female is a number higher than anyone would want to count (thousands).  Natural spawning is highly 
inefficient.  Some eggs will get washed aside in slack water, as they drift downstream and get silted over.  Thusly, not hatching, but many will get covered under the gravel, eventually hatching.  I read some place, eggs have been retrieved as deep as 3 feet, when fish biologists dug up nesting areas.

The size of eggs photographed are at best 2/3 of what our King Salmon used to have.  Smaller eggs means these fish do not have the nourishment from a larger eggs sac to get a head start.  The end product could be the much smaller Kings we've been starting to see since 2004.  In 2007, any fish over 20 pounds was a goodie.  Not so 5 years ago when over 20s were only box fillers!

Pine Creek

Kinda between a rock and a hard place about making location public due to slob litterbugs.  There's proof the stream fishermen do not respect this place like they should.  The location is the Huff Road Bridge.  It's about 4 to 5 miles east of Wellston, MI.  Huff Road is tee road that runs off the north of M55.  If you do visit this place, or any other stream, please pack your junk out with you.  That one spawn bottle left behind gives all fishermen a bad name.

Photo number 9 clearly shows the litter left behind.  I picked up this pile that was near my truck in a minute or two. 

10/4/2010 Update

Since this page was completed 3-4 years ago the Salmon run in the natural Trout Stream has fell off a cliff.   DNR cut the Chinook/King Salmon plant by 25% with all states surrounding Lk. MI doing the same.  Visual record from 2007 thru 2010 shows a 75% decline in Salmon returning to this stream.  Not a 25% decline like our DNRs had planned for.  Here's some photos to prove my point:

2010 vs. 2007
Top: 2010 where's the Salmon?
Bottom: 2007 several Salmon!

10/1/10 Spawning Salmon
Pine Creek    Manistee, MI

10/1/10 Pine Creek
Small fish waiting for eggs?

2008 vs. 2009

Both photos with about
the same amount

Comparison Photos 2007 thru 2022

All below photos were taken in early October show a shrinking Salmon run on the same exact gravel bar on Pine Creek.  2010 had noticeably smaller Salmon and the run came later than the previous 3 seasons with less fish.  2011 shows in a definite increase in fish, but didn't see the jumbo over 20 pounders we caught during the July, August, and September big lake season.

2014 thru 2018 fish numbers have stabilized.  2018 had more and a little larger year class of Kings spawning.  2019 might had a fewer Kings, but the water was high and stained.  Making it difficult to get a reel-count. These are visual observations and a long ways from a rock-solid scientific study.  2020 had a marked increase in spawning Kings all 36" of less.  This is a mystery stream, because the over 20 pounders on Lk. MI are seldom seen here.

2021 had more more Kings.  Seen groups of 6-7 all spawning on the same gravel I began photographing in 2007.  Instead of the 2s and 3s like the past few years.  This is an unscientific judgment call on my part.  Nice to seen future generations of Kings being spawned.

2022 saw a marked increase in numbers of spawners, 30" to 36" average.  Kings over 38" is master angler size.  Summation? lots of Kings, not many big ones.





















It's been a pleasure to share this page, photos and movies with you.  Majority of fishing articles are written by all are designed with underlying motive to sell you some kind of product.  Pages like this break with that tradition and are a super reel-pleasure for me to do.

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