Do I Stay, or Do I go?
Part 2
My Jumbled Mindset of Finding Fish
 Then, Staying on Fish ...with a Bit of Luck!
By John King 12/1/16

Critical Calculation Pays Off

8:19 pm Todd B.
BTI 10" Combo

8/10/16 Fish Box
Broke the lid off the box
trying to stuff in the last
 big King (28 lbs.) in!

9:00 pm Dylan B.
Big Grin!

My 22' Boat
1979 Sea Ray

Capt. Kevin Hughes
Onekama Skipper

Thought Processes Sidebar

We had just hit 2-fer (double header) kinda straight out of port in 170' of water.  The boat to the inside of us fighting fish too.  This is when I spied the battle cruiser (charter vessel) the, "Sandpiper" a 36' Tiara skippered by savvy Capt. Kevin Hughes from Onekama (next port 6 miles N of Manistee).  Kevin's been around for a long time.  He has an outstanding reputation for producing fish. 

Hummm....?  thinking to myself? ...Kevin wouldn't have drove his boat this far S (6-7 miles) unless the word was out.  Yes, there were Kings to be caught in this general vicinity.   Put 1 in the smarts column for yours truly for recognizing this.  Kevin is a holdover from my chartering days (1983 thru 2003) and at this point in my Great lakes career, his judgment is probably better then mine.  Reason being? ...during the summer he's on the water most everyday running trips and I'm not.

Here's what Capt. Kevin had to say about the evening of 8/10/16 some months later:

"I was out along side you off Manistee that night and we put a major whack on adult Kings that night. Those type of trips are never forgot."    Click for Capt. Kevin's website

A word of note about charter boats: there is no inside line as far as lure choices go.  It's all about the area/depth of water successful boats fished.  When I was in the charter business asking another charter skipper what they used was immaterial.  My main goal was to find out where they fished.  Every successful charter operation has their own unique "go to" lures and trick techniques that works for them on their boats that might not transpose to others.

OK, 2-3 boats in the same area working and more on the way.  Because as soon as nets go down?'s like a long distance magnet that draws more boats.  This is all part of the decision making process.  Weighing viable options that will effect your outcome.  Even more-so on a afternoon/evening trip where daylight is fading fast.  So, the clock is running down on your time fish before you call it quits.  In my case ...knowing there will be a heavy workload the following morning.

Tic-tock, tic-tock the clock is winding down and we needed a course of action.  Do I stay, or do I go? 

The hardest decision to make on 8/10/16 was to abandon this trafficked part of Lk. MI that was producing fish, or continue moseying northbound.  Besides, making 360 degree spins and turns with 300' coppers out is not the swiftest proposition in the world.  OK, by now there were 3, or 4 boats working a small pod of bait with Kings lurking.  This says the area was drawing crowd and it's time to move on.  So, let's roll the dice.  Knowing full-well, we left fish to find fish and proceeded N.  Which is never the wisest first choice.  This judgment call was made a little easier with the 3, or 4 fish we already had in the box at the time.  The deciding factor that pushed this move?  There was not a single boat to the N, in front of us, not a one! 

The area N to the state park was 100% unmolested virgin water that held, yet to be ...explored potential!

Reel Rewards North

No boats to a little N of port off Manistee in August was the direct result of negative press that kept the August fleet at all time lows.  It's unheard of to find any vacant water this close to the Port of Manistee in August.  Public perception and actual facts don't necessarily automatically matchup. Situations change fast in our ever evolving Great Lakes fishery.  What was, is not was is, in the present tense.  All I know is we had a 100% clear juicy shot to the N with zero boats to contend with.

You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce issues of where the fish are.  Patience and a strong resolve of not repeating the same mistakes by working the same unproductive water is sound advice.  Herd mentality seldom leads to a full box when targeting wary adult Kings with a bunch of boats pounding the same water.

Big deal about my decision to "keep-a-go" north was four-fold:

1. We already had fish in the box, This took a lot of the pressure off to play bumper boats.
2. Open clear water with zero boats meant we could run tight to structure better.
3. With dark approaching, the ride towards harbor would be a lot safer until we got a mile, or so from the pier heads.
4. SW wind was favorable for moving fish more northward.

Please note in the above to photos in this section, there's not another boat in the background.  Sparse boat traffic was due in part to the lousy 2015 season when King fishing off Manistee was plain pitiful say the least.  But you don't know, unless you go!

You Don't Know, Unless You Go!

Dimitri with Finale #4, a Master Angler sized 28 lb. King Salmon!
With his help, he earned the right to hoist our community tag-team fish!

What made this trip so memorable, besides the crew onboard?  It was totally unexpected.  We had no clue we were going to catch a pile of fish in the last 2 hours.  Especially, considering present state of the 2016 Lk. MI King fishery when you're better off to set your sights pretty low and hope for the best.  2 to 4 fish is plenty good for me for a 3-4 hour evening trip.  Knowing, if I can average a fish an hour thru-out the season this beats the MI statewide charter boat average according to MDNR catch data.

The icing on the cake was the last fish to come aboard.  OK, it's already triple city when this rascal hit (see video for proof).  That alone is good, but that many big Kings on at once creates bigtime issues.  In the process of landing this bookend fish, we had fish #1 get into the starboard diver wire line outfit.  Fish #2 spun around the port diver while this big guy was on peeling line heading to Wisconsin.  This meant some serious unstitching of under and over, unwrapping rods to get Kings 1, 2, and 3 into the net.

King #4 was one for the books when Todd hoisted the net aboard after a lot of grunting.  Being totally dark, we had no clue this last fish was going to be a jumbo and pull the scale down to 28 pounds.  When you listen closely to the accompanying video, you'll hear Todd do a major grunt & groan job trying to gain enough leverage to hoist this big guy aboard.  What a way to cap off a perfect evening? ...with fishing friends without their help none of this would have been possible.  While this is the end of the story of this trip, it's only the beginning of more memorable outings in the future that will surely write their own unique history.

If I had listened to the 2016 negative grapevine slamming the Lk. MI's King fishery? ...this evening trip on August 10, 2016 would have never happened.  Proving, beyond any shadow of doubt: ...if you don't go? don't know!

Click for Part 1 of "Do I stay"

YouTube Video Part 2

You might need to click on the gear/settings icon in the YouTube function bar to display higher definition depending on your internet connection speed.


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