Salmon season to remember
Written by Ludington Daily News   
Wednesday, 06 September 2006 13:55

Everyone knows how fishermen sometimes enhance the truth, but there was nothing about Jim Fenner’s demeanor that indicated a tall tale when he assessed the 2006 Lake Michigan salmon season in Ludington.

“The best year in history,” said Fenner, president of the Ludington Area Charterboat Association. “The best year in my knowledge, and I’ve been here since 1970.”

 Although the fish haven’t been bruisers like they were at the turn of the century, they’ve been very respectable. A 30-pounder is a rarity, but fish in the mid-20s are becoming increasingly common.

“I like the size of fish,” Fenner said. “We used to catch bigger ones, but these are healthy, strong, active, manageable fish. The customers have been very satisfied.”

George Freeman, the vice-president of LACA, said it was a slow start to the year, but once the fishing got going it stayed.

“I’ve never seen fishing this good last this long,” Freeman said of the big lake salmon season that’s in its waning days. “The kings are a little bigger this year. I got a master angler king this year — (27 pounds, 2 ounces) — I haven’t done that in two years. I got a master angler brown trout. I’m not seeing a lot of cohos, but the ones we are catching are nice ones. We’re also starting to see some good three-year-old kings, which means we should have good fishing next year as well.”

Freeman said he didn’t just catch more and bigger fish this year, he also noticed more boats.

“I don’t know if it’s because of the Lake Huron situation or if word got out that fishing was so good here,” Freeman said. Lake Huron’s salmon population crashed two years ago after most of its baitfish disappeared.

Freeman said another factor in the good season has been the lack of tribal fishing nets between the Ludington pierheads and Big Point Sable.

“One reason maybe we have more boats and more business is that we don’t have nets in our prime fishing areas this year,” Freeman said. “The tribal fishermen have fished north of the point and we haven’t had any net incidents this year. It’s worked out really well.”

Craig Coleman of Captain Chuck’s Great Outdoors said it was a good year to be selling salmon tackle. He said the top-selling products continued to be Spin Doctor rotators and Silver Horde lures. He said Dreamweaver, Yeck and Stinger spoons all sold well.

Coleman pointed out that the spring was a little slow, something Freeman also noticed.

“Generally, the fishing we would have south off Pentwater — our May kings — didn’t materialize,” Freeman said. “We had some good days in June but it was generally slower. The fish were scattered, so you had to work real hard.”

Freeman said he had a number of cancellations early in the season, which he attributed to the bad news coming out of the auto industry. Freeman said many of his customers are autoworkers.

Fishing kicked on about July 4. Freeman said since then he’s taken on more double trips (two per day) — something he didn’t do in the past — to make up for the slow spring.

Fenner said he’s not sure what can be done to make spring fishing more reliable, but he likes what he sees otherwise.

“We’re hopeful when the statistics are known in the middle of winter that Ludington will still be the No. 1 port as hit has been since the beginning of the salmon-fishing industry.”

 
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