MARQUETTE - Ice fishing has always been a popular sport in Marquette but with the extensive set up and steep cost, some fishermen flock to the rivers for a different fishing experience.
Winter fly fishing doesn't have a huge following in the Marquette area, but the small community of anglers who do venture out into the cold, unpredictable weather believe it's a sport worth trying.
The rocks may be icy and the snow deep, but some of the best river fishing can be found during the winter months, according to Nick Simon of Marquette.
Greg Oles of Marquette fishes the Carp River early Tuesday morning. Steelhead is a very common fish that run through the Carp River during the winter months, he said. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
Simon has been fishing his whole life and since moving to Marquette about five years ago, he has come to enjoy fishing in all seasons. Simon is a current employee at Switchback in Marquette and a certified fishing guide through the DNR. He has received his inland pilots license and all land permits to take people out on the rivers. When he isn't selling fishing gear at Switchback, he's putting on workshops, guided tours, fly-tying classes and full-day excursions for whoever wants to learn about the sport. If you maybe just want to rent gear to go out for a day, Switchback offers full winter set-ups also.
Marquette winters can drag on, so Simon's desire for fly fishing stems from his need to fish all year around.
Winter fly fishing is unique, as most fishermen use subsurface flies instead of the classic surface flies. Determining what fish eat during the winter months is key to finding success out on the river. The warmest part of the day is a good time to fish, according to Simon.
"When you are the most comfortable is when the fish will be most comfortable." he said.
Simon has found the most successful flies are egg flies, wooly buggers and stone flies. These particular flies attract some of the most common fish in Marquette rivers.
Simon said he usually uses a heavier rod in the winter to handle fish that are typically larger. He said brown trout, brook trout, steelheads and coho salmon are typical and often range from 20 to 30 inches in the winter.
Greg Oles, another local fisherman, said he favors a light rod with an eggplant fly and he prefers fishing the Chocolay River, for both the scenery and the steady flow of steelheads. He said it's harder to river fish in the winter, but he is always up for a challenge.
"Winter fishing might be more difficult and dangerous but the reward is a combination of the winter seclusion and catching fish," said Oles.
When preparing for a trip on the river make sure you have all the proper gear to be successful. Wear breathable clothing and bring a weight belt and waders with good traction. underwater rocks are unpredictable and most are covered in a thin sheet of ice.
Before heading out to the river make sure someone knows where you are going. If you lack experience winter fishing, Simon said it is important to bring a veteran fisherman along with you.
Many Marquette rivers are off-limits for fishing during the winter and it is important to get acquainted with all relevant rules and regulations before setting out.
A weekly fishing report can be found at www.switchback.com and a complete guide to rules and regulations, including a guide of rivers open to fishing, can be found online at www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/FishingGuide_11-low-res_347106_7.pdf.
Matt Keiser can be arched at 906-228-2500.