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Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

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Silver Lake Bass Fishing

I wasn’t sure what to expect up at Silver Lake, Mears, Michigan because rumor had it that local efforts to control the exploding weed growth were working – which had an adverse effect on the fishing. Silver Lake is a swimming and recreation lake first, fishing takes a back seat because most homeowners want sand, not weeds. I didn’t bother bringing a fishing pole on a family visit to see Bill and Karen DeJong who have a beautiful home opposite the dunes.

It turns out Bill was up for a challenge. We had access to a nice deep-V fishing boat and motor so we rose early and headed to the one spot in the lake that had reed beds thinking it might provide some bass structure. I was skeptical, Bill was focused. We had a strong wind out of the east, not good, so we anchored just outside of the reeds and went to work. Bill bought some crawlers and tried those with bobbers and/or just tossed them overboard with sinkers while I poured through his tub of artificial baits. I would like to say my finesse with plastic worms payed off but instead watched Bill find a workable pattern, bobbers with half-crawlers, just inside the reeds. He took three nice bass inside an area of about six square feet. It was surreal.

This was humbling. About the time we were ready to leave he took one of his poles and handed it to me – hoping I might catch something. A second later the bobber went down and I pulled in a bass that might have gone five inches. That is stretching it.

Drift fishing for Bass

Mike with the first bass

Mike with the first bass

If someone were to suggest drift fishing for bass a week ago, I would be a little skeptical. If the intended bait was made of plastic I might roll my eyes. But that is where I found myself this week. My brother-in-law Bill keeps a johnboat up at his home on Silver Lake (the lake that abuts the sand dunes) and he invited his friend Mike V, and myself out one morning. The wind was straight out of the East which usually means tough fishing, and it coincided with a cold front, which usually means very tough fishing.

It was like the perfect storm for no fish. Bill motored us upwind for the drift and set Mike up with a tube lure with split shot a foot up from the lure. Bill set up his pole with a purple worm which he modified by cutting off the curly tail, and hooking it dead center with a bait hook. They lobbed the baits over the side and we slow drifted in front of the cottages on the southwest corner of the lake.

I decided to use the standard stuff – a texas rigged power worm, a spinner bait, and a pop-r, all old standbys, rather than try the drift fishing. So I was casting like mad, blindly, when Mike hauled in the first bass, a chunky 2-1/2 pounder. Bill was next and lost a nice fish right at the boat. Meanwhile I started reconsidering just what the heck they were doing. Two fish for one short drift – not bad!

Bill dropped anchor in front of some reeds on the west end of the lake and said it was a good spot. We worked that area a bit and I caught one on a power worm, then we worked along the west shore and all caught bass. I picked up a nice one on a white spinner bait, semi hoping I might just catch a big pike or maybe even a walleye.

Bill takes one on a modified purple worm

Bill takes one on a modified purple worm

We decided to do another drift and Mike and Bill both caught bass again during the drift. There is no question now about whether it makes sense – with the right lures, particularly tube lures, drift fishing for bass is viable option. It helps that Silver lake is a great fishery with a lot of bass but I credit Bill for coming up with such a productive fishing technique. I plan to try that on some other lakes when the fishing gets tough.

 

Saving Silver Lake

Silver Lake, up by Hart Michigan, is unique for its beauty and recreation. Sand dunes abut the lake on the west shore, the same sand dunes that are famous for the dune rides. There is a state park with camping and it must be one of the most popular parks in Michigan because any time I have driven by the park it appears full up.  The lake has great bass, walleye, and pike fishing and is a treasure for Michigan, not just the lucky homeowners, but for campers and visitors.

Last summer a strange thing happened. Over 3000 carp died off and washed up on the shores. Most folks (at least me) didn’t realize there were carp in the lake. Perplexed homeowners had to clean up the shoreline. According to the DNR, the fish die off was caused by koi herpesvirus, or KHV virus, specific to koi, carp and goldfish, however the source of the virus is unknown. It may have been introduced by released ornamental fish and illustrates the danger of releasing exotic fish in waterways.

The carp die-off caught the attention of a new lakefront homeowner and activist, Dr. William DeJong, my brother-in-law. Bill is one of those very high energy people that solve problems while others sleep and as a new homeowner he decided to research the lake further. Bill uncovered reports by Progressive Engineering classifying Silver Lake as meso-eutrophic which indicates high phosphorous levels. High phosphorous can lead to excessive weed growth (already noticed by homeowners), increased algae, and ultimately affect what fish species can survive in the lake. The source of phosphorous is a very complex problem but sewage is a contributing factor. The cottages all have septic systems. There is a well developed smaller lake upstream of Silver Lake and that too is all septic. There is a watershed feeding the little lake.

As Bill explains it, the problem may come from a dozen possible sources or combinations of sources, so until there is a clear understanding of the problem, expensive sewer systems or upstream holding ponds should be avoided. What’s needed is a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation to identify the phosphorous source and spell out options. This is more costly than a piecemeal approach and requires the cooperation of the lake property owners, local and state governments. Proper evaluation now could save million of dollars later and ensure the health of Silver Lake. Bill is the right person to try to get consensus and funding to solve this complex problem and the homeowners and the state need to support his efforts.

A little bit of Bio on Bill DeJong: He is a semi-retired educational facilities consultant that pioneered studies to rebuild and update schools systems throughout the U.S. Bill also started a charity called Schools for Children of the World that literally builds schools in third world countries. He visits poverty stricken areas, develops education plans, and pitches in with the actual construction. I am adding a link for anyone that would like to contribute or volunteer on a school building project.  www.SchoolsForChildren.org

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