Sarley: A perfect day with family on Lake Michigan

Northwest Herald outdoors columnist Steve Sarley (from left), Joe Marchisotta, Dan Sarley, Billy Gore and Caleb Weiner show off a great day’s Lake Michigan catch on the back of the Migrator.
Northwest Herald outdoors columnist Steve Sarley (from left), Joe Marchisotta, Dan Sarley, Billy Gore and Caleb Weiner show off a great day’s Lake Michigan catch on the back of the Migrator.

My daughter and her husband, Michelle and Joe Marchisotta, moved to Munising on the far northern coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula more than a year ago.

We miss them dearly and were pleased to hear that they were coming down for a week to celebrate the Easter holiday with the family.

Michelle had told me awhile back to plan some things to do that we would all enjoy. You all know how my mind works, so you won’t be surprised to learn that a family fishing trip would be on our agenda.

I set up a date and time with my favorite Lake Michigan charter boat captain, Caleb Weiner of Migrator Charters.

Michelle and Joe would be joined by my youngest son, Dan. My eldest son, Steve, couldn’t get off from work that day. We all met at my house at 4 a.m. for the drive to beautiful North Point Marina in Winthrop Harbor.

We arrived on time to see Weiner and his first mate, Billy Gore, preparing the Migrator for our trip. The day was projected to have temps in the 60s with mild breezes blowing from the southeast. Of course, as with any trip I plan, the weather conditions were not supposed to be optimal for fishing. Recent weather had pushed the baitfish south to Indiana with the lake’s incredible coho population following them.

Gore and Weiner immediately began setting rods at different levels of the water column in search of coho salmon and lake trout, the species most available at this time of year. We were going to try fishing in about 40 to 45 feet of water, shallow for Lake Michigan, but appropriate for late April.

We got a couple of nice lake trout early in the trip. We were all excited and figured it would be a short excursion with a quick limit hauled in. Of course, we were mistaken.

The action stopped and we found ourselves on a nice, relaxed boat ride for a couple of hours. We moved a little deeper and then tried shallower waters. We motored into water as shallow as 30 feet. We had a couple of strikes in the next four hours but kept searching. We saw no baitfish, and no fish appeared on the Migrator’s electronics. Gore and Weiner worked hard changing baits and presentations to find fish, but to no avail.

We headed back to the 40-foot water outside of the harbor at North Point Marina. When we arrived, we almost immediately were met by rods going off and the hoped-for cry of “Fish on!”

A nice laker attacked a lure on the end of one of our downrigger rods and quickly was reeled in. A second lake trout hit about the instant the first one had bounced on the deck. This was the kind of action we craved.

We were motoring at the lowest speed that one of the boat’s two engines could manage. Another rod went off, and Joe grabbed the rod. Boom! We now had a doubleheader working as Dan picked up the second rod. Two chubby lake trout were landed simultaneously. I’m glad that Weiner has two landing nets on the boat.

The action continued, and we were less than a mile from our original departure point. We took a couple of delicious coho on presentations that rode closer to the water’s surface. My family members proved their mettle as anglers by landing almost every fish that bit our baits. Few fish were lost during their fights. The Sarley clan did a great job of taking care of business. I was proud of my bunch.

Suddenly, two rods went off at the same time. While the fish were being brought in, a third rod went off. A triple! I couldn’t believe it! When one was brought in and two were still being reeled in, another hit. We were only a few seconds shy of having four lake trout on lines at the same time. I’ve never seen that before.

Weiner and Gore began quickly taking down rods. They were hoping to not get any more lake trout strikes because we had hit our limit for the day. We had 12 lake trout in the box ranging from 7 to 10 pounds and a bonus harvest of four tasty coho.

On the drive home, my kids couldn’t stop talking about what a great trip it had been, what a great captain that Weiner is and how sore their arms were from reeling in so many fish. My heart was so warmed when Michelle hugged me and said, “Dad, that was a day I will never forget.”


Northern Illinois: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “The dams at McHenry, Algonquin and Carpentersville are almost to normal, nonflooded stages. Some smallmouth are being caught. Please remember that it’s catch-and-release until June 15. Try small spinners or crawfish-imitating plastics. Crappie and white bass are hitting large fathead minnows.

“McHenry County Conservation District’s Lake Atwood in the Hollows has some rainbow trout left. Wax worms will work. There are lots of bluegill here, also. Remember, no minnows allowed to be used here.

“Crystal Lake’s Vulcan Lake at the Three Oaks Recreation Area also is a catch-and-release area, and no minnows may be used. Bass are hitting Ned rigs, lipless crankbaits and Defender jigs. For info on northern Illinois fishing, call 815-455-2040 for an updated report.”

Fox Chain O’ Lakes: Chris Taurisano of T-Bone Guide Service ( – 630-330-9090) sends word, “Walleyes are starting to pick up and should be good by next week. Minnows or crawlers on plain jigs or spinner rigs should work. The panfish have slowed down, but the next wave of fish should be coming with some rain in the forecast. Muskies are beginning to spawn.”

Lake Michigan: The Lake Michigan Fishing Report is provided by Capt. Caleb Weiner of Migrator Charters: “The weather and the fish finally cooperated this week. Good numbers of lake trout and coho were caught along the shoreline this week. The cohos seemed to like the little red dodgers with aqua or blue and copper peanut flies. The lake trout enjoyed the chrome Luhr Jensen with green or yellow Spin ‘N Glos. RV green moonshine spoons or the occasional stinger green or yellow UV spoons worked, too. With the water warming up and the weather stabilizing, fishing should just get better and better.”

• Steve Sarley writes about the outdoors for Shaw Media. Write to him at Steve does a weekly podcast about fishing called “WeFishASA.” You can find it at

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