Joe's 2020 Lake Superior Fishing Report and Log Cooler By The LakeWelcome to my fishing web site. This is my twenty-fifth year of logging my Lake Superior Fishing adventures.  I synopsize most trips, generally describing my adventures, successes and other details out on the Big Pond.  My boat is appropriately named "Cooler By The Lake". I am just a plain fisherman who loves to fish Lake Superior, mostly for Lake Trout. I do not run a charter. I try to update my reports after each trip. I think of it as a log but some might say it's a BLOG, mox nix. Thank you for following us on our Lake Superior fishing journeys. Please if you have any questions or suggestions on my reports or narratives. Compliments are also welcomed. 
 

"Cooler By The Lake"

Marquette, Michigan

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2020 Lake Superior Fishing Log

Information on tagging. About 5 of us local fishermen participated in a Michigan DNR Lake Trout Hooking-Mortality 6-year study being conducted in Marquette (Lake Superior) beginning in 2010. This unique study determined hooking-mortality rates of lake trout to help DNR biologists evaluate whether certain size limits are having the desired management outcome. The tagging portion has ended in 2013 but data was collected on recaptured Lakers through 2015.  Click here for my highlights during the study. The study has been completed and published. I obtained a copy of the article that appeared in the Steelheader Magazine in 2018. Click here to see the article in PDF format.

12 Aug 20    Another great weather day as Jim and I headed out to set lines at 120', in beautifully calm seas. Slow is the word but slowly we worked the depths and picked up 6 nice lean Lakers in a little over 3 hours. Depths varied but I'd have to say 150' was a good productive depth.  But what a pleasant time on the water. Jim brought "Slim Jims" and I brought some smoked Lake Trout. Nicely filled in the time between fish! 🐟

9 Aug    I call it "forecast fluctuations" from yesterday to this morning, Thunderstorms predicted to this morning, great conditions. So out Gary and I went on beautiful, calm seas. Slow day but eventually a few Lakers here and there. Finally, with 2 1/2 hours and nearing our starting point, I suggest fishing to 3 hours, then quiting. Whilst slowly turning, getting ready to quit, we got our sixth Laker. Yeah, missed two right behind the boat but that's fishing. Great Day!

6 Aug 20    The Lake settled beautifully overnight with calm winds as Ron and I headed to where we wanted to go yesterday. Whilst setting up lines, we had an equipment failure with the weight and associated gear donated to the Lake bottom. So we put out the Starboard  rigger and Johnson, the latter of which caught a nice Laker in short order. We then reconnoitered the Port rigger and we were fully in business. Action was pretty steady. With 9 nice Lakers in the box at the 2 1/2 hour mark, I was thinking we'd circle to 3 hours when of all things, we got a double and had to release one. But what a fun day and a good way to erase the memory of those slow days and a skunk. However, I do know slow days happen regardless.

5 Aug 20    Ok, usually fishing should pick up in August and the winds finally settled after blowing all day yesterday - sounds good. So guest Ron Mattson and I headed out thinking there being light winds the Lake would be settled. But we were to be greeted by 2-1' rollers and down the tabs went. Too tough to go where I planned so we slugged it out to my closer run that hasn't produced squat the last couple of trips. An hour passed after setting lines and no runs, hits, errors, or marks. Finally, we broke the ice and boxed a small Laker. Surprisingly, we trolled well against the rollers coming in but we needed our sea-legs much of the time. Rollers from the north and light winds from the south worked fine. I mentioned to Ron I thought there likely was a fish on his rigger but he said he thought it was bottom. Well, guess what! Anyway, we finally ended with 6 Lakers which included a single line double on the Johnson. The Lake had calmed considerably as we powered off after 3 hours and some great time on the Big Pond.

29 Jul 20   The forecasts of NNW 5-10 mph proved more lumpy than anticipated as Ron Mattson and I encountered  1-2' waves so we changed our plans on where to fish, fishing into the waves for half the trip, and turning to run with the increasing waves and wind. Well, we had one solid hit that didn't materialize and a dink that kept us from getting skunked. So let the introspection begin as I reviewed some of my past records for July. I was curious about July as some fishermen say it's not a good month. So here are the number of Lakers for several years but I left out  how many trips for each year, even though I have that data. 2012  was 227 Lakers (phenomenal record year whence we were tagging for the DNR study), 2015 = 66, 2016 = 51, 2017 = disregard with boat issues, 2018 = 68, 29019 = 37, and this year = 27 Lakers. WTF! Never marked a fish today. Haven't changed any techniques. So what has changed, apparently the fish and their location. Some fishermen are coming in with great catches, some with little so it would appear, this leopard has to change his spots and get out of the missionary position of fishing. Big question is where. Stay tuned! BTW, it was lumpy fishing into the waves and wind and hard to hold bottom but the reverse run was decent, even though it was starting to cap.

24 July 2020    Well, it might be a condtition we've previously talked about...too nice. Great seas as Gary McDonnell and I basked in the sun on a perfectly calm seas and struggled to catch 2 small Lakers.WTF! Marked a fair amount but few takers.

21 Jul 20    Great forecast of near calm as Guest Ron Mattson and I headed out. The reality was different than the forecast with a steady 10 mph wind and 1-2' waves. But we slugged it out trolling with the wind and waves. It wasn't too long before a real bell-ringer hit the port rigger and that lasted about 15 seconds before it was gone. We did manage 3 Lakers in under 3 hours but we wonder where the fish went. We marked one fish the whole time. But we enjoyed our time on the Big Pond. 🐟

16 Jul    Remember the old saying "I went to the well too many times", well my guest Ron Rabe and I went to my spot that was good two trips ago and guess what. 🦨 Yup, no runs, not hits, no errors, one mark in a little under 3 hours. Took  a short look back on records and no skunks last year and one in 2018. The boat at the dock when we came in was skunked. A guy fishing along side of us for an hour never touched his net. The good news is it was beautifully calm and most enjoyable. Jim always says this is typical July fishing and I hate to mention that to him.

15 Jul Great forecast and calm seas as Jim and I left the harbor, only to be greeted with 1-2 roller. Down went the trim tabs and we slugged it out towards our familiar haunt. Slow going and we finally picked up 4 Lakers in 3 hours, marked very few so they haven't showed up yet. However, the rollers slowly subsided, not that they were a problem but sea legs were a help for a while. Beautiful day!

13 Jul 20    Today's forecast for calm seas and winds was made last Thursday so I want to give credit to the NWS for being right on. So on a beautifully calm morning Ron and I headed out, not too far, and dropped lines in 180'. Shortly, the Johnson rod bent and after several big pulls, it was gone. Ok, we got our miss out of the way. We plied waters for the next 2 3/4 hours and picked up three nice Lakers, the Johnson rod doing the heavy lifting.  Closing in on where we started, the Johnson rod bent again and Ron started reeling it in. About half way up, it went wild and when the line was behind the boat, there was a wild Chinook Salmon on one lure and a Laker one the other, stacker line, each going in different directions. Wild indeed! But miraculously, we got them both in the box. Great day, with the two Lakers mad a Chinook in the last fifteen minutes was frosting on the cake. BTW, the last Laker was on Ron's rigger as he was bringing up his rigger to quit. Story is it hit on the way up. 😁Seas could not have been better Great day on the Big Pond!

8 Jul 20    The NWS reported light winds and fog but as my guest Ron and I got near the Big Pond, just haze but beautifully calm water. Leaving the marina I could see the powerful currents swirling at the entrance, proof they exist even after several days of calm. Sorry to digress. We set lines at 180' and I got into a deeper track than usual and eventually worked over the 200' depth, my goal being 180'. It was 20 minutes when the Johnson rod produced a Laker that got off, probably 10" from the net. Bummer! Short story, we later picked up 4 nice Lakers after that, all in a little under 3 hours, but it was hot and we were ready to get off the Lake. Surface water was 66, not that it matters much to the fish 200' down. Great time.

5 July    Thinking calm seas were too nice to pass up, I headed out to try some shallow fishing, like I've done periodically over the years. Well, just like periodically over the years I didn't get a hit, but in fairness, there were some good days in the past. So after an hour I headed to deeper waters where I caught a nice Laker despite my ugly netting job.  Then after a while and turning 180, another Laker, this time on the Johnson rod. Oh boy thought I, gonna get more.! Well, I decided to drop the Johnson rod out between the two downriggers and guess what, it didn't work but  it usually does. Goatus Ropeus (Latin for goat rope) happened, which took me 45 minutes to untangle. During the process there was a dink Laker that must have hit the Johnson rod on the way down. Too small to keep so over it went. I looked around for someone to blame for my long cut (opposite of short cut) but a mirror would have been handy. Anyway, besides the goat rope, my I/O wouldn't come up. Not good for putting the boat on the trailer so my friend Rick came to the dock with a jumper to the solenoid and up it came. Another project to work on. If I ever get another boat (won't happen), it'd be named Always Something. Rick named his boat Last One. Yeah, right on both counts. Don't let the mumbling cause you to think I didn't have an enjoyable day on the Big Pond, befause I did. Yeah, could have went a little smoother!

2 July    Another calm day as neighbor Ron Mattson and I headed out for a nice boat ride. Slowly it got hotter and hotter, but not the fishing. Finally, a Laker in the box and one rigger bell ringer that got off and that was it in just under 3 hours. Talking with a few other fishermen, they did much better but that's fishing. During the last hour, the wind clocked from the NW to N and increased to 10+ mph and whipped up some white caps. Trip to port was good and as we approached outside the breakwater, it was near calm. That's quite a Lake!

1 Jul 20   Guest Gary McDonnel and I headed out to beautiful waters and it wasn't nearly as hot as expected. We struggled to catch 3 Lakers in just under 3 hours but just enjoyed the time out he water. Gary said he improved 50% catching 3 Lakers over last time when we caught 2 and referred to that as "Fish Math". 😁 Mostly we plied the 170' - 190- depths. Few marks.

28 June 20    Another beautiful day with sunshine and calm winds and seas as my guest Cooper Smith (Grandson) and his friend Delaney Thunell joined me. We set lines at 170' and pretty much stuck to that depth, give or take. An hour passed with no marks or hits and suddenly we had a triple. Here and there we picked up 4 more Lakers, two were over 5#. Cooper was stacking higher than I do and managed two Lakers between 30' and 50' off the bottom. Delaney picked out a lure to use and it caught 2 Lakers so she was pleased. Great day! Here's a picture of Cooper and Delaney with some of their catch. Click on image to enlarge, back arrow to return here.

Cooper and Delaney 

25 Jun    Perfect weather as neighbor Gary and I set out. We to my favorite run, only to get two Lakers in 3  hours. Beautiful conditions so one asks was it too nice...not as it was just beautiful on the calm seas. Next time...

21 June    The fog was forecasted to clear by 10am and it did...at my house. Didn't on the Big Pond away from shore as my Grandson Cooper and I went out in calm seas. Didn't go far before we needed the radar spinning. It was slow going but we boxed 4 nice-sized Lakers in 3 hours and missed 2. Fished the whole time in the fog and never saw land until we returned to port. Conditions were otherwise great with calm seas and slight sun radiation so we were quite comfortable. Must be nice to be young as Cooper remembered all the little nuances and techniques. I have to be retrained each Spring.

19 Jun 20    Days of winds huffing and puffing finally settled as Jim and I headed out to his favorite spot (kinda mine too). His idea of a route is lining up shore points by triangulation and me, I'm a GPS person. But we both end up on the same run. First hour was lure-washing time with no hits, then 2 on the first 1 1/2 hour run out  and 5 more Lakers on our return leg to where we started. Conditions were super with light winds and near calm seas. We could see ominous clouds for the west so with the last Laker we thought after a little over 3 hours, it was time to bunch it. Most of the time air temps were around 55, surface water 47, but we both agreed that beat 90 on the water, and some recent 45 air temps. Nearing the launch, temps shot up to the lower 80s and after the boat was on the trailer, winds shifted and the temperature dropped to 72. Doffing and donning clothing is a way of life on or near this wonderful Lake. Got home and the skies briefly poured down with a great rain . Great day, lucky timing.

14 Jun    Ron and I headed to the east, in anticipation that the forecast of later east winds came true. Seas were calm en route and during most of our fishing time. We slowly picked up one or two before we turned and headed west. Slowly the cold east winds built from our stern and we picked up a couple more Lakers, all fairly small. But it was comfortable most of the time and finally, after 3 hours when the air temp (not to menton wind chill) was 45, and seas lightly capping, we decided to bunch it with 6 Lakers in the box.

13 Jun 20    Finally the winds died off and neighbor Gary and I headed out in calm seas. Granted it was 47 air but whence calm like that, very comfortable. Short tale is we caught 2 Lakers in 3 hours but the seas were perfect and it was so nice being out there. Next time, we'll change hats (that impacts on how fishing goes) but a good time anyway.

7 Jun    Great forecast of near calm and sprinkles in the afternoon. Neighbor Ron Mattson and I headed out in the cool 42 air but calm seas. We missed the first Laker but after what seem a long time, caught a nice 4# Laker.  We turned 180k basically making the same run back in roughly 200' and picked up another Laker. About half way back Ron reeled in the third Laker on the Johnson rod. Suddenly, the NE winds picked up to 12 mph and it was cold. Then Rod's rigger went off and much to his surpise, there were two Lakers on. We decided to bunch it with the wind kicking and 5 Lakers in the box in a little shy of 2 1/2 hours. Nice run! Here's Ron in action, click to enlarge.

Ron Johnson manning the Johnson rod

13 Jun 20    Guest Ron and I headed out to light winds but in almost flat seas, more so as we got further out. Winds were forecast to be 5-10 mph in the afternoon so we went east, as if they kicked early, we'd have a nicer ride home. Seas remained calm as we set lines at 175' but action was slow. Made our run and as we turned, the NE winds gently picked up on or starboard quarter. Slowly we boxed 6 Lakers, well make that 5 1/2 as one we didn't net and lifted into the box, thinking if it fell of, so be it, but a legal keeper. So we wrapped it up in slightly shy if 3 hours, surface water 45 and NE breeze now at 11 mph, 45, and a few white caps. But, a great time out on the Big Pond.

4 Jun    The forecast of light winds proved accurate as my guest Gary McDonnell and I headed out to set lines at 155'. Action was slow with only two Lakers in the box but we thought we'd go another 15 minutes when the port rigger bell rang, producing a Laker on the stacker. However, the bottom lure was missing so we decided to wrap it up with 3 Lakers. Of course on the return trip there were tales of how big the fish was that took the lure just grew and grew. Great time on the Big Pond, which was lightly capping as we headed in but still provided a fairly smooth ride.

24 May 20    Yesterday's forecast for today included calm winds and fog, but the fog didn't show up as Jim and I headed out on beautiful seas. Action was fairly slow but near a favorite spot, we picked up 3 nice Lakers, which I marked on my GPS. We then ranged around and picked up one more before we headed back to the GPS icons where we caught 2 more. We slowly picked up 3 more as we trolled towards our starting point. Doing the math, we ended with 8 Lakers and 1 miss, in 3 1/2 hours in wonderful conditions. Great time!

22 May 20    My guest today was Dan Webb, who's waiting to get his own boat in the water. Conditions were near ideal with sunshine and calm seas and winds. We didn't go very far and set lines at 154' but sloping downward. It wasn't 5 minutes with only one rigger in the water that we had our first Laker in the box. Shortly afterwards, The Johnson rod had a hit and was fighting to about 50' being the boat, then went the other way. After quite a while we picked up a 4# Laker on the Johnson and later lost two more. Then our last Laker was on right behind the boat when we had an equipment failure so we're considering that a release. Boiling it down, we went home with two nice Lakers, two misses, and having the therapy of having un-cloistered time on the water. Beautiful day! 🚤

21 May 20    It wasn't easy but I talked Jim into going to one of my ole hot spots, where in the past I've done well on average. Seas were a little lumpy for the first mile, then as we got to open water, the seas and breeze flattened, mostly caused by the cold 39 water dampening the wind. I've seen that many times in the Spring. Surprise -  the hot spot wasn't very hot and we struggled to get 5 Lakers in 3 hours. But once again, conditions were near perfect and excuses were hard to find. Finally, whence wrapping it up, we could see an east breeze heading toward us with heavy, cold air headed towards land to fill in for the rising warm air on land. I looked at my thermometer and saw it quickly drop from 52 to 42,8. Moral of the story is if you take off your coat, keep it within an arm's length, for you may need it soon. Perfect time to quit after a great time on the water.

20 May 20    Today was a mixed emotion day starting with beautiful water, no wind and sunshine. That said, Jim and I struggled to get but two Lakers in a little over 3 hours. What was that all about! Then talking to a few other fishermen (there weren't many out), they did considerably better than us. Guess that's really what fishing is about but it was not a down day for us. Rather both of us expressed how wonderful it was to be on the water, in the sun, and that the fish were a bonus. We couldn't be more appreciative after being cooped up this spring and continuing on for who knows how long. 

16 May    I awoke early this morning to 39 and in an hour it dropped to 36, and the forecast was for fog but calm waters. Pretty sad when you consider that to be a good forecast, but cloistering will do that to a fisherman. So Jim and I launched in fairly heavy fog, radar spinning, then setting lines in 145' but in depths slowly dropping. We were running roughly along the same run we made last time, which went quite well. Half an hour passed and finally my rigger indicated a light hit and whence netting the Laker, called it a dink (legal size usually but to small to keep) so we released it. Another half hour passed without a hit and suddenly, Jim said I have two (single line double), I had one, and the Johnson rod had one, four at one time. Another big huh? (I won't say WTF)  So we finally thought this is the spot (I have found it strangely very productive over the years) so we turned and followed our GPS track through the same area. You're getting ahead of me if you guessing no hits. Right! So it seemed like at least another hour plus of nothingness we circled, hoping for one more. So I said I'd log us out for 15 minutes more which magically sometime produces another fish. Well, it worked as we caught 2 Lakers just before we quit. The fog had lifted about an hour before we quit and seas remained wonderfully calm. It proved a wonderful fishing trip, mentally and productive too. Surface water was FWIW 38, air 54.

5 May    With a cold but calm forecast today and a lousy forecast for the next several days prompted Jim and I to go for it. It was fairly calm when we left and set up in 185' water. It wasn't long before we boxed the first Laker. Then 15 minutes later, a single line double on the starboard rigger when the Johnson rod went off - a triple. Then a fifth Laker in the box after just half an hour.  Then reality set in as we trolled for over an hour without a hit, whilst the NE winds and waves slowly increased. While talking about quitting in the last 15 minutes, we picked up two more Lakers so we were glad to pick up 7 Lakers in a little over 2 hours but also glad to head in with a 10 mph NE wind and 1 foot seas. Water temperature was 39 and the air 37.

1 May 20    Finally, a light wind and a warmer day as Jim and I headed out mid morning on our maiden voyage. Seas were light with small rollers. We set lines at 165' and about 45 minutes passed before the first Laker went into the box. Then an hour passed without a hit, then a double, one over 7#. We turned and finally picked up another Laker before wrapping it up in 2 1/2 hours. Oh, we missed 2. But it was so nice to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine after being cooped up for months. We were hoping the weather would turn the corner but the coming week looks disappointing with wind and cold. Oh well! Today is a good memory!

26 Apr 20    Still snow on the ground. Coronavirus Pandemic has changed our lives, perhaps forever. Governor just took off boating ban but I didn't miss much fishing what with all the wind and cold. Today Jim and I readied boat, took it to the launch, left it on the trailer, then started both engines. We're ready!

Below is an extract from my 2000 log. Hopefully entertainment to help us through the winter.! My organizational skills have not improved much since then.

17 Mar 00 Two-Tackle Box Syndrome. It all started about a week ago when I was rigging a few rods to fish the breakwater for whitefish and Coho. I bought a few small hooks at a local tackle shop, then tied up a small swivel and tested the line, which promptly snapped. The line seemed bad so my idea was to change reel spools with a better line. Now where was that spool? It must be in my other tackle box in the basement. Well it wasn't there but I did see some things in it that I forgot I had, some duplicate of those in my main tackle box, whichever was my "main tackle box." Thinking I should consolidate some of this stuff I opened the two boxes and started. Then I remembered the box of miscellaneous stuff in my other attic tackle box. I also had a box of stuff on the top of a shelf...and a drawer of loose gear. Pretty soon, I had fishing gear strewn all over the place. I found I had hooks exactly like the ones I just bought. I rarely fish for Walleye but had enough tackle to start a small store. Ironically, when I fish Walleye, I usually use only a couple of the same lures but I'm always prepared with other lures. It's the same for fishing on Lake Superior - a couple of spoons is all I use. This I refer to as the Missionary Fishing Position -- if something works well, why change? Ironically, it doesn't often work for Walleye.

My attention span was about the same as my 4-year old grandson. I would get to working on some of this tackle and soon get sidetracked. Before long, I was working on something completely different. At this point I still had not located my spool but did discover another reel that would probably work. With 5 tackle boxes, boxes of gear, drawers open and gear cast about, it took about 4 days to consolidate my gear. In the process I eliminated only one small tackle box but now will always know where my stuff is when I need it...it'll still be in one of my tackle boxes that I don't have with me.

When looking for things, I often think, "where would a logical person put that item?" My seemingly logical concept is often anything but logical. I seem to remember things best that were originally put in stupid places. When I move items to a "logical" place, the litany of "now where did I put that" inevitably starts weeks or months later when I'm looking for them. When I ask myself the question where I probably "logically" put them, my current logic usually says the items are somewhere else. So much for logic!

Nearing the end of this tackle consolidation saga, all of a sudden a light came on that there was yet another drawer of mostly miscellaneous items containing some tackle items. Guess what, at the bottom of the drawer was the spool that started this whole adventure even though I stopped looking for it. No logical reason it was there. I didn't do much to straighten that drawer because everyone needs a drawer or box to just throw things in as a "holding area" until or should I say if one decides to "get organized" someday. OK, so I had more than one of these drawers and tackle boxes.

So what have I learned from all this? Really there are several principles involved here. The first is an axiom that can apply to anything from organizing tackle to computer files - the more you break things down or store things "logically" the more complicated it becomes and the harder to find. The second axiom is what I refer to as the "Mushroom Effect." This effect normally starts as an innocuously small project (such as this one) where in order to accomplish the one small thing you wanted to do soon leads to another project, usually more complicated and expensive, and soon the whole project mushrooms out of control. Plumbing jobs are excellent examples of the mushroom effect. The third axiom is not to stop buying fishing gear even if it's unlikely you'll need it because you really can't be sure you won't. That's assuming you can find it when you need it. This last axiom may cycle one back to the two tackle box syndrome as if you buy several of the same items, you can put one in each tackle box (hopefully not all in one) or put them in different locations. This principle also applies to house tools kept on the boat.

Now that the goat rope exercise with tackle is largely behind me, I moved on to the supposedly simple task of putting new line on my downrigger rods. However, that's another story for another time.

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