Sizzling Saginaw Bay Walleye

By Steve Ryan - July 1, 2007
It was a pleasant July morning when I first boarded Mike Veine's 20' Lund Baron in search of Saginaw Bay walleye. Along with my fishing buddy, we had made the six hour drive the evening before from Chicago to Au Gres, Michigan to test the waters of Saginaw Bay. We had heard much about this famed summer walleye fishery and were about to experience just how hot the action can be.

Instead of wasting countless trips to this huge body of water in an attempt to locate key walleye locations and then put together successful patterns to catch the fish on our own, we elected to take a short cut. By enlisting the services of one of Saginaw Bay's premier fishing guides, our goal was to learn productive areas and new techniques while being treated to a great day of fishing the very first time out. Choosing our guide for the trip was an easy matter. Having fished previously fished with Captain Mike Veine on Lake Erie for trophy walleye, we were impressed with Mike's fishing knowledge, his demeanor and ability to consistently catch fish. A quick telephone call to Mike confirmed that June and July were peak months for both numbers and trophy size walleye.

Anticipation was high the morning of the trip. Upon stepping aboard the boat, it was immediately apparent that, if the fish had the slightest notion to feed, we were going to have a successful outing. The boat was immaculately clean. All equipment was top of the line. The reels were fully spooled with fresh line, and the lures were laid out and ready to be fished. Prior to leaving the dock, we were prepped on basic safety procedures. We were given personal floatation devices, advised where the other safety equipment was located and given a quick explanation of the day's game plan.

The fishing approach was straight forward - trolling crankbaits behind inline planer boards. Two prime locations were available to us - the shallower waters of the inner bay or the deeper waters of the upper bay around the Charity Islands. Since the waters were not excessively warm, we opted for the more consistent area of the lower bay. This proved to be the correct call as we had our first walleye to the net even before all the lines could be set. Using Mike's precise trolling techniques, the action was quick and steady throughout the day with numerous double and triple hookups of fish.

The technique consisted of running crankbaits, like Cotton Cordell Wally Divers, Yakima Hawg Boss Super Toad and Rapala Shad Raps, forty feet behind Church's Mr. Walleye inline planer boards. The trolling speed was kept at 1.8 to 2.2 m.p.h. Twelve pound test line was used on trolling reels like Shakespeare Tidewater line counter reels. For rods, long moderate action rods were used. Quality fiberglass fishing rods like Ugly Stik rods were ideal for the long day of pulling boards and also provided enough forgiveness in the tip for when walleyes tried to shake the hooks.

A total of six to eight rods were in the water at all times. Six rods were run on planer boards, three on each side. Each board was separated by 40', with the closest board being 40' from the boat, the middle board running 80' away from the boat and the furthest board being 120' out. Two bottom bouncer rigs with nightcrawlers on Lindy Spinner rigs were also run directly behind the boat. With this set up, nearly 150' of water was fished at all times.

A key component to Mike Veine's system is to run all fishing rods of the same length. This allows one to rotate rods to and from any position in the trolling spread - be it the inside rod for the middle or the middle for the outside, etc. Rotating rods becomes necessary when a fish is caught, i.e., if a fish is taken on the middle rod, the fish is reeled in and the inside rod is let out an additional 40', thereby becoming the middle rod; the rod that was reeled in with the fish is then reset as the inside rod 40' from the boat.

Another important piece of equipment employed by Mike is a large landing net designed specifically for trolling. Nets such as Frabill's Tru-Trax net, with its eight foot telescopic handle and oversized teardrop hoop, put the odds in one's favor when landing trophy walleye. Frabill has designed this Tru-Trax net with dual EVA cushion grips for greater comfort and a heavily constructed yoke for added durability. In addition, when trolling big water where trophy fish are possible at any time, it is critical to have the net handy and ready at all times. This means keeping the handle fully extended when lines are in the water. Mike uses a separate net holder mounted forward in the boat to insure that the net is within easy reach once a fish is hooked-up and out of the way when not in use. These little items mean more landed fish and less clutter in the back of the boat.

With a limit of walleyes in the boat before it was time for a mid-morning snack, we enjoyed the rest of the day targeting big fish and learning more about this incredible summer fishery. When most anglers are cursing the dog days of summer, the walleye fishing shines at Saginaw Bay. In addition to the incredible numbers of walleyes, the potential for a trophy walleye is also great. Ten to twelve pound walleyes are routine catches during the summer months. During that first day of fishing, we landed more than fifty fish. Many of the fish were in the six to eight pound range and we lost a few larger fish. I

If one tires of walleye, Saginaw Bay also offers excellent fishing for perch, catfish, pike, bass, drum and salmon. For more information about the fishing options at Saginaw Bay, or to obtain current fishing reports, visit the Saginaw Bay Thread on the Michigan Section here on Lake-Link or call Mike Veine at 1-734-475-9146.

Author Steve Ryan
Steve Ryan
Steve Ryan is an outdoor writer and avid angler who enjoys targeting trophy fish throughout the Midwest and beyond.