Great Lakes Carp Fishing
Basically it's sight fishing for big fish in paradise.
May Carp in the Great Lakes
With the basic urges of the upcoming spawn and something more pleasant than ice cold Great Lakes water the carp start to move shallow. With a couple of warm, sunny days and a steady breeze water temps can vary considerably, from 40's over deep water to 60's in large shallow "cup" bays that collect warm surface waters. Focus on cruising or tailing fish over the shallow resters, these resting fish are often suffering from lock-jaw.
A neat bonus is that sometimes you can find big silver salmon, steelhead and trout cruising across prominent points while your out scouting… talk about a screaming drag!
June Carp in the Great Lakes
"The spawn in on". While spawning fish are notorious for their disinterest in any feeding what so ever, this is the time for easy fishing, big fish and big numbers. Unlike smaller waters the carp spawn in the Great Lakes lasts from late May through mid July, so in the same area you will often find pre-spawn, spawners and post spawn carp.
Don't waste time on the splashing spawners, instead focus on the fish on the edges of these spawning groups.
July and August Carp in the Great Lakes
As a general rule fish move from back-bay spawning areas out to deep water for the remaining summer. In areas that have shallow carp in mid to late summer, focus attention on large, complex points and islands. Carp will rotate from deep water onto these areas to "lay-up" in the warm water. Morning will have a cruising, feeding patterns as fish come across the potential warming areas. In my opinion, they are testing or looking for warm water pockets to develop. Fish numbers will build as more and more carp find and stay in these warm areas from mid morning through evening.
Fish to the edge of these groups, where fish are entering and leaving these warm water resting areas. If you, or better put, when you spook a large resting group the area is shot and you will need to find different fish.
Great Lakes Carp Fly Fishing Gear List:
Fly Rods for Great Lakes Carp — 7 to 10 weights in 8-9'. While a 7 or 8 is fine for calm conditions, a heavier rod is needed on the typical breezy to windy day. For you Midwest fisherman, think flats fishing not small lake or stream fishing… big water, long casts and windy conditions.
We have been experimenting with the shorter rods with heavy headed lines and with new casters and/or on windy days they work great.
Fly Reels for Great Lakes Carp — Lots of backing. You do not want to loose a hog because you don't have enough backing. Carp are not scorching fast but there ability to sustain a run is incredible, I have seen several fish lost after hitting the arbor knot at 200 yards. If your using a smaller reel, back it with braided, low diameter conventional fishing line like Power Pro or Fire Line.
Fly Lines for Great Lakes Carp — A standard matched floating line is the way to go 98% of the time. For the worst conditions, flat calm, you may want a clear-tip or furled leader. Under calm conditions the fish spook from line and fly splash and line shadow.
Clothes and Waders for Great Lakes Carp – Polarized sun glasses! Always have waders with you for a Great Lakes carp trip but shorts and wading boots with wading socks are a nice option on hot days. For clothing bring a fleece and rain/wind jacket for morning and cool or windy days.
You will find no shade, so bring a hat, Buff, sunscreen… whatever you need to stay protected.
Flies for Great Lakes Carp — Diversity. These are the choosiest fish and you can't predict whether you'll be fishing in 8 inches of water to resting fish or 5 feet of water to fast cruisers. Have a dozen or more patterns, each in different color and weight combinations.
Fish big and aggressive to start and adapt to smaller and less aggressive by watching the reaction of the fish to your fly. And also keep in mind that some fish are just not feeding and can waste your day.
Kevin's "three for three" rule: Kevin makes three presentations with a fly and then changes to another pattern. If he does this with three fly patterns and hasn't had at least a look, he packs-up and looks for a different group of fish.
These flies will also work but should be modified so that they flip over and ride hook up. A carp fly that rides hook down is continually stuck in the rocks.
Grau's Easy Sculpin
Use these patterns as a baseline to experiment. Our Lake Michigan carp like flies in the 1 1/2 to 4 inch range, natural colors and little to no flash.
Below we have put together a reference list of the carp information on our site.
Great Lakes Carp Articles:
Beaver Island, MI. Northern Island Angling Paradise by Brandon Butler
Mega Carp in Michigan by Jerry Darkes
Carp Of Beaver Island… Champagne dreams on a beer budget! by Brandon Butler
Sight-fishing for carp off Beaver Island by George Rowe
Prime Time Carp by Kevin Morlock
The Carp of Beaver Island by Brandon Butler
It’s clear: Underrated carp offers game-fishing challenge by Eric Sharp
Fly fishing is good on Michigan’s Beaver Island by Brandon Butler
Other Information and Reports:
Third Coast Fly
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