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It's the Year For Big Michigan King Salmon and Here's How to Catch Them

Michigan king salmon
All images via Betts Guide Service - Michigan Steelhead, Salmon, and Trout Guides.

If you want to catch some really big, fall run Michigan king salmon, head north right now. 

Every fall, Lake Michigan king salmon flood the rivers and streams of connecting bodies of water for their annual fall run. A few years ago, it was one of the worst runs in history. However, after a few warmer winters, an abundance of baitfish have created a perfect storm of fishing. King salmon are pouring in bigger than ever right now, and if you know what you're doing, you're going to catch more than you care to fight.

Michigan King Salmon
Betts Guide Service - Michigan Steelhead, Salmon, and Trout Guides.

Chad Betts, the owner of Betts Guide Service out of Michigan, took some time off the water and shared a few of his secrets, as well as some thoughts on the current run. If you are planning on heading up to Lake Michigan areas anytime soon to chase these fish, this is a must-read.

The King Salmon Conversation

I'm sort of a regular, as I head up to the Manistee River area every fall to fish for king salmon on the fly. However, I've become doubtful lately due to a few very poor runs of late. Thankfully, Chad put that to rest this year.

"So far, the season is way ahead of schedule," Betts said. "Usually, they start around September 10, but this year, they really took off in August. Last year was average, the year before was brutal, but this year is above above-average. The number of fish is normal, but the size is just unbelievable."

Michigan king salmon
Betts Guide Service - Michigan Steelhead, Salmon, and Trout Guides.

I was surprised listening to Betts share how busy he's been, even with his five-boat operation. "Right now I'm 80 percent booked," Betts said. "I'm booked up every weekend through mid-October, but currently I do still have some weekday availability available."

As he continued to share more information, I actually stopped the conversation and asked if he was comfortable sharing what he saying. I didn't want him giving up any trade secrets of putting clients on fish, but he insisted it was no problem. He says the next rain northern Michigan gets will flood the system.  Next, he explained how to catch them.

The Tactics

Betts says there's really only three ways to catch these big Michigan king salmon. Right now, every client Betts or his crew are takes out is fishing one of these styles.

1. ThunderSticks 

He says the easiest and most effective way is throwing ThunderSticks across current through deep holes where you can't see the bottom. Normally they throw them from about 6:30-10 a.m. He says this part of the season is the best because anglers can draw a reaction strike.

2. Skein and bobber

They also use red-dyed skein positioned below a float about 4-5 feet down. From there, they find the deepest holes and let them float through, rarely going setting floats any deeper.

3. Chuck-and-duck fly fishing 

He says often times they'll use a fly rod with a 30-pound fluorescent fluoro leader tied down to a 10-pound tippet. Then they'll tie off a trout bead or egg pattern with a hex nymph or stone fly as a dropper.

Michigan king salmon
Betts Guide Service - Michigan Steelhead, Salmon, and Trout Guides.

As Betts told me several times, right now is the time to head up to the Manistee River for an opportunity to catch bigger Michigan king salmon than anyone's seen in a long time. Coho are also in the waterway and brown trout are mixed in there as well.

If you would like to hear more from Betts, he offers up-to-date fishing reports on his website, as well as his fishing predictions for the upcoming months. You can also find him on Facebook for pictures of the day's catch.


It's the Year For Big Michigan King Salmon and Here's How to Catch Them