Why Travel For Great Lakes Carp?

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Photo by Justin Watkins

By Jason Tucker

Everyone has a bucket list.

For most of us that includes the Bahamas or a similar destination for bonefish. Carp fishing the flats in the Great Lakes should also be on that list. Why?

Crystal clear water in an other-worldly setting. Once you get out on those flats you’ll forget you’re in the Midwest and swear you’re in the salt. Clear water, gulls and terns, wind and waves, but no insidious salt to wash off at the end of each day.

Sight fishing. Sight fishing clear water to spooky fish is the Grail of flats fisherman. Lake Michigan offers it up in spades, and with hundreds of miles of flats available, you’ll often have them to yourself.

Large numbers of big fish. Occasionally you’ll be casting to strays. Most of the time you’ll have dozens to several hundred fish swimming around you, and the challenge will be to pick one and not spook the rest. Peeling off fish from the edges of the larger group is often the key. Lake Michigan fish average about 15 pounds, but 25-pounders are common, and fish up to 55 pounds are present. Bonus smallmouth that average 4-5 pounds don’t hurt either.

The Challenge. Carp are picky eaters and spook easily. Splat your fly too hard and you can spook every fish off the flat. Once you hook up they will test your tippet and your drag, often taking you deep into your backing. Couple that with casting into a twenty-knot wind and carp fishing the flats can test and improve all of your skills.

Hire a Guide. Carp in Lake Michigan are always looking for warm water. A flat that is covered in fish one day can be empty the next due to a shift in wind. Hiring a guide can ensure that you see and present to fish no matter the wind or other factors. Here are some good guide services for the different flats areas.

Traverse City. The Northern Angler fly shop and guide service. Phone: (231) 933-4730. A good bunch of guys. Brian Pitser has built a nice shop here and Traverse Bay offers the most extensive flats in Lake Michigan.

Beaver Island. Indigo Guide Service. Phone: (231) 898-4320. Guides Kevin Morlock and Steve Martinez pioneered what is the most exotic destination for carp in North America, and also offers up the largest fish that regularly top 35 pounds. It’s a remote location with a quirky population and history that still offers good dining and lodging. If you only plan to go to the Great Lakes once for carp, this should be your trip. Chances are it will become annual.

Wilderness State Park: Boyne Outfitters. Phone (855) 420-9043. Waugoshaunce Point is the mainland continuation of the Beaver Island archipelago. While it “only” has about 15 miles of shoreline, it has numerous back bays and other features that hold carp by the hundred. It’s a great do-it-yourself destination, but let Ethan Winchester and crew take you straight to the fish.

Jason writes the fine blog Fontinalis Rising

Jason Tucker

Gink & Gasoline
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5 thoughts on “Why Travel For Great Lakes Carp?

  1. Pingback: Tippets: Great Lakes Carp, Leader Modification, Tenkara in 2016 | MidCurrent

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