Carp Fishing on Lake Michigan

Dick Dragiewicz

Do you want to catch big fish with your fly rod? I mean really big fresh water fish that start weighing in around five or six pounds and frequently exceed twenty pounds. These are fish that will really test your fishing equipment, especially your leader knots and the drag system on your reel. And, you can do this fishing while wearing a T–Shirt and windbreaker
jacket, not in the heavy winter clothes you wear while steelhead fishing.

If this sounds like the kind of fishing you want to do, then you want to start wading the beaches of Lake Michigan looking for BIG CARP. We did and it was a lot of fun.

Four of us went on a CARP FISHING weekend just after the fourth of July. Our motivation for the trip was the Pat Ehlers “Fishing Wisconsin” slide presentation we had seen earlier in the year. We scheduled a guided trip with Pat Ehlers and Matt Panosh, one of his guides.

Harry Blessing, Jim Eubanks, Paul Melchior and Dick Dragiewicz met Pat Ehlers [last month’s speaker] at the designated lake front beach area one morning for the start of the CARP FISHING adventure. The photos show some of
the results of this exciting two day trip.

Fly fishing equipment used for these big carp is essentially the same stuff you use for salmon, steelhead, and bass. You’ll want to use a fly rod in the 7 to 9 weight range with a matching floating line and a reel with a good strong drag system. Your reel will need to have at least 100 yards of twenty to thirty pound backing – preferably you’ll have 150 yards of backing. The carp will easily take out your fly line and 100 yards of backing before you know it. The speed and distance they travel generally exceeds the runs of salmon and steelhead. Nine foot leaders tapered down to 10 to 15 pound tippets will hold these fish. Salt water leaders are designed to meet this requirement. Flies e.g., woolly buggers, crayfish patterns, clouser patterns, streamers, etc., should be weighted so they can be placed in front of the feeding carp and then very slowly crawled along the bottom. Flies with weed guards are helpful. And, you should consider tying your flies on the tippet with a loop knot to provide additional action when it’s retrieved.

And, before starting to fish you need to make sure all of your knots are perfect and are certain they won’t break. No room for errors on these big fish.

You’ll be casting short distances to feeding carp that you can see swimming in the Lake Michigan beaches. Look for beaches that have some rock structure that attract hungry carp to the crayfish and nymphs that live there. Start your sight fishing by wading the beach areas until you see the carp. Then gently cast your fly in front of the spooky, feeding fish, let the fly settle on the bottom and then start pulling the fly very, very, very slowly along the bottom. Then hang on to your rod. When the carp takes the fly and starts moving away from you it will travel a 100 yards in what seems like a split second. Now it’s your turn to try and persuade the fish to come back to you.

If you are looking for more information on fly fishing for carp in the Great Lakes check out some of recent issues of he fly fishing magazines. Or better yet, give Pat Ehlers a call. The phone number of his fly fishing shop (The Fly Fishers) is 414-259-8100.

Dick Dragiewicz is an EDTU member.