stevekunnath writes "
It is hard for me to think of anything more exciting than fly fishing for smallmouth bass on Lake St. Clair. Fishing for these hard fighting smallmouth bass with a fly rod is very productive and can provide some fast and furious action!
Lake St Clair is located just north of metro Detroit and Windsor Ontario, and is quickly gaining a reputation as the worlds top smallmouth bass fishery. The smallmouth bass in Lake St Clair can average 3-4 lbs, fish up to 6-7 lbs are common, and days with 25-50 fish per person are possible.
The recent introduction of the zebra mussel has dramatically increased the water clarity in the lake. This has benefited the fishery by increasing the amount of sunlight that enters the water. There is now more weed growth, and many forage species are flourishing. With the water being clearer, this greatly helps the fly fisherman who depends on visual presentation. Although no one is sure what long term biological effects this will have on Lake St Clair.
Lake St Clair covers 420 square miles, and it mainly has a featureless bottom with limited structure, which can make locating fish difficult. Smaller fish can be located anywhere in the lake through out the bass season, but the locations of the schools with mature lunkers can sometimes change daily. Unlike largemouth bass, smallmouth prefer more open areas, and are cruisers that wander around following food sources. It is highly recommended to hire a guide if you are not familiar with this fishery.
In spring smallmouth bass move into the shallows to spawn. The spawn is usually over by the opening of the bass season for Lake St Clair, and as the water temperature increases the fish start to move towards deeper cooler water through the rest of the summer. By August many of the schools of smallmouth will be in the deeper parts of the lake. With Lake St Clair remaining shallow, with an average depth of 13 feet and a maximum depth of 25 feet deep, this is a great advantage over other lakes for smallmouth fishing. In deeper lakes such as Lake Erie, by late summer the smallmouths can be seeking colder water down to thirty feet or more, which make it difficult to fly fish for them. As fall starts and water temperatures start to drop, smallmouth go on a feeding frenzy to pack on weight for winter. This can be a great time to catch some huge fish.
In Lake St Clair, some features we look for to locate smallmouths are any humps, shelves, drop offs, channels, or edges of large weed beds. Also deep areas next to a shelf or shallow area can be good. At night smallmouths in these areas like to come up onto these shallow spots and chase bait fish. Targeting these areas at dawn or dusk can be productive, and offer a chance at some aggressive top water action. For the guide service at Flymart we use a Florida style flats boat that only draws eight inches of water to target these shallow opportunities. In the shallow clear water, this is a great way to site fish. This style of boat is also very practical for use out on the big open areas of the lake.
When trying to locate fish it is best to keep moving and cover lots of water and different types of structure. Once you get into some smallmouth, start working that location hard. Usually if you get into a few fish, you will find more in the area.
The set up I use most for fly fishing for smallmouth on Lake St Clair is a 9 foot 8 weight rod that has a medium/fast or fast action. Rods in the 6 and 7 weight class can also be used, and sometimes are more fun for fighting smallmouth. Although these lighter rods make it harder to control a large fish, they are not as good in the wind (which is common on St Clair) and make it difficult to cast larger flies. An 8 weight will come in handy if you happen to hook one of the monster pike or musky that are common here. When fishing in water five feet or less or casting flies on the surface, my favorite fly line is the weight forward floating bass bug taper by Scientific Anglers. When fishing down past five feet I prefer a Teeny sinking line from 200 to 400 grains.
I carry hundreds of different fly patterns on my guide boat for Lake St Clair, although there are a few flies that seem to have the most luck. In shallow water and over weed beds, deer hair bass bugs in various colors can give some exciting top water action. Clouser minnows in natural colors work good at any depth, and crayfish patterns are excellent stripped in slowly along the bottom.
Lake St Clair is one of the worlds best smallmouth bass lakes, but it is also world famous for its giant musky, and strong populations of pike, largemouth bass and carp. All of these species can be pursued in the same day with a fly rod on this incredible lake. Whether a beginner or experienced fly fisher, Lake St Clair can offer some outstanding opportunities. So if you really want to have a great time, try fly fishing for smallmouth bass on Lake St Clair.
By Capt. Steve Kunnath
Captain Steve Kunnath runs a licensed, USGS approved, guide service on Lake St Clair and specializes in fly fishing. In addition to smallmouth bass, Capt. Kunnath puts clients on muskie, pike and carp. Visit his web site Lake St Clair Fly Fishing for more information.