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Detroit River Walleye Fishing

The Steel Mill. Fighting Island. Detroit is such a badass city even the fishing holes have hardcore names. I’m used to “country” fishing. Where hotspots have nicknames like bass cove or pike point. Where it’s not uncommon to see whitetails eating breakfast in the thin morning mist. Or listening to loons call back and forth across the lake.

Sunrise on the Detroit RiverThe industrial and gritty feel of city fishing is a new gig for me. No sissy deer. Only bulldozers moving smoking piles of ash. No eerie, lonely calls from Loons. Only the rumble of smelting steel and numerous outboards over the backdrop of crunchy waves smacking against the rusty shore.

Steel Mill marked the hot spotBut it’s still fishing. And lucky for me the walleye don’t care what’s going on above the waves. They’re are programed to spawn. So what if it’s in the back yard of sky scrapers and massive freighters? It’s their river. But today they shared it with hundreds of anglers.

Jake and I launched from Sinbads around 6:45 am. The water was stained, green and calm when we stopped at the Steel Mill for our first drifts of the day. We used with bright colored jigs, chartreuse, white and orange, each tipped with a rubber worm and a minnow. Jake put the first fish in the boat. A small walleye so pale his lateral line stood out in stark contrast against his silvery skin. He looked more like a Snook than the yellowish rough-skinned wally’s I’m used to. Just after I set him free I snapped off my jig in a snag. I grabbed another rod and lowered an all natural brown jig combo to the bottom. Within minutes I won a battle with this ugly beast.

Big old sucker fishThis big old sucker made a mess spraying eggs all over the floor of the boat. Then a lamprey released from her side and wiggled around in the roe. It was pretty gross. We snapped a photo of big mamma and put her back into the water as I apologized a thousand times for filling the carpet with caviar. Jake just laughed.

We drifted the Steel Mill a few more times and Jake put two nice eyes in the boat. Every so often I’d look up from intently watching my line. Each time the number of boats multiplied until a solid string of double-parked vessels made a haphazard line along the shore.

Fighting island was our next stop. I added a fish to the livewell with a white and orange jig but we didn’t stay long. The chop from so many boats running back and forth made for tough fishing. We headed back up-river to drift behind Chene Park. And things got a little interesting.

Walleye fishing in the shadow of SkyscrapersIt was close to 11 am by this point and folks had gathered on the shore to cast a line, walk their dogs and model on a park bench. That’s right. Model. A beautiful young lady flipped her skirt back and forth as the wind tossed her hair around. She flirted with the camera in a series of stunning poses catching the attention of more than one angler. I was “surveying the scene” when I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. I watched as a dude on another boat set the hook. One of the numerous rods resting along the handrails on the river walk slowly started to lift off the ground. Feeling tension on the line the guy in the boat excitedly starting reeling. In an instant the shore bound rod flew into the air, over the rail and disappeared into the water. We started up the motor to head further up-river as the anglers exchanged a few pleasantries.

Our last drifts were right back where we started from. Sinbad’s was hosting a tourney so Jake and I listened to the returning anglers shout their numbers. Only one boat, with two guys, boasted a full limit but everybody ended the day with a few fish. Jake hooked the fourth and final walleye for our boat adding a little more interest to the cooler.

Walleye in the coolerOn the way home I stopped by a Detroit classic, Lafayette Coney Island. “Two on one, heavy heavy” with a beer is a hell of a way to end a day on the river. I think I could get used to this city fishing stuff.

Two on one, heavy, beer


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