The article "It’s clear: Underrated carp offers game-fishing challenge" by Eric Sharp appeared in the Detroit Free Press on July 24th, 2008.
It’s clear: Underrated carp offers game-fishing challenge
Beaver Island — If you showed a picture of this place to an experienced saltwater angler, he’d almost certainly say it was taken in the Florida Keys or somewhere else in the tropics.
On a virtually windless day, the surface was flat and the water so clear that every pebble was visible on the bottom 20 feet below.
And as Kevin Morlock eased his skiff onto a shallow flat where the water was about three feet deep, we saw a couple of long, dark shapes that moved over the bottom while the black
Kevin Morlock has started a new guide service on the clear, rocky shallows around the Beaver Island archipelago, fishing for carp, which he says is the most underrated game fish in North America.
shadows cast by underwater rocks stayed still.
The moving shapes were good-sized examples of America’s most underrated game fish, a species that lends itself to stalking and sight fishing just like stalking bones in the Keys — the noble carp.
There probably is no place in world better suited to this kind of fishing than northern lakes Michigan and Huron. And the Beaver Island archipelago, a cluster of islands 10-30 miles off the northwest tip of the Lower Peninsula, may well offer the best of the best.
"The conditions really look good," fishing guide Kevin Morlock said as we ran across Lake Michigan toward a flat on the south side of Garden Island about three miles from Beaver Island’s St. James Harbor. "This is the lightest wind we’ve had for weeks. Most of this summer, the seas have been running three or four feet."
Sight fishing on clear, shallow flats requires accurate casting whether the target is carp, bonefish, tarpon or redfish. For carp and bonefish, the key is placing the fly or jig close enough to the fish’s heads that they can see it but far enough away that it doesn’t spook them.
"A lot of anglers don’t understand that casting to these fish isn’t like casting to a trout or salmon and letting the fly drift down to it. If you don’t put the fly in the teacup, you don’t have much chance of getting a take," said Morlock, who owns Indigo Guide Service on the Pere Marquette River out of Walhalla, fishing that river from the start of the mid-August salmon run through the steelhead runs in winter and spring.
The more sight casting you do, the better you get. I had made only one previous sight-casting trip this summer, mostly because the weather has been unsuitable, so I bungled some casts and scared off fish.
But I also made a number of very good casts only to see the carp ignore flies that passed within inches of their eyes.
"This is what I ran into a couple of days ago," Morlock said. "I kept changing flies, but they wouldn’t take anything we offered."
Morlock agreed with my observation that carp cruising along in a straight line at high speed will rarely turn to investigate a lure. It’s obvious that they’re on a mission and won’t be sidetracked.
So we were both surprised a little later when I made a Hail Mary cast at a carp cruising by at six knots and the fish stopped on a dime, turned and began following the fly. The carp was almost touching the crayfish pattern with its nose, and while it followed the lure for 40 feet, it wouldn’t bite and turned off as soon as it saw the boat.
"I think what happens is that when we get wind changes like we’ve had for the past couple of days, it takes the fish some time to settle down to a new (feeding) pattern," Morlock said. "I like to see the wind come steadily out of one direction for a couple of days. When we get that, I know where to find them, and they seem to feed a lot more eagerly."
British anglers have a mantra: Follow the wind. They look for bays and points where the wind concentrates food. Morlock is also so an adherent of that theory and said, "You want to find the gnarliest points and fish around them. In summer, that’s where the currents pile up the warmest water."
Morlock’s average day: dozens or even hundreds of fish sighted, 12-15 hooked up and five-10 landed and released.
This day was one of the few when the fish were widely scattered and wouldn’t touch anything we offered. But it was far from a total loss because we got to experience one of the most exceptional fishing experiences that Michigan offers, in a place that few people realize exists.
Most people who visit the islands arrive aboard a Beaver Island Boat co. ferry that makes the 33-mile trip from Charlevoix in about two hours ($46 round-trip). Another option is a 20-minute flight on Island Airways ($86 round-trip). The ferry also carries cars and boat trailers.