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We'd like to let you in on a little fishing secret -- splake at Hessel
Do you know what splake are? This brook and lake trout hybrid is a unique fish in Michigan, reared at Marquette State Fish Hatchery and stocked in several Upper Peninsula locations every year.
Many anglers talk excitedly about fishing for and catching splake, with one destination in particular producing outstanding opportunities to reel in a big one.
“Fishing for splake out of Hessel is a great experience,” said Mike Ferguson, a DNR creel clerk who covers the ports of Cedarville, Hessel and DeTour. “Since 2015, I’ve noticed the fish being caught here have been getting bigger and bigger and bigger.”
Just how big? How about Master Angler size?
Numerous Master Angler splake have been caught out of Lake Huron off Hessel (Mackinac County), meaning they’re a minimum of 25 inches in length. The biggest is a 34.5-inch fish caught there in 2016. Most fish caught here range from 25 to 29 inches.
Ok, so there are big splake to be found at Hessel…but when should you target them?
“During a normal spring, splake come into Hessel Marina in Hessel Bay, just after the ice goes out,” Ferguson explained. “The best baits to use are natural or artificial spawn, or you can troll for them while using hard baits throughout Hessel and Wilderness bays.”
Missed that window? You can catch splake at this spot during the rest of the year as well, just pay attention to water temperatures. When those temps reach 55 to 58 degrees, the splake will begin to move out into Wilderness Bay and can be caught while trolling at Point Brule.
“Anglers are very excited to fish for splake here, especially since their sizes started going up a few years ago,” said Ferguson. “Clearly the opportunity to target them has always been there as we stock splake right in Hessel, but it’s even more exciting based on the current size of these fish.”
Again, keep track of those water temperatures! When things start to warm up those fish will head towards Lake Huron, but they’ll hug around rocky structure points. Unlike the one half of their parentage, the lake trout who will want open water, splake will hug the shoreline, especially as that water warms up.
When the water is still pretty cold, Ferguson (who interviews anglers all fishing season long to find out what is biting, when, where and on what) gets numerous reports of anglers taking splake in as little as six to eight feet. Once they start moving towards the big lake you can find them in 12 to 20 feet of water.
Think you’ve caught a Master Angler splake? Check out the instructions for submitting it at Michigan.gov/MasterAngler.