Wakeley's short season long on fish


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Nov 18, 2002
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Wakeley's short season long on fish

July 30, 2004


If you're looking for a rustic campground with excellent warm-water fishing for really big bluegills, try Wakeley Lake, located 10 miles east of Grayling.

The fishing is all catch-and-release with artificial lures, and the season is open for a mere 10 weeks.

Wakeley requires a bit more effort than most lakeside camping. Campers must leave their cars at the parking area off M-72 and walk a bit more than a quarter-mile to the water.

No motors are allowed, not even electrics, and boats, canoes, kayaks and camping gear must be carried to the water or pulled on small carts.

Camping at Wakeley is backcountry style, and anglers must bring their own drinking water and anything else they will need. A country store is available about three miles away at the intersection of M-72 and Stephan Bridge Road.

The trip is worth the effort, especially this summer, when the temperatures in northern Michigan have been unusually cool. Wakeley has remained productive in the daytime far later than most years.

The Wakeley Lake Foot Travel Area was a private hunting camp until the federal government bought it 20 years ago and removed the lodge and outbuildings. It is open to fishing from June 15 to Aug. 31.

I will always have fond memories of Wakeley Lake because it's where I caught the biggest bluegill of my life, a 12 1/2 -inch fish that took a popper I was casting with a 3-weight fly rod.

I've caught 10-pound bass on bigger fly rods that didn't fight harder than that bluegill, and while I didn't weigh it, I'm sure it went close to two pounds. Bluegills longer than 10 inches are uncommon anywhere, but Wakeley Lake probably offers as good a chance to catch one as any waters in Michigan.

The lake also has a good population of northern pike that run 12-24 inches and largemouth bass that top out at about four pounds, although about four years ago I caught one that weighed five pounds.

On a recent sunny afternoon I got to the lake about 4 p.m., carrying an inflatable cataraft. Wakeley Lake has a maximum depth of about 12 feet, but on this day I started by throwing a black rubber spider on a fly rod along the edges of the reeds, picking up several sunfish that topped out at about eight inches.

I switched the spider for a small yellow popper and added a black woolly worm as a dropper on two feet of line directly off the popper hook. It took a half-dozen casts before the popper was pulled under by something that hit the black woolly worm. The culprit turned out to be a 10-inch largemouth. In the next two hours, I caught and released a dozen sub-legal bass and as many bluegills and pumpkinseeds. Three of the bluegills were nine to 10 1/2 inches.

Wakeley also offers more than 15 miles of excellent hiking and mountain-biking trails, and I've seen people riding to the campsites with their tents and float tubes on bike trailers.

Contact ERIC SHARP at 313-222-2511 or esharp@freepress.com.

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