Every time I do it, I think I should do it more often.
Flinging flies for bluegills, that is.
Our suddenly summer weather has the largest panfish in any body of water finning in the shallows right now. The catching for buster-sized 'gills is hardly ever easier.
All tactics from spinning with tiny floats to cane poles without weight on the line work great right now. Bait choices are endless with wigglers, waxworms and redworms some of the favorites. Small jigs and fake baits like Gulp! work well too.
Most exciting is watching the wide-bodied little battlers attack a surface bug. Small cork poppers on a size No. 8 hook draw the splashiest strikes, although sponge spiders are a bit more effective, especially when sitting just under the surface film upon soaking up a bit of water.
White or yellow poppers and spiders with contrasting feathers or rubber legs offer top visibility, but natural greens and browns inspire more confidence.
The best part of fly fishing for 'gills is they're generally indiscriminate. They don't seem to care if you can delicately land a bug or regularly make splat-landings like me. The first several in a group will eagerly nail whatever lands nearby, however it lands.
Still, to extend the catching, fish the edges of a spawning cluster first — and do it from as far away as you can comfortably cast — before closing in and working the middle beds. If the fishing slows, slink away, rest them and return for more in a half-hour or so.
Bluegill spawning colonies, which typically host a couple dozen fish but can number 100 or more on large lakes, are typically found in one to three feet of water. A firm bottom is preferred, but is not necessary. Areas of sparse lilies can be good as well as the inside (shore side) of thicker pad fields. The key to a prime spawning site is close proximity to deeper water.
A quality pair of sunglasses is extremely helpful in spotting the saucer-size spawning depressions, then the fish themselves.
Bedding 'gills often mean big bass, too. Many times the heaviest largemouth I'd catch in a season would be lurking along a drop-off immediately outside an active bluegill colony. A weightless Senko or plastic worm is hard to beat, although bladed swim jigs rolled along the weak breaks sucker plenty of four- and five-pounders, too.
On Lake Michigan, charters were filling limits with lakers, ranging in size from five to 15 pounds in 80 to 100 feet of water. All four of the other species — chinook, coho, steelhead and brown trout — are available in limited numbers inside 55 feet of water from the Michigan City harbor to Burns Ditch. Early and late in the day have been productive, with most action on spoons set 20 to 40 feet down.
A few Skamania have been caught off the pier and in Trail Creek, although its still way early. I did see a guy carrying one off the pier on Wednesday that looked as long as his leg, which served as a reminder that the biggest Skamania often used to be among the first to return each summer.
Week 3 winners in the Coho Capital Derby, who have also claimed the overall lead in the free, five-week contest, were Will Dabkowski of Michigan City with a 15-pound, 12-ounce salmon and Larry Richmann of La Porte with an 18-pound, seven-ounce trout. The CCD awards $100 for the largest salmon and trout caught each week plus an additional $500 for the largest of each overall. Weigh station is the MC Port Authority gas dock, and the rules are at www.michigancitylaporte.com.
Captain Bill Wiesemann of Cloud Nine charters claimed the Grand Champion title with a 17-pound, four-ounce lake trout in the 42nd annual Great Lakes Shrine Association Big Fish Derby on May 19 and 20 in Michigan City.
June 4 and 5 is a free fishing weekend in Indiana. Residents are not required to have a fishing license or salmon stamp, although all other regulations apply. Michigan's free weekend, which includes non-residents, is June 11 and 12.
Smoked Salmon Smackdown IV, a culinary event for fish-tasting aficionados, is set for June 8. For details, see www.hoosiercohoclub.org. The June 8 HCC meet also features local experts with tips for catching more Skamania steelhead from shore, trolling for big lakers and how to consistently catch perch. CCD awards will also be presented.
Indiana spring turkey harvest stats were released by the Department of Natural Resources this week and the total kill was 12,081 gobblers, up slightly from 11,853 in 2015. An estimated 57,332 hunters participated in the spring season, which puts the success rate at 21 percent. The two-day, youth-only portion of the season accounted for 1,430 turkeys.
The DNR has also hired, after lengthy neglect, a state deer biologist and a mammalogist. Both Joe Caudell (deer) and Taylor Rasmussen (small mammals) come with advanced degrees and experience. See dnr.IN.gov for the news release.