Lake Michigan fishing is much better with a buzz on.
That is, with a burly chinook or streaking steelhead making the reel drag go buzz, buzz, buzzzzzzzz.
It is something that was sorely missing last year. On the few days when you could find them in 2015, the salmon were small and the steelhead scrawny. Most trips were relegated to dragging in bottom-dwelling lake trout.
Not that I dislike lakers. They are large, impressive-looking fish, but they have nowhere near the sizzle of silvery salmon and steelies.
Gratefully, I've been lake trout-free for the past month. The chinook fishing has been that good. And Skamania have created a stir in recent days.
For certain, there have been a couple two-fish trips the past month, but there has been more 10-12 in the box, including a half-dozen chinook, which makes things very interesting. And its all been inside 50 feet of water.
There is a ton of alewives and baitfish near shore right now, and they should stay here well into the summer provided we don't have any unforseen weather extremes The salmon have been right in with the bait in 20 to 40 feet early and late in the day, then seemingly hanging a bit deeper after the first hour or so after sunrise and a similar time period before sunset. Keep an eye on the water temps at www.greatlakebuoy.org to key in on the thermocline, which has been just 20 to 30 feet down the past week.
Monday evening, magnum-sized, blue dolphin pattern spoons were best for kings at 45 feet on a downrigger and trailing behind 200 feet of copper in 50 feet of water. Earlier this month, Dreamweaver Super Slim-sized spoons in Wrecking Ball and Toxic Toad patterns were hot in the 25 to 30-foot zone, either on 'riggers or long lines.
Skamania started to show last weekend and were attacking the chinook baits along with red, J-13 rapalas and magnum red spoons on surface or shore lead-core lines.
And the fish have been nice-sized compared to last season. I've seen several Skamania in the teens and the two main chinook groups are going five to seven pounds and 10 to 13, although several bruisers have been caught.
Mike Taylor had a 17-pound, 12-ounce chinook last weekend aboard Boatre Dame and a 21-5 (caught near St. Joe, Mich.) was registered for the local big fish contest, Several other 20-plus kings from along the Michigan coast have popped up on Facebook this week.
Skamania steelhead have been good on the Michigan City pier, in the harbor and up Trail Creek at various times in the past week. Whether this is just an early surge, on a month-long parade of good steelhead fishing for shore anglers remains to be seen.
Gladly, its already been a better year than last, and might just get better. It is time to get a buzz on.
Week 4 winners in the Coho Capital Derby, which have also claimed the overall lead in the free, five-week contest, which concludes at 4 p.m. on Sunday, were Chris Reid of Scotsville, Mich., with a 21-pound, five-ounce chinook salmon and Angela Potter of Bedford, Iowa, with a 18-14 lake 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, rules are at www.michigancitylaporte.com.
This is a free fishing weekend (June 4-5) 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 11-12.
The Michiana Steelheader's Youth Tournament is set for June 18 and features low entry fees and bundles of prizes with boats allowed to start from Michigan City, New Buffalo and St. Joseph. For more information, contact Josh Wilson at 574-876-7034.
Skamania Mania, the 26th annual free fishing contest organized by the Northwest Indiana Steelheaders, is June 25-26. For more information, see www.nwisteelheaders.org.
Smoked Salmon Smackdown IV is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday (June 8) at the Hoosier Coho Club meeting, 121 Skwiat Legion Ave., in Michigan City.
Born out of a friendly "my smoked fish is better than yours" challenge several years ago, the HCC culinary event is open to the public. There is a $2 admission to sample and judge. Entry into the competition is free.
At stake are swaggering rights as well as $77.77 for first place and $33.33 for second.
If you have a good recipe, bring it. If you enjoy eating smoked salmon, come on out. If you're looking to elevate your own recipe, don't miss it.
Complete SSS II rules are at www.hoosiercohoclub.org.
Wednesday's HCC meeting will also feature fishing tips and discussions on steelhead from shore, perch and lake trout by local experts Mary Ryba, Dan Messina and Craig Koepke.
Winning captains and weights in the 42nd annual Great Lakes Shrine Association Big Fish Derby held in Michigan City on May 19-20 were:
Chinook: 1. Jeff Dabkowski (Oakley) 15.45 pounds; 2. Tyler Kreighbaum (Tight Line) 13.15; 3. Steve Cole (Way 2 Bad) 13.15.
Lake Trout: 1. Bill Wiesemann (Cloud Nine) 17.4; 2 Ian Stewart (King Saluki) 16.75; 3. B. Wiesemann (Cloud Nine) 16.3.
Steelhead: 1. Steve Kreighbaum (Crorkindill) 6.25; 2. Bob Kelsey (Wing It) 5.6; 3. S. Kreighbaum (Crorkindill) 4.1.
Coho: 1. T, Kreighbaum (Tight Line); 2. T. Kreighbaum (Tight Line) 4.55; 3. S. Cole (Way 2 Bad) 4.5.
Brown Trout: 1. S. Cole (Way 2 Bad) 11.9; 2. Bob Macher (Never Happy) 9.0; 3. Jeff Smith (Flapper) 5.45.