The best sporting weekend of the year is here.
Dove season opened Thursday, Canada geese on Saturday and lots of salmon and steelhead are crowding near shore on the heels of favorable water temperatures.
All the inland species — bass, bluegill, crappie and their ilk should perk up, too, with cooler temps.
Is there any better way to start a hunting season than trying to catch up with dipsy-doodling doves? Get your swing zeroed on the diminutive speedsters and everything else you shoot at this fall becomes so much easier.
Indiana's season for the plentiful dove is Sept. 1 through Oct. 16, Nov. 1-13 and Dec. 10-Jan. 8. Bag limit is 15 per day.
As I write this early Thursday, I'm hoping to catch the evening flight at a local wheat field. Right now, I'd pass on the best $35 filet mignon for a platter of doves done right.
The only question is whether to roast the bacon-wrapped, jalapeno-stuffed little delicacies on the grill or in the smoker.
Sure hope the cooler temperatures haven't pushed too many doves south.
Canada geese and teal start this weekend, with Canada's shortened to Sept. 3-11 (previously 15 days in September), but still with a five-goose limit during the early season. Teal ducks are legal Sept. 3-18 with a six-bird bag. Both restart in the North Zone on Oct. 22 with the regular waterfowl season.
Best advice for waterfowl hunters this weekend is use plenty of bug repellant. Massive mosquito swarms have returned with a vengeance in recent days after a relatively dry and pest-free summer.
Most welcome news this week is salmon and steelhead were in reach of shore anglers. Chinook, coho and steelhead were caught on the pier and in the harbor, thanks mostly to an upwelling which brought water temps in the 40s up to 25 feet at mid week. Not sure what the north winds will do to the situation this weekend, but if it remains from the northeast it typically continues to push warm surface water down the shore to the west.
Salmon fishing from shore has already been better than last year.
"This is the second one I've caught this August (at the pier)," Jeremy Ross of Lafayette, said on Wednesday as he hefted a 12-pound king into the back of his truck. "It makes two more than I caught all last September."
Easy to cast spoons like K.O.'s and Cleo's in green/glow color patterns are staples for night fishing and at daybreak. Plugs and spinners work well, too, often in firetiger, chartreuse and gold combinations during the day.
And of course, floating a gob of spawn, shrimp or nightcrawler under a bobber is hard to beat for steelies and coho, while chinook seem to prefer the offerings just off bottom.
Colder water temps also mean the fish are right there for small boat trollers in depth of 12 to 50 feet of water.
The good part is you're almost assuredly hooking into mature fish this time of year — chinook from 10 to 20 pounds, coho up to 10 and steelies of eight to 12 pounds. Labor Day weekend last year we even caught a pair of 13-pound lakers to go with a couple of mature kings in the teens within 100 yards of the breakwall.
Fair numbers of steelhead, coho and chinook are in Trail Creek, too. Particularly the lower stretches right now. Again, be prepared for skeeters.
• Calendar marks: The Salmon Slam fishing contest is Sept. 10 in Michigan City (www.hoosiercohoclub.org), Pheasants Forever fundraising banquet is Sept. 10 in LaPorte (219-362-7620). Youth Day at the Range is Sept. 11 at Kingsbury Fish & Wildlife Area (219-393-3612).