Is there a 30-pound chinook salmon to be caught along the Michigan City lakefront?
Probably, albeit the odds of hooking -- then landing -- such a brute are slim. Returns to Trail Creek have been poor for many years.
Conversely, chinook have been impressively large this year and the next month or so may be the last, best chance to battle a fish of a lifetime due to recent stocking cuts.
The northern part of Lake Michigan, where kings stage sooner and more predictably, has been producing many tremendous salmon.
"We've weighed somewhere between 70 and 100 into our 30-pound club," Cory Houser at Captain Chuck's tackle shop in Ludington, Mich., said this week.
That is remarkable given a 25-pounder was big news just a few years ago. Check out Captain Chuck's Facebook page for a gander at the mega-salmon, which seem to be registered every day boaters can get out on the lake.
"Biggest was a 37.3 caught by one of your guys in the Ludington Classic," Houser said.
Indeed, captain Bill Dodrill and crew aboard Michigan City boat My Tyme landed the largest chinook of the year July 20.
"Came on a 400-foot copper in 120 feet of water, meat rig, Spin Doctor with Familiar Bite herring," Dodrill said. "I'm told its the biggest ever in the 333 (tournament) and the Classic."
The 75-year old Dodrill, who resides in Valparaiso, had an incredible tournament season in 2019. Besides the heaviest salmon recorded in competition, My Tyme placed second, third and fourth (twice) in two-day port contests as well as winning the 333 South Division Championship along with many top finishes in Big Fish and 333 categories.
"It was a great year, especially for big chinook," Dodrill said. "Altogether, I think we landed six over 30 pounds."
Again, the kings are as big as ever this year, although they've been rare at Michigan City since they left the Indiana shallows in May.
It's time for the big boys to return. September into early October is spawn-run time on Trail Creek. The best bite along the Michigan City lakefront typically comes on the heel of water-cooling, offshore winds (south, southeast or east).
We had some lake turnover early this week, which prompted a good steelhead and coho bite on the pier and in the harbor. The big kings are never far behind.
The impact of lakewide stocking cuts, which were decided a few years ago, won't be felt locally for another year.
There were around 68,000 kings stocked in Trail Creek in 2016, which will be the big mature bruisers and another 63,000 in 2017, which should also be decent-sized salmon. Those stocking numbers are similar to the number of kings released for decades in Michigan City.
However, zero chinook were stocked locally in 2018 as Indiana is currently on a plan to stock its' quota (60,00-75,000 per year) at either the Little Calumet River or Trail Creek on a bi-annual basis.
Due to the size of the salmon this season, a prime indicator of alewife (prey) abundance, many anglers are clamoring for states to increase stockings.
Lake Michigan Committee chair Jeremy Price says there will be a modest increase in 2020
"For Indiana, that means adding back about half of the fish that we cut in 2016 (Indiana stocked 200,000 kings split between three ports in 2016) and we’ll focus our efforts on increasing chinooks," Price said. "The hatchery production details still need to be worked out but we’d really like to get back to stocking all three ports if possible. As long as things keep trending the right direction, we’d be open to more increases in subsequent years."
The Lake Michigan Committee Salmonine Stocking Strategy, finalized in 2018, can be viewed at; http://www.glfc.org/pubs/lake_committees/michigan/LMC%20-%20PPR%20Strategy%20November%202018_Final.pdf.
To view the stocking data base of all fish stocked in the Great Lakes, see http://www.glfc.org/fishstocking/exactsearch.htm.
Dove season opens today in Indiana, Canada geese and teal open Sept. 14.
A free steelhead fishing seminar is set for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday st the Westchester Service Center, 100 W. Indiana Ave. in Chesterton as part of the Northwest Indiana Steelheaders monthly meeting, which is open to the public.
Notable river fishing authority and rousing talker Roger Hinchcliff will be the featured speaker.
The Galena River Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation will host its annual, free Jake's Day of archery, clay birds and BB gun instruction and practice on Sept. 7 at Kingsbury Fish and Wildlife Area. For more information, see Galena River Chapter Facebook page.
A Family Learn to Shoot program will be held at Kingsbury on Sept. 18. Basic firearm and archery safety, shooting techniques, shot placement and firearm maintenance will be covered. To register, contact Ron Lorman at RLorman@dnr.IN.gov or (219) 393-3612.
The annual free Art Kreighbaum Memorial Youth Pheasant Hunt is set for Oct. 5 at Deer Creek Hunt Club in Three Oaks, Mich. To register, contact Rick Glassman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 575-0574.