Anglers from a few different places caught steelhead all over during the 28th annual Skamania Mania fishing contest weighing in at Michigan City last weekend.
Visitors from four states claimed top prizes in the free event hosted by the Northwest Indiana Steelheaders. Winning steelies came from boats at Portage, Michigan City and St. Joseph, Mich. along with shore-caught beauties from Salt Creek in Valparaiso, Trail Creek in Michigan City and the St. Joseph River in Mishawaka.
Drew Waning of Stevensville, Mich., caught the best Skamania of the Saturday-Sunday contest, a wide-bodied 15-pound, nine-ounce brute, which was good for a $200 Bass Pro Shops' gift card.
"It hit a UV Caramel Dolphin Stingray down 50 feet in 150 feet of water," Waning, who fished aboard Double Header out of St. Joe. "We were marking fish 40 to 80 feet down, caught some steelies down there and also hooked two big kings."
Notably, the big steelie was a bit too greedy as 10 fresh, seven-inch alewives were discovered stuffed in its stomach when filleted. The gluttonous appetite may also explain why it was larger than most steelhead.
True to the boat name, a second winner, the 13-pound, eight-ounce third place fish was also caught aboard Double Header by Eric Bauchet of Stevensville.
The second place steelhead was caught in the Michigan City harbor by Sergey Salnikov of Maineville, Ohio.
"We make several trips up here a year (from southwest Ohio)," wife and interpreter Irina said. "We caught three using shrimp."
Second place received a $50 gift card and was secured with additional drama.
"They (DNR clerk) checked and weighed our fish, but didn't tie up the stringer when they put the fish back in," Irina recalled. "I tried to step on the (stringer) rope as it slid in (to the harbor) but the fish sank out of sight, then Sergey's friend dove in to save them."
Bass Pro Shop cards went to the top 12 steelies (third through 12th were $25 each) while the 13th-best steelhead received a $200 rod and reel.
Tristan Weaver of Lakeville, Ind., slipped into the lucky 13th spot with a nine-pound, eight-ounce Skamania landed in Trail Creek.
As always, there were plenty of stories of bigger, lost steelies, particularly in the cramped quarters of local creeks. And predictably, smothering hot weather shut down the stream and shore fishing bite at mid-morning on Saturday.
Nearly 30 steelhead were donated by anglers during the contest and were processed by the Steelheaders to be used as part of the Indiana Department of Natural Resource's annual Wild Game Cookout at the State Fair in August.
Skamania Mania Winners
1. Drew Waning, Stevensville, Mich., 15 pounds, 9 ounces
2. Sergey Salinikov, Maineville, Ohio, 14-10
3. Eric Bauchet, Stevensville, Mich., 13-8
4. David Arnott, Frankfort, Ill., 12-14
5. Jarrett Carlson, Darien, Ill., 12-13
6. Noah Tabler, Walkerton, Ind., 12-4
7. Dylan Schuman, Michigan City, 11-9
8. Brett Hoover, Hanna, Ind., 11-7
9. Dan Messina, Michigan City, 10-13
10. Roger Hinchcliff, Willis, Mich., 10-9
11. Jacob Tabler, LaPorte, Ind., 10-0
12. Scott Cerajewski, LaPorte, Ind.,10-0
13. Tristan Weaver, Lakeville, Ind., 9-11
*Note: ties decided as first fish weighed gets higher place.
Credit Todd Hatfield of Trail Creek Guide Service for aptly describing some of the knucklehead scofflaws on area waters last weekend.
Hatfield had just seen a guy at the most popular hole on Trail carrying a crossbow with bowfishing reel attached. "The googanry is starting out with a bang this year," Hatfield posted on Facebook.
Of course, bowfishing and/or possessing such equipment is illegal on Lake Michigan tributaries like Trail Creek.
According to Urban Dictionary (www.urbandictionary.com), a googan is a fishing term for lowlife, shore (bank) fishermen who baitfish typically without a license, regard to regulations, and etiquette towards other people, especially other fishermen following the rules.
The bowfisherman was just the beginning of the Saturday shenanigans as a pair of pseudo anglers were ticketed for fishing between the No Fishing signs at the Springland Ave. lamprey barrier and an intoxicated pair crashed their boat into the breakwall.
To top things off, two googans were apprehended spear fishing underwater near the Michigan City Lighthouse. They had eight smallmouth bass, one largemouth bass and a gizzard shad in their possession.
Altogether, there were four guys snorkeling in wetsuits, reportedly swimming among legitimate fisherman's lines, before Indiana Conservation officers were alerted. Two individuals claimed the fish and are charged with taking sportfish by illegal fishing methods.
ICO's usually do not pile on charges, but it appears the two were over the limit (3 bass per day on Lake Michigan) and a few of the fish were undersized (minimum size to keep is 14 inches). There could also be restitution involved.
Indiana fishing regulations can be viewed at www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/2348.htm.
If you see illegal or suspicious activity, call your Conservation Officers at 879-5710 or 1-800-TIP-IDNR (800-847-4367).