Fishing Photo

Team Breaktime crew members pose with the winning catch from the 2019 Bellman Oil / Morgan’s Tackle Pro-Am in Michigan City. The winning haul included four Chinook and a 14-pound brown trout (foreground) for a total of 96.9 pounds.

Big.

It’s the best word to describe spring fishing contests in Michigan City.

Lake Michigan Chinook have been bigger than ever in recent years and show no signs of shrinking. Those big catches have led to bigger turnouts, which begets even bigger payouts.

The Hoosier Coho Club (HCC) hosts five big events within 10 days.

“We have a great lineup squeezed into one extended week,” Bruce Brown, president of the HCC said. “We think this will bring more boats to Michigan City.”

Brown added a pair of $1,000 scholarships will be awarded this spring (see note below) and first place is up to $4,000 on the amateur side of the classic while the pro champ is again guaranteed $12,000.

The Buffalo Bill Memorial kicks things off on April 24. The Buffalo Bill Memorial features silver-fish only (no lake trout) and 100 percent payback of entry fees. It is a single-day, single division contest.

Also starting April 24 and continuing through May 1 is the Coho Capital Derby (CCD), sponsored by the LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau. The free event awards $2,500 for the three largest fish in five species. Brad Kreighbaum (Fin Fire) topped the CCD last year with a whopping 29.3-pound Chinook.

The Hoosier Coho Club Pro/Am, sponsored by Bellman Oil/Morgan’s Tackle Co., fishes April 25-26. Entry is free for Amateur teams fishing the Buffalo Bill or pre-registering for the Classic, otherwise its $100 ($300 Pro). Breaktime and captain Jim Bellman, owner of the sponsoring business, has won the Pro-Am the past two years, including an impressive 96.9 pounds on five fish last April in the weather-shortened single-day contest.

The simple rules Hartman Memorial is May 1. Team Giv N the Bird and captain Tom Early smashed the competition with a five-fish record 111.65 pounds in 2019.

The granddaddy of all Great Lakes contests, the Horizon Bank/HCC Classic is set for May 2-3. Last year, team Triple Catch (captains Dennis Mock and Rich Sleziak) rolled to victory with 279.5 pounds (20 Chinook). That was the second highest winning weight in 45 years of Classic contests, topped only by Fin Scout in 2018.

For more information on Hoosier Coho Club contests, see www.hoosiercohoclub.org.

The popular 333 event (http://www.tournamenttrail.net/) also fishes within the classic.

Completing the spring contest schedule is the Great Lakes Shrine Association Benefit Salmon Derby on May 14-16. Like the classic, this will be the 46th consecutive year the “Shriner’s Derby” will fish in Michigan City. Last May, Will Dabkowski and crew aboard Oakley took the two spots with kings weighing a hefty 26.3 and 25.3 pounds.

Again, there is reason to expect the Chinook fishing will be every bit as great this spring as it has been the past two years when the best salmon catches of the year occurred in spring in the southeast corner of Lake Michigan. Indicators are the predator/prey ratio remains excellent heading into 2020.

HCC Scholarships

A pair of $1,000 scholarships to college or trade school are expected to be awarded in early May by the Hoosier Coho Club. Eligibility and rules (notably, must be received by April 3) are at www.hoosiercohoclub.org.

Outdoor Shows

The Indianapolis Boat, Sport & Travel Show opened Thursday and continues through Feb. 23 at the State Fairgrounds. Information can be found at https://indianapolisboatsportandtravelshow.com/.

The Valpo Gun Show (https://valpogunshow.com/) runs today and Sunday at the Porter Co. Expo Center.

The Fish On! Show (https://portageinchamber.com/) is Feb. 22-23 at Portage High School.

Cormorant input

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is soliciting public input on cormorant management in an effort to address conflicts between the over-populating fish eaters and fisheries.

A survey is at https://www.doi.gov/pressreleases/interiors-fish-and-wildlife-service-solicits-public-input-cormorant-management?fbclid=IwAR1a9uXTMWcRKYVa7SJD248N9qDGWqHqlLwkOgp6IUw3aW722LZVQBOSqO4.

Be specific in your responses.

Normally, there are a few dozen double-breasted cormorants, which can consume up to 1.5 pounds of perch or bait fish per bird per day, residing around the Michigan City break wall in summer. However, one day this past June, while trolling just outside the Michigan City harbor, an estimated 10,000 cormorants flew by. It was a ridiculous “blackout” as flocks of two dozen to several hundred constantly passed for hours.

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