Tyler Kreighbaum's 37.55-pound lake trout catch on Saturday wasn't just a really big fish that exceeded a really big state record. It crushed the previous mark by more than eight pounds.
It's also the biggest trout or salmon ever caught from a boat out of Michigan City. The previous state lake trout mark was 29.25 caught in 1993. The Indiana chinook salmon record is 38 pounds, but was wrestled out of Trail Creek back in 1980.
"I'm still surprised how big it is," Kreighbaum, the 25-year old charter captain of Tight Line, said this week. "I really thought we hooked bottom."
Most trollers have been-there-done-that. There is a moment of joy when a rod releases followed by the sinking reality of a steady, monotonous pull of drag leaking line as the boat trolls away from a snag.
"You can't just stop or turn around with the other lines (often a dozen or more) out," Kreighbaum explained. "I slowed the boat and clamped down with my thumb on the reel and tried to break it (line, in order to save the other gear).
"Well, it starts to come and I'm thinking I got a huge pile of debris, maybe a body or something. I didn't realize it was a fish until it was right under the swim platform."
The rest is history as the DNR quickly cleared the paperwork and deemed it caught in Indiana waters.
At 44 inches, it is a tremendous trout, the likes of which have never been seen around here.
"It hit one of those ITO things, green and white Spin-N-Glo and green ITO fly behind a old silver ("O" size) Luhr Jensen dodger," Kreighbaum said. "It was probably just eight feet behind the ball (downrigger weight)."
The "ITO thing" is made in La Porte by Ryan Koepke (see www.itoflies.com). Officially called Lake Trout Candy, it is the hottest selling laker lure on the Great Lakes. The record trout bit the Glowing Gumby pattern.
• Youth tournament: The sixth annual Michiana Steelheaders Youth Salmon Tournament is Saturday with weigh-in at New Buffalo. For more information, see www.michianasteelheaders.com or call director Josh Wilson at 574-876-7034.
• Skamania Mania: One bite, one fish is all it takes to be a winner in the free Skamania Mania contest set for next weekend (June 25-26) in Michigan City
The 26th annual big steelhead contest starts at 12:01 a.m. on June 25 (Saturday) and concludes at 3 p.m. on June 26 (Sunday). No preregistration is required — just go fish.
Anglers catching the 12 largest steelhead over the two days win Cabelas gift cards starting with $200 for first place and going to $25 for 12th. The 13th biggest steelie wins a $200 rod and reel combo.
Weigh in times are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day at the Northwest Indiana Steelheaders tent near the Coast Guard station on the Michigan City harbor. All of Lake Michigan and its tributaries may be fished. Complete rules are at www.nwisteelheaders.org.
Last year, Todd Hatfield of Union Pier, Mich., won with a 12-pound, two-ounce Skamania. Joe Hixon of Michigan City claimed the 13th place rod and reel with a 8-13 steelhead.
• Chinook cuts: The Great Lakes Fishery Commission made it official this week, announcing another 62-percent cut in Lake Michigan chinook stocking, starting in 2017.
It will be the most recent effort to balance available prey fish (mostly alewives) with predators (primarily chinook). Lakewide stockings were reduced from 3.3 million to 1.7 million in 2013 and will be around 690,000 in 2017. Indiana stockings were reduced to around 200,000 chinook in 2013.
The GLFC leaves allocation of the remaining chinook stocks to the individual states.
Previously, biologist Brian Briedert said Indiana likely would suspend chinook stockings in 2017 and hopefully fill hatchery space with a few more steelhead or coho, possibly brown trout.
A substantial number of chinook roaming Lake Michigan are naturally reproduced in its' tributaries and Lake Huron. Estimates are around 70 percent of kings caught by Indiana trollers are "natural" fish, so the reduction likely will have small impact on the lake fishery.
Seems to me they might as well cease all Lake Michigan chinook stockings and let nature take its course where only the strongest salmon survive. It would clean out the system of what many perceive as inferior hatchery-raised fish.
The complete GLFC press release is at www.glfc.org.
• Outdoor notes: A surge of steelhead thrilled anglers in the middle and lower stretches of Trail Creek early this week. However, it remains to be seen how far upstream they traveled and how many more arrived with the high, muddy water after Tuesday night's rain. The DNR had around 80 in the Springland Ave. weir trap, which were the start of brood stock collection.
Lakefront catches are always hit and miss, but there has been a remarkable bunch of good days on the pier and in the harbor already this season.
Charters were taking fair numbers of lake trout, along with a few silver fish, in depths of 90 to 105 feet last weekend. Closer to shore, in the 40 to 50-foot depths, it remains hit and miss for coho and the occasional chinook and steelhead. One troller caught a cooler-full of 15 silver fish in 40 feet early this week, but managed just one in the same area two days later. There were still salmonid-friendly water temps (high 40s) below 40-feet on Thursday.