While chinook fishing continued to flat line, perch catches picked up last weekend.
I hear it became a bit spotty on Sunday, but there were plenty of limits caught on on Saturday. Michigan City guys were keeping 30 to 60 per boat (15 per angler in Indiana), while some New Buffalo crews were getting 70, 105 or more (limit is 35 per angler in Michigan).
Of course, all big lake fishing is on hold as a three-day north blow works it way out of the area. Most veteran perchers figure it will take a week or so of stable weather, which is chancy during October, for the perch to regroup in the shallows.
Whether they return, or not, it has turned out to be a decent perch season. Perch catches were terrible up until mid-July, but since then many regulars caught limits roughly every other time they went out.
That’s nothing like the heydays of the 1990s, but it will pass as being OK for now.
Nearly all anglers reported oodles of bait — alewives, shiners and baby perch — on their graphs during August and September in depths of 10 to 35 feet of water.
The best news of the summer was researchers discovered a bumper crop of young-of-the-year perch. During August, test seines at East Chicago, Gary, Burns Ditch and Michigan City yielded 2,500 y-o-y perch at each site. In 2014, the total for all four sites was eight perch. The 2015 sampling was the second-highest catch of its kind since the 1980s.
Outstanding perch hatches were also recorded in Michigan and Wisconsin. Illinois data was unavailable.
Biologists caution they do not count the one to one and one-half inch long young-of-the-year crop into the perch population until they reach age one. There can be a lot of mortality during their first winter in the lake.
Still, news of all those striped little babies out there was as stunning as it is positive.
Tom Lauer, PhD, Ball State University, who has coordinated Indiana’s Lake Michigan perch studies since the 1980s, passed along some surprising data on growth rates.
The obvious question was how long would it take for this year’s crop of hatchlings to start contributing to the angler’s creel. Say reach a modest, eight-inch keeper size?
The answer was four to five years at current growth rates. Maybe.
Seems perch, like most other Lake Michigan fish, have been growing slower in recent years due, in a round-about way, to quagga mussels filtering nutrients out of the bottom of the food chain.
And the four or five years is for female perch. Males grow much, much slower and take an average of nine years to reach eight inches.
Perch don’t live a whole lot longer than nine years. The next conclusion is when guys presume the undersized six and seven inchers they’re throwing back are young fish that will be grow into keepers next season they’re only half right. Many may be mature males.
The on-and-off perch catches of the past 10 weeks has taken some of the sting out of a mostly salmon-less summer at Michigan City.
Put a fork in the fall Chinook run. There are some of the 10 to 20-pound mud sharks still to be caught in the harbor and Trail Creek, but they get closer to death every day.
Salmon and steelhead catches on Trail Creek and other local tributaries has slowed considerably due to low and clear water levels, angling pressure and a general lack of fish. The lower stretches have been best for coho and the rare Chinook with a few Skamania spread throughout the lengths of area tributaries.
DNR personnel halted Skamania brood stock collection this week, a bit short of their goal of 600 steelhead.
Biologist Ben Dickinson e-mailed: “We did not reach 600. Cut off brood stock collection to avoid contaminating with winter-run strain. According to Bodine (hatchery staff), the sex-ration was favorable and we should have enough females to reach our stocking goal, barring unforeseen complications.”
Trolling action was mostly for lake trout in depths of 100 to 140 feet of water prior to the blow with only the occasional silver fish biting prior to the blow.
Check-in Changes: A misprint in the 2015-16 Indiana Hunting Guide incorrectly lists the phone number for CheckIN Game. The correct number is: 1-800-419-1326.
Mandatory check-in of deer and turkey kills can be done in three ways – online through the CheckIN Game system, at an on-site check station or by phone.
The online CheckIN Game system at checkINgame.dnr.IN.gov can be used with any Internet-connected device. The website includes instructions on how to use the system. Users also can locate their customer ID and print temporary transportation tags.
The phone-in option, at 1-800-419-1326, carries a $3 fee (Visa or Mastercard only).
Even at the on-site check stations, station managers now will enter information online through the CheckIN Game System. Stations will no longer be using paper log books or issuing metal tags.
A listing of on-site check stations is at dnr.IN.gov/fishwild/6271.htm.
Statewide deer-archery season is Oct. 1 through Jan. 3, 2016. Turkey-archery season is Oct. 1 through Nov. 1.