In the span of 40 minutes Saturday evening, just outside the Michigan City Lighthouse, an unassuming, two-inch Rapala caught a sheepshead, a jumbo perch, a brown trout and a chinook.
Unexpected, but not necessarily surprising. Seems Rapalas, which have been around a lot longer than I have been fishing, never get out of style with predator fish.
The first fish I ever caught on an artificial lure was a bass that smashed a surface-twitched, three-hook Rapala. And a 1970s staple for spring trolling aboard Dardevle One was the countdown Rapala, usually orange/gold, flat-lined out the back of the boat. Later, the jointed Rapala became the go-to plug for salmon and steelhead.
Then they fell out of favor, replaced by flashier, faster and more intensely marketed lures. Rapala fell into the marketing trap, too, with a host of glitzy plastic knock-offs which simply didn't catch fish as well as the original balsa wood models.
Fortunately, they still make the authentic ones, although a fault is the hooks and wiring get mangled by big salmon and trout, especially with the heavier gear and faster trolling speed anglers employ these days.
Big fish weren't the target Saturday evening — we were after perch.
As mentioned last week, we had a good day trolling for them aboard Dan Messina's boat a week ago and an even better catch the previous Sunday. Small spoons, a Rapala and a few other tiny plugs did the damage on a bunch of large perch.
Not Saturday evening, though, or at least they weren't where we made a short troll aboard the Three Buoys in the 40- to 45-foot depths. The sheepshead, or freshwater drum as they are also known, were there. We caught three quick ones between five and eight pounds on a variety of baits before the two-inch, countdown Rapala in a perch-pattern took over.
Five straight fish bit the midget plug wiggling 20 feet behind a Torpedo weight set to run about 40 feet down. Never mind the half-dozen spoons dangling in the same underwater neighborhood, the fish wanted the Rapala.
The missed fish was presumed to be another sheepy, but after catching the brown and chinook, both chunky seven pounders, we wondered. It was surprising to find the salmonids in the 60-degree temperature zone.
However, that must have been where the baitfish were and nothing replicates a minnow like a Rapala.
Thinking of perch, will the north winds ever cease? Every time the perch seem poised to go on a binge over the past month or so, a north blow comes down the lake and scrambles the situation.
Those same, disproportionate north winds spoiled most of the spring salmon season, too.
As for salmon, some dandy kings were starting to be taken over the 80- to 100-foot depths in the last 10 days. August is staging time for chinook, whether its in 50 or 120 feet at this end of the lake.
Inland, bass and panfish are best early and late in the day along the deep weed lines. Daybreak has also been best for Skamania on the local tributaries.
Bonus antlerless deer county quotas have been announced for the 2017 season and La Porte County is at four as are neighboring counties — Porter, St. Joseph and Starke. These counties will also have a late (Dec. 26 to Jan. 7) antlerless-only firearms season. For more deer information, see www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/8367.htm.
Bluegill, followed by largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, black crappie and channel catfish remain the top five favorites according to the 2016 survey of licensed Indiana anglers. Noteworthy on bluegill is 60 percent of anglers support a harvest limit, while 26 percent oppose (currently, there is no bag limit on 'gills). The full report on the annual survey is at www.fishing.IN.gov.
Public volunteers can help monitor wild turkey production via a web-based survey by recording sightings of hens with poults (or not) during July and August. The survey is at www.wildlife.IN.gov/8641.htm.
Peregrine falcons continue to thrive in Indiana as 40 chicks were banded at monitored sites this summer. Restoration efforts have resulted in the peregrine being removed from the federal endangered species list in 1999 and the Indiana endangered list in 2013. In1965 there were no peregrine east of the Mississippi River due to pesticides and habitat degradation.
A mating pair of falcons has used an artificial nest box on the NIPSCO smokestack in Michigan City for years.