Ben Dickinson

Indiana DNR's Ben Dickinson hoists a 13.25-pound walleye taken in a test net outside the Michigan City harbor on Thursday.

They're big and they're really close.

Lots of lake trout that is. A few giant walleye, too. Both within a reasonable cast of the Michigan City pier.

Indiana Department of Natural Resources personnel snared 60 lakers, along with a few other Lake Michigan surprises, in an over-night net on Thursday.

"Thirty-five feet of water, directly off the opening between the breakwall and Lighthouse," biologist Brian Briedert, said.

The size of the fish is as stunning as their accessibility to anglers.

"Some of the the lakers were in the 15- to 16-pound range," Briedert said. "The big walleye was 13.25 (pounds), and there was a nine-pounder (walleye) and a catfish of 14 or 15 pounds."

All of those beauties are brag-worthy. And again, they are within range of shore fishermen as well as small-boat trollers right now.

"This (netting) is part of a our annual fall assessment," Briedert said. "It provides an index to monitor the population."

Unlike chinook salmon, Lake Michigan's other top predator, lake trout seem to be doing fine. The abundance near Michigan City is likely a direct result of stockings of surplus lake trout fingerlings in the spring and fall for the past decade, which have totaled 90,000 baby trout in most years.

Notably, the number of lake trout near shore may increase before it wanes.

The calendar dates are prime for laker spawning, but water temperature is warmer than usual for this time of year.

"We had 55 degrees top to bottom (on Thursday)," Briedert said. "Usually its lower before they move in."

Indeed, anglers use to look for temperatures in the 40s (the lower the better) in order for deep-water lakers to show at spawning sites. And that use to be primarily at the rock walls of the Port of Indiana.

Low and slow is the way to troll for lakers.

Boaters typically pull Spin-N-Glos or lightweight spoons behind attractors (dodgers, six-packs or cowbells) rubbed on, or with a few feet of, bottom. Downriggers, diving planers or lead core line take the rigs deep to the fish.

Jigging with spoons, blade baits or soft plastics is a fun option when the lakers are shallow, too.

For shore guys, can't beat bait on bottom. I'm thinking an alewife would be ideal, but the usual spawn or shrimp also tempt the big trout.

And don't forget steelhead. This is prime time for winter-runs to show. Should get better as the water temps drop, but they're suckers for the same shrimp or nightcrawler under a bobber that Skamania love.

As for walleyes, they're best after dark. A Rapala Husky Jerk plug retrieved slow and steady has taken more of those rare big 'eyes around here than anything else.

Outdoors report: Steelhead action picked up briefly on Trail Creek after the bit of rain last week. Critically low and clear water and leaf flow are hindering the biteĀ  Best bet may be for incoming winter-runs and retreating Skamania in the lower reaches as well as the harbor.

Perch were hit and miss for the handful of anglers taking advantage of mild weather at mid week. Depths of 30 to 40 feet east of the harbor was good for a few perchers.

Deer activity is high with the rut in full swing, although warm temps had most bucks hunkered down during mid day. Deer-firearms opener is Nov. 14, in case you needed reminding.

Ducks really dropped off after opening weekend (Oct. 24-25) with little relief expected until some nasty weather happens up north.

For the Birds: Indiana Dunes State Park officials are offering a behind the scenes owl-banding adventure tonight and Saturday night. There is a fee involved and participation is limited.

IDSP's annual bus trip to view sandhill cranes at Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area is Nov. 22.

For more infomation on either event, call (219) 926-1390.

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