A couple of great reasons to grab the rods and go today; the forecast is for temps in the 70s and the fishing is free.
April 15 is a no-license-required fishing day for Indiana residents. No trout/salmon stamp is required as well. Future free days include May 20 and June 3-4.
Michigan's free fishing weekend, which includes non-residents, is June 10-11.
The inland lakes are likely the best bet to get something wiggly on the end of the line. Bass, bluegill and crappie continue to be several weeks ahead of schedule despite a chilly March. I suspect the lack of ice and deep-cold this winter has a lot to do with the inland activity level.
Heard several reports of aggressive male bass cruising the shoreline edges near traditional spawning sites. Fat-bellied females are sure to be lurking along the nearest drop-off. Rapalas and similar stickbaits are hard to beat for bass this time of year. Unweighted plastic worms and spinner baits work great, too, especially in emerging lily pad fields.
Crappie are on or near woody cover. Spawning activity may peak this week with water temperatures on the rise. Tube jigs, twister tails or a plain minnow under a bobber can clobber the crappie when they move shallow.
Bluegill are binging, too. Might have to sort through some little ones, as all sizes crowd near shore this time of year.
A simple waxworm dangled on light line under the lightest float you can cast is a killer. Pin the waxie on a small, No. 8 hook about halfway down the water column, say two feet below a bobber in four feet of water and the action can be non-stop.
Perch are also a frequent, and tasty, bonus for crappie and bluegill anglers early in the season. And don't forget the whiskered clan. Some of the easiest catfish and bullhead catching is before weeds clog the shallows.
There are still steelhead straggling around Trail Creek and the other area tributaries, but the spring spawning run is pretty well done. However, there is the occasional pulse of fresh fish arriving in April and sometimes into May.
Lake Michigan trolling was still recovering from the big blow 10 days ago, but improving. Coho are scattered and spotty near shore from New Buffalo to Portage, which means catches have ranged from zero to seven salmon for small boat trollers in 10 to 50 feet of water. A few large kings started to show further west early this week, but dwindled quickly. The salmon catches there are just as spotty as around Michigan City.
Catching for chinook and coho should improve as the water clears.
Best fishing has been for lakers. The action has been non-stop in 85 to 95 feet of water northwest of Michigan City on most days. As usual, nearly all the bites are within 15 feet of bottom on downrigger or diver rods. Only an occasional silver fish has been taken near the surface over those depths.
• Gobble-obble-obble: Add turkey to the list of things ahead of schedule. I saw gobblers strutting their stuff in various fields east, west and south of Michigan City last weekend — nearly three weeks ahead of the April 26 opener. Likely to be a tough open with many males already "henned-up." Indiana's spring season lasts until May 14.
Youth get their first crack at the big birds during the youth-only weekend of April 22-23.
• Morels: Saw two piles of morel mushrooms picked near Michigan City this week. Should be plenty more of nature's finest delicacy popping this weekend given the warm up and recent rains.
• Deer harvest: Indiana hunters killed 119,477 deer last year, which was about 5,000 less than 2015 and 7,500 less than the average of the previous 10 years. The LaPorte County bag was 1,712, Porter County 1,453.
Deer license sales in 2016 were 169,801 which was five percent less than the previous year.
The complete deer harvest summary is at http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/files/fw-DeerSummaryReport_2016.pdf.
• Michigan City contests: The Buffalo Bill Memorial kicks off the local Lake Michigan salmon/trout fishing contest schedule on April 22 (see www.michianasteelheaders.com). A trio of Hoosier Coho Club events follow: April 29 Pro/Am, May 5 Hartman Memorial and the May 6-7 Classic (see www.hoosiercohoclub.org).
The Great Lakes Shrine Association Big Fish Derby is May 19-20 (GLSA on Facebook). The Coho Capital Derby runs May 13 through June 17. (see www.michigancitylaporte.com).