Perch hot, salmon not.
Should be the other way around heading into the last week of September near Michigan City, and it may very well be that way a few days from now, but that's what was happening early this week.
Scratched together a limit aboard Dan Messina's 21-foot Edgewater on Sunday, which is the way it's been more often than not for a couple of months. Not fast, hardly good by past standards, but put enough time in and you could often scrounge 30 keepers (two-man Indiana limit).
Tuesday, the perch were really snapping. Barely took 45 minutes to put 30 keepers in the livewell once we drifted into the 30-foot zone. Kind of like the old days.
Decision time; clean fish and go for an early breakfast or head to Michigan where the limit is 35 per angler. Shortened story is it only took the Edgewater 11 minutes to get us across the state line and the Michigan perch were biting just about as fast. A 70-perch limit was had for the first time this year.
Equally noteworthy is we graphed schools of perch and/or baitfish quite regularly all the way from the Michigan line back to the Michigan City harbor in 25-30 feet of water. And boats to the west, particularly the guys out of Burns Ditch fishing from the "Donut" east to the state park, were also taking quick limits early in the week.
Given the fickle nature of perch catching, who knows how long it will last. Might have been just a hot bite for a day. Certainly, a single surf-churning storm or temperature-dropping cold front this time of year could end the perching for the season.
A change in the weather, particularly rain, is what salmon anglers are hoping for.
A promising early return of chinook in August has stagnated badly. A fair number of coho also piled into Trail Creek earlier this month, but they've also scattered throughout the stream and are sulking in the warmer-than-comfortable water temperatures.
Still, there are enough salmon meandering in to make stopping at the harbor or pier for a few casts worth the while. Trolling action was also slow, with boaters catching more coho than chinook the past week inside 50 feet of water.
Again, the end of September is prime time for a salmon run. Cooler temps and/or rain likely will restart the salmon run.
Anglers have been finding perch eating perch quite often this summer and the few fish that had anything discernible in their stomachs this week had more 1.5-inch, young-of-the-year perch in their bellies than anything else, which says a lot about the forage situation in Lake Michigan.
Remarkably, one 10-inch perch had wolfed down a four-incher.
And, never to miss an angling clue, Messina filleted a perch into bait-sized pieces on Tuesday, and for a while the cut bait was catching better-sized perch than minnows. I like to slice the white-skinned bellies from the vent to under the chin then dice it into minnow-looking shapes. They're tough on the hook and usually good for multiple fish.
And yes, the perch cut into bait count towards a limit. Thus, if you slice up the bellies you can still have your filet and eat it, too.
A Michigan state record 9.88-pound smallmouth bass was pulled out of the Indian River on Sept. 11. It marks the second time within the year the Michigan record has been broken, after going unbeaten since 1906.
MDNR biologist Tim Cwalinski, who certified the catch, told GreatLakesBass.com he expects the record to be broken again because the fish populations have changed dynamically in Northern Michigan with the introduction of new (invasive) forage species like gobies and rusty crayfish.
By the way, the basketball-sized bass was caught on a nightcrawler plunked on bottom, which goes to show you don't need a $40,000 boat, $10,000 in electronics and another $3,000 in tackle like the manufacturers and their pro staffers tell you in order to catch quality fish.
Sept. 24 and 25 is Youth Deer Hunting weekend. See www.in.gov/fishwild for complete information.