A surprise, "looky-there" moment on Wednesday helped make up for lost time on inland waters.
Been spending too much time on a cold and unruly Lake Michigan to realize spring has sprung on the local ponds.
But, hey, it was May 11. Flowers had bloomed, trees were near full-foliage, and one, submarine-sized mama bass hovering near shore reminded it was spawning season.
A 1/32-ounce tube jig in tandem with a No. 10, rubber-legged spider looped 10-inches above tempted the half-dozen bluegills necessary for a meal. A couple slab crappie, were also teased into biting.
Mostly it was great to be walking the shore and catching panfish. I've been doing it for nearly 50 years and it remains equally fascinating and relaxing. What else is there to ask for in fishing?
A rambunctious, water-sloshing pup added youthful excitement this day, albeit at the expense of some of the relaxing. Bo, our five-month old lab-mix assumed it was his duty to plunge in and help retrieve every fish. He would go nuts again when small ones were released to skitter off in the shallows or the keepers frolicked in the bucket.
Soon, he began staring-down the rod tip as if it were a magic stick that made fish splash across the surface and come to it. A couple fishless casts and he'd start wandering the shoreline, occasionally pouncing on a wind-ruffled lily pad or an imaginary something. Put a bend in the rod and he was right back and into the water the moment the fish hit the surface.
Of course, there will be some untraining to be done someday, but as with kids, its probably more important for pups to just have fun the first year or two out at a lake.
One hundred yards down the shore, it was; "whoa, looky there," followed by an abrupt u-turn back to the truck for a bass rod.
Easing within 10 yards of where the bruiser was last seen, a nose-hooked Senko was flipped softly to the outside of the drop off. A few tense seconds followed before the tell-take twitch of the line indicated a take.
Still, there is that wonderful moment of doubt whether the fish will spit before you can strike or whether a smaller, aggressive male might take the bait. Then again, there are times, perhaps once in a lots of sometimes, everything goes right.
Setting the hook was like socking into a log, which quickly charged one way then another before wallowing to the surface.
Shortly, a barking Bo and a bass with a mouth the size of a spread-hand frothed in the shallows. Just as quickly, hook was removed and, with pup restrained, the beastly largemouth finned back into the depths.
Several smaller, nest-guarding males also fell to the Senko worm. It is bass spawning season, soon to be peaked, weather permitting, by the full moon happening tonight.
• Chinook woes: Speaking at the Hoosier Coho Club on Wednesday, Lake Michigan biologist Brian Briedert told of the distinct possibilty of Indiana suspending chinook stocking starting in 2017. One of the things the Lake Michigan states will be looking at this summer is a reduction to 20 percent of 2012 levels, which would make Indiana numbers irrelevant. Briedert expects Indiana would be able to fill some of the chinook void with steelhead, coho or, perhaps brown trout.
Lake trout population levels are also under scrutiny to see if current harvest levels are sustainable.
• Outdoor notes: Last gobble is Sunday for Indiana's April 27 to May 15 spring wild turkey season. The 42nd annual Great Lakes Shrine Association Big Fish Derby is set for May 19-20 in Michigan City. The next free fishing (no license required for residents) day in Indiana is May 21.
The Lake Michigan weather buoy outside Michigan City has been set and is operational. See greatlakesbuoys.org for current wind, waves and water temperature.
Mike Ryan, in charge of lamprey collection at the Trail Creek barrier, has seen 20 or so Skamania passed above the dam already this month. A dozen or so perch were netted in 38 to 45 feet of water off the condo at Michigan City during Ball State University assessments on Thursday.
A recent DNR survey on Hudson Lake produced 84 crappies up to 12 inches with nearly half more than 10 inches, which indicated better size than most other northern Indiana lakes. The complete crappie survey is at dnr.IN.gov.
Additional trout will be stocked in multiple inland waters prior to Memorial Day, including the Little Kankakee River in LaPorte County and Potato Creek in St. Joseph County.
• Derby results: For the first time in the five-year history of the Coho Capital Derby, a coho won something. Brad Kreighbaum (Fin Fire charters) of Michigan City checked in a fine, four-pound, 15-ounce coho to claim the $100 first week salmon division prize.
The coho catch is smallest salmon winner recorded in the contest and points to a extreme lack of chinook salmon around here this spring.
Top trout was a 17-10 weighed in by Joel DeVries of Goshen, Ind.
The CCD is sponsored by the LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau and runs for five weeks (Mon.-Sun.) through June 5. Top prizes are $500 each for the largest salmon and trout overall plus $100 weekly for each category. Weigh station is at the Port Authority gas dock in Washington Park Marina.