A personal best, and perhaps worst, in the same fish.
The goal for the Hoosier Coho Club derby on Saturday was to catch a couple big silver fish (a.k.a. large chinook or steelhead). A total of five fish were allowed at the weigh-in, only three of which could be lake trout, which everyone presumed everyone would catch.
Coho have been ridiculously easy to come by, but were mostly three pounds apiece. Mature chinook, the big boys in the teens, have been a perplexing and incidental catch all season.
Steelhead, tipping scales at six to 12 pounds, were improving for trollers and downright spectacular for shore anglers, which in itself is perplexing. Back in the Skamania hey days of the 1980s, boaters caught hundreds of staging steelhead while pier guys often struggled. The last couple years, the catching has completely flipped — there might be 100 shrimp caught Skamania for every two taken by trollers near shore.
We would of gladly taken the two, especially on the heels of a rumored 100-steelhead day on the pier the previous day.
The steelies weren't hitting quite so well on shore Saturday, but aboard Dan Messina's stealthy 21-footer we were confident of catching a few.
By stealth I mean Messina's craft has no downrigger cables sawing through the water and is powered by a quiet outboard.
A couple trolling loops outside the breakwall proved hitless before lining up to pass inside, near the Lighthouse — a steelhead hotspot several decades ago.
Sure enough, a surface line towing a red, J-13 Rapala starts buzzing and buzzing and buzzing some more. By the time the fish slowed, the line counter on the reel read 330 feet.
Despite a remarkable first run, the burst and surface antics of a big Skamania were missing. Apprehension settled in. Maybe, wishfully, a displaced king?
Many minutes of rod pumping brought the brute of a fish near, but it stayed deep. Last hope was for a overgrown, bulldogging brown trout.
Wallowing to the surface, angst was confirmed — it was a sheepshead, a freshwater drum, a trash fish to many.
A prodigous sheepy, nonetheless. At 16.5 pounds it was the biggest drum I'd ever landed. And it provided a stout, enjoyable fight.
However, as far as the contest went, it was utterly worthless.
Larry Richmann, Jr., and his charter crews aboard Just 1 More claimed the $500 top prize in the two day event by landing a pair of chinook going 14 and 11 pounds to go with a trio of lakers.
Top fish among the 14 teams to weigh in was a whopping 18.7 pound lake trout landed by Jim Brahos aboard his JB & Water.
• Big trout: Brahos' extra-large laker was just one-quarter of a pound shy of taking the overall lead in the five-week Coho Capital Derby in Michigan City. Bill Pearce still heads the trout division with a 18.95 lake trout.
Brahos's fish did top a 17.75 laker caught by Brandon Shidler of Germantown Hills, Ill., to claim the weekly $100 prize. Top trout so far this week is a 17.3 laker caught by Bud Roche of Grand Beach.
Best salmon so far remains a 14.8 taken by Rich Shreiber of Michigan City.
The May 13 through June 18 contest is sponsored by La Porte County Convention & Visitors Bureau and awards $100 for the largest trout and salmon with an additional $500 going to the best overall trout and salmon.
The weigh station for the free CCD is open daily from 8 a.m to 4 p.m. at the Michigan City Port Authority.
• Fishing report: Perch appear to be on the verge of perking up. Anglers were landing barely a handful of keepers both east and west of Michigan City at mid-week, but water temps and plenty of bait on graphs are promising.
Coho catches continued to be tremendous in 70 to 90 feet of water last weekend, but as always with summer coho, they could be gone for the season any day now, or not. Big plus is looks like a thermocline (water temps in the 40s inside 50 feet) had set up, which means all the species could be in close, barring any north blows.
There have been a few phenomenal Skamania steelhead days on the pier and harbor over the past three weeks, could be happening again right now. Remains to be seen if all the lakefront steel ran upstream with Wednesday's rain or even more have arrived.
Good numbers of Skamania were spread throughout Trail Creek prior to the rain.
Inland, its summer fishing patterns — typically meaning the best bass, bluegill and crappie action is adjacent to the deep weed lines. Fish near the bottom during the day, higher in the water column at dusk and dawn.
• Skamania Mania: The annual free, no preregistration required big steelhead contest is set for July 1-2 in Michigan City.
Top 13 steelhead caught over the two days win Cabelas gift cards. The event is organized by the Northwest Indiana Steelheaders. For more information, or a list of past champions, visit .