A rock bass, a pike and a catfish.
The trio had more to do with the fall chinook run than the salmon on Thursday.
I've been hearing really bad fishing reports for big kings at Michigan City, but sometimes you have to see for yourself.
Second toss of a Taco Salad-pattern Bandit felt like I'd snagged a weed before a slight wiggle turned into a six-inch rock bass. I admired the little panfish for attacking a plug nearly its' own size.
The chartreuse, blue-back, orange-belly crankbait has been a favorite Chinook lure ever since I saw it dominate a Salmon Slam contest at Burns Ditch many years ago.
A dozen casts later, the lure twitched and sliced sideways. Salmon on, I hoped. Alas, there was no weight to the fish as a 20-inch northern was wheeled in rather effortlessly. The chubby little pike appeared to be too fat to fight.
At least it is a nice day, I thought, as you're suppose to think when the fish you're after don't bite. Another in a string of spectacular September mornings. Screaming-orange sun peeping above the horizon haze as Canada geese rousted from Blue Chip Casino and NIPSCO roosts.
Thirty minutes without as much as a surface slap of a tail to let you know there are Chinook around was enough for me. Three other guys at the harbor since well before dawn had managed a single catfish among them.
A 6:45 a.m. drive through Washington Park revealed no angler cars. Stunning. A prime fall morning and no one fishing on the pier.
Dire accounts of Lake Huron's angling effort falling 90 percent when its' Chinook fishery failed a decade ago haunted my thoughts. This is what its like when the salmon fishing dies. Gone are the crowds, camaraderie and tens of thousands of visitor dollars.
Lake Michigan Chinook problems have been documented in this space for several months. And the fall fishery, which is dependent on Indiana-raised Chinook has been degrading for decades.
Still, there is guarded optimism salmon will survive, perhaps thrive lake wide in the long run. And, although this past week was often the peak of Chinook activity in the Michigan City harbor, I think there will be kings around this weekend.
There is a full moon on Sunday, which triggers spawning moves in many fish. If that doesn't stir up a substantial king run, nothing will.
Fishing Report: "Lake trout fishing was outstanding," Seeker captain Jerry Ross said on Thursday. "130 to 135 feet of water, Spin-N-Glos on the bottom, limit catch with a lot of 13 to 15-pounders."
Only the occasional silver fish has been caught along with the lakers.
Small boat trollers were mostly getting skunked in and around the harbor and out to 60 feet of water.
Perch were pretty good at spots just east of the Lighthouse to the condo and west along Beverly Shores. Some limits (30 or 45 per boat) and half-limits have been caught in 28 to 35 feet of water.
Coho have been good in spots on Trail Creek along with the occasional Skamania. Very few Chinook are in the stream. Coho, which are about half 15-inch jacks and half four to six-pounders are smacking spinners and gobs of spawn.
Inland, while the weather has been very enjoyable the fish catching has been mediocre. For every decent catch of bluegill, crappie, perch and bass I've heard, there has been an equal number of anglers struggling to land a handful.
Lamprey Down: A press release from the Great Lake Fishery Commission on Wednesday claims sea lamprey numbers are at a 20-year low on Lake Michigan and trending downward on the other lakes.
"This new information about sea lamprey abundances is outstanding news,” Dr. Robert Hecky, GLFC chairman, said. “Today, sea lampreys are at their lowest levels in Lakes Huron and Michigan since 1985 and 1995, respectively."
The sea lamprey is one of the worst human-caused ecological disasters ever inflicted upon the Great Lakes. Sea lampreys invaded through shipping canals and, by 1939, were present throughout the system. They attach to Great Lakes fish with a tooth-filled, suction cup mouth and file a hole through the fish’s scales and skin with a razor-sharp tongue. The average sea lamprey will kill up to 40 pounds (18 kg) of fish during its parasitic stage.Sea lampreys prefer trout, salmon, whitefish, and sturgeon, but they also attack smaller fish like walleye and perch.
Throughout the Great Lakes, $18 million is spent annually to control lampreys. The release also states the Great Lakes fishery is worth $7 billion annually and without control and without eradication efforts would suffer significantly.
“Before control, sea lampreys killed an estimated 103 million pounds of fish per year. Today, because of control, sea lampreys kill less than 10 million pounds [4.5 million kilograms] of fish per year. This program provides fish a chance to survive long enough to spawn, be caught by humans, or live a natural life. It also allows agencies to restore stressed species and maintain thriving sport, commercial, and tribal fisheries.”
Around 150 lamprey are collected and disposed of at the Trail Creek lamprey dam each spring.