Plenty of hunting and fishing choices are available with mild December weather in the forecast for the weekend.

Foremost, deer-muzzleloading season opens on Saturday and continues through Dec. 20.

I haven't heard any official statistics, but sure seems like there were a lot more happy deer hunters during the Nov. 14-29 firearms season than in previous years. Good weather and the fact nearly all the corn crop was picked prior to opening weekend surely helped the harvest.

If you were lucky enough to bag what you need, don't forget the less fortunate and share the bounty from the local deer woods.

Eastside Meats, 4666 West U.S. Hwy. 20, just east of Michigan City (874-7524) makes it easy to donate venison.

"Bring us a field-dressed deer and we'll take it from there." owner Mike Mussa said. "We make ground venison, freeze it, then its distributed to food banks at Faith City, Good Shepherd Food Pantry and PAC Community Center."

Mussa waives the normal $80 cut/freezer wrap fee, which is paid for in part by Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry (see www.hoosiersfeedingthehungry.org for more info).

Or hunters can leave five or 10 or 20 pounds of venison behind when they pay to have Mussa process a deer.

Back to the hunting, turkey-archery reopens on Saturday and continues along with deer-archery until Jan. 3. Also, there is the special, nine-day antlerless season (Dec. 26-Jan.3) in La Porte County, where regular firearms are legal.

Small game hunting options include duck, pheasant, quail, rabbit and squirrel.

On the fishing front, it may not be very comfortable but its not too cold for panfish and bass.

I stopped by a pond after the sun came out on Tuesday and caught a couple bluegill and a crappie in a half hour of flipping a tandem pair of tube jigs tipped with waxworms. A dead slow retrieve did the trick, although a simple waxworm under a bobber likely would have been more productive. Some guys do very well in the late fall with the same ice jigs and flies used after the water gets hard enough to walk on.

No ice around here, yet, and some bass fishing acquaintances caught largemouth on shallow-running, square-billed crankbaits this week.

December used to be a prime steelhead month, and although catches have picked up on Trail Creek and the other local tributaries in the last 10 days, its down, at least at the moment, like all other stream fishing was this year.

Still, there are some silvery, fresh-run winter steelhead being caught along with colorful, holdover Skamania. Spawn, spawn sacks or jigs tipped with bait (spawn, shrimp or waxworms) and drifted with a bobber set to deliver the bait near bottom is the top tactic on the streams. Its not too cold for steelies to chase spinners right now, either.

The annual State Stream Tournament organized by the Northwest Indiana Steelheaders fishes on Saturday. Big fish weigh-in is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Chief's Bait on Hwy. 12 in Michigan City, if you'd like to ogle the catches and maybe pick up a few fishing tips.

The occasional steelhead and at least one lake trout have been caught in the Michigan City harbor this week. Most anglers are dunking a shrimp under a bobber or plunking spawn on bottom.

Should be some lake trout available to the pier guys, as well. And whitefish could show any day, now that the water temperature has settled into the low 40s.

Hardy boat anglers have been whacking lake trout quite regularly outside the Port of Indiana. Jigging with blade baits or bass-sized tube jigs is fun while others are trolling up the big trout with plugs or dodger/Spin-N-Glo combinations. Perch have been hit and miss for boat anglers at Gary, while the shore fishing crowds in Chicago are catching lots of perch, but struggling to find enough keeper-sized fish for a limit.

Ice Fishing Warm-up: It's a bit of a drive, but Lake Michigan Angler, 1038 Sheridan Rd., Wintrop Harbor, Ill., is hosting ice fishing seminars on Saturday.

Of interest, there's a program on icing brown trout and steelhead in harbors and marinas by a Wisconsin expert which may apply here if conditions set up right. Other seminars include whitefish, perch and walleye on Green Bay and inland panfish techniques.

Ludington Workshop: The annual Ludington Regional Fishery Workshop is set for Jan. 9 in Scottville, Michigan. The full-day program features presentations by scientists who work to understand how Lake Michigan ecosystem changes affect salmon and trout. An expanded question and answer session with fishery managers is promised.

Cost to attend is $30 and pre-registration is required by December 20. For more information, visit www.miseagrant.umich.edu.

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