By Louie Stout
If you like to fish, now’s the time to be out there getting after coho, steelhead, muskies, yellow perch and crappie.
Fishing activity has waned with the depreciating weather but the action has been pretty good for those anglers willing to battle cooler, and oftentimes, wet conditions.
For example, Mike McNulty at Midway Bait in Osceola said anglers are getting limits of trout and salmon on the St. Joseph River while Jim Housman of the Tackle Box in North Webster said muskies are “going crazy” in Kosciusko County lakes and perch limits are being caught on Lake Wawasee.
Brian Hensley of Clear H2o near Edwardsburg said a lot of really nice bluegills are being caught in southwest Michigan lakes and Bonnie Kelley of Kelley’s Bait in Lakeville said the few anglers getting out are doing well on bluegill at Riddles, Pleasant and even Potato Creek.
“Not many people are fishing, but like one customer told me, ‘this is when people need to be fishing,’” said Kelley, who noted most of the fish in her area are being caught fairly shallow around the weed edges.
Hensley said he hasn’t heard much about shallow action in his area although he predicts it should improve soon, especially for anglers dunking ice jigs tipped with wax worms. However, his customers report catching big bluegills in deeper water, with some fish suspended and others hugging the bottom.
Nearly all of the bait shops offering reports indicated that crappie fishing also was pretty good for those anglers fishing minnows.
“We’re selling more minnows to crappie fishermen than we are wigglers to bluegill fishermen, so that tells me the crappie are biting,” added Brendon Sutter of the Tackle Shack in Middlebury.
Bass fishing has been fair, with some fish still prowling the flats taking jerkbaits and lipless crankbaits.
Sutter said most of the better bass fishing around his Middlebury shop was being done deep.
“The deep bite is definitely on but the bass aren’t grouped up yet,” he described. “A-rigs, blade baits or dragging tubes and darters on the bottom seem to be the best way to catch them on most lakes.”
Coho Dominate River
McNulty said spawn has been the hot bait for trout and salmon but inline spinners are accounting for fish, too. And while many anglers may think they are catching steelhead, chances are they are getting quite a few coho.
That’s because there are more coho in the river than steelhead this year, a bit of anomaly. For example, in September of last year, 2,532 steelhead moved up from South Bend dam. This year only 833 were counted. There are nearly 2,000 fewer steelhead in the river than there were last year at this time.
“We’re not concerned at this point,” said Lake Michigan biologist Brian Breidert. “The thing you have to remember is the steelhead fishery on the lake was very good during the spring and summer yet we’re still close to the (statistical) average for this time of year.”
Breidert also noted that Indiana reduced the early-run Skamania steelhead stockings three years ago, so fewer of those fish are available, but that the winter steelhead that Indiana also stocks will be contributing to the river run as the water temperatures cool.
In the meantime, the coho have filled in nicely.
“We’re very pleased with the numbers of coho we have returning this year,” Breidert added.