By Louie Stout
If you love to fish and can handle the cold weather, it's a good time to be on the water.
Especially the St. Joseph River.
A combination of steelhead and coho are providing an excellent fall run with more steelhead coming in daily.
Last week alone, there were 154 coho and 564 steelhead counted swimming past the South Bend ladder. That brings the October total to 1,448 steelhead and 1,465 coho. Throw in September numbers, and we've seen an influx of 2,329 steelhead and 6,023 coho between Twin Branch and South Bend dams over the past two months.
And since June, nearly 4,400 steelhead have moved upriver and will remain there until next spring.
Mike McNulty of Midway Bait and Tackle in Osceola says fishing for the trout and salmon has been pretty darn good.
"I had a guy tell me last weekend that the Twin Branch area was packed with anglers and nearly every one of them had caught a fish or two," said McNulty.
Spawn bags and inline spinners have been the hot baits.
Bodine Assistant Fish Hatchery Biologist Bob Bell said the coho run is fading but steelhead are picking up the slack.
Most of the steelhead coming in are Michigan's winter variety although some late arriving Skamania strains from Indiana continue to straggle in.
"The coho are on the beds now and within two weeks, they'll be gone," he said. "But the numbers of steelhead coming up the river should continue to rise until Thanksgiving, unless we get a big cold snap that shuts them down."
And while the Twin Branch area gets mentioned a lot, Bell believes the gravel flats around Keller and Leeper Parks should have quite a few coho on them.
"And remember, the steelhead will set up downstream of those gravel areas and feed on the coho eggs being dumped," he added. "That's a good place to look for steelhead."
If muskies are your favorite fish, the handful of lakes in Kosciusko County where they are stocked could provide you some excitement.
Jim Housman of the Tackle Box in North Webster, Ind. said muskie fishing has been good and gets better with the cooler weather.
The biggest reported to his shop so far was a 49-incher but a 44-incher was caught on Webster last Saturday.
"Webster is good for numbers of fish," he said. "But Lake Tippecanoe and Upper Long Lake have been good for big fish."
Most anglers are fishing suckers dragged behind the boat while casting Glide Baits. Fish that follow the lures to the boat often can't resist the nearby sucker.
"One of the hottest lures right now is the Muskie Combat Lure, but it's hard to get and doesn't stay on the shelf for very long," Housman said.
Despite the cold, wet weather, all tackle shops report pretty good bluegill fishing. Bonnie Kelley at Kelley's Bait in Lakeville said not many people are fishing but the ones who are have been catching a lot of big fat bluegills.
"The fish are feeding up for the winter," she said.
Housman said the same thing about lakes in his area and added that perch fishing has been getting good on Lake Wawasee.
Darrin Schaap of Clear H2o Tackle in Edwardsburg said the bluegills in southwest Michigan are setting up for winter and feeding heavily.
Kelly said red wigglers and wax worms were catching the bluegill while Housman said minnows fished over sandy areas were catching perch.
"Down here, the best bluegill fishing seems to be in the 2- to 8-foot zone," he said.
McNulty said bluegill and crappie fishing on the St. Joseph River has been good ñ once you find them. The fish are schooling so where you find one, there should be several.