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By Louie Stout

Steelhead have been pouring into Indiana waters and that should continue with the rains the past couple of days.

During the week of March 10-17, 2,386 fish passed through the South Bend ladder and another 1,295 the past week. That brings this year’s total to 4,355.

That’s still shy of the long-term average of 7,000, and the weather could dictate if we’re able to see that many move up.

“The St. Joe and the other tributaries are dealing with clear, low water and that has hindered the run so far,” said Lake Michigan Biologist Ben Dickinson. “It’s been a challenge and we need the rain.”
Even so, rising water temperatures have several steelhead already spawning and some might be done.

“If we get a tiny bit of rain and just enough to warm the river a little more, we’ll see more fish rocketing upstream,” Dickinson said.

The big push the past couple weeks has hurt fishing in the lower St. Joe, but Dickinson believes we could see another group of fish move into the river.

On the other hand, fast rising temperatures have historically compressed the run into just a few weeks rather than over a longer period of time.

Like everything in fishing, it’s weather dependent.

Wind has stirred up the southern shoreline on the big lake and hurt what was good coho fishing. Dickinson said shore anglers were catching some fish, but mostly on the lake side.

“The harbor may be getting too warm for those fish to move in,” he said. “Before the big blow, guys were catching coho in 8 to 12 feet along the beaches. Boat anglers who find a pod of fish are doing well, but it’s been hit or miss the past few days.”

Crappies continue to provide the best panfish action but bluegills have been adding to the mix. Every shop we contacted said crappies have been the primary target and action for them has been good.

“We’ve been selling a ton of minnows to crappie fishermen,” said Bonnie Kelley at Kelley’s Bait in Lakeville, Ind. “Potato Creek has been the hot spot and I’m told the fish are starting to move shallow.”

Most tackle shops report only fair bluegill fishing, but in southwest Michigan, Brian Hensley at Clear H20 Tackle in Edwardsburg said bluegill fishing has been pretty good.

“I’ve been hearing reports of good bluegill fishing shallow,” he said. “To be honest, I expect things to really bust loose this weekend. We’ve been in a warming trend and we have a full moon.”

Bass are in various stages. Some are still close to wintering holes while others are roaming shallows, says Trevor Nunemaker of the Tackle Shack in Middlebury.

Hensley agrees, noting that fish are being caught on everything from blade baits deep to jigs, jerkbaits and chatterbaits in shallower areas.

Muskie fishing has been pretty good around the Tackle Box in North Webster, Ind.

“We’re hearing of quite a few fish caught, especially on lipless crankbaits like the Rat’L Trap,” said Gabe Rasi at the Tackle Box. “Most of the fish are coming shallow. The big fish should show up when the water temp rises.”