Lake Michigan Corner August

After a spring and early summer season with much more rain than we’ve known what to do with, let’s hope the mid-summer months will get back to normal along the southern shores of Lake Michigan.

Personally, I believe the heavy rainfall and rising Lake levels will have a beneficial affect to our fishery all along the lakefront. The deeper the water, the longer it takes to warm up. We can really see this with the cooler-than-normal nearshore water temperatures, what with the trout and salmon having been reluctant to move out to deeper depths, instead remaining in shallower water. With the price of gas, anyone that owns a boat and has to run far off shore to get into the fish knows this is indeed a welcome relief.

Up on the Wisconsin side of the “big lake,” things have been somewhat the opposite. The colder water near shore has kept the ideal water temperatures to the south, and things have been slower than normal during the early part of the summer.

Port Washington has been slower than normal fishing from shore and off the piers. Best baits have been minnows, nightcrawlers, spoons like the Little Cleo and Williams Bully or alewives. There has been no shortage of alewives so far this summer. A few carp have also been taken, along with the usual catch of suckers, especially on nightcrawlers. Lake trout have just started to move in.

Fishing somewhat slow

Boats have been taking Chinook and coho with good catches of steelhead and lake trout in 60 to 150 feet of water out of the Amsterdam Ramp. Best fishing has been during the early morning.

In Racine, although the shore fishing has been slow, the boat action has been steadily improving out in 50 to 150 feet. Most of the catch has been coho,with a few Chinook starting to move in with steelhead and lake trout being very slow.

Kenosha has been seeing more of the same with fishing also on the slow side with some action trolling for coho, Chinook, lakers and steelhead. There are tons of alewives in the area, though, and once they make a move, look for the fishing to catch on fire.

Shore fishing has been slow, having to do with the ongoing construction in the harbor. Three floating barges have been in the harbor, taking up a lot of space as dredging work continues. Construction is also being done on the harbor pier walls.

Perch decline

Perch fishing has been extraordinarily slow in both Racine and Kenosha since the season reopened, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources does not look forward to much improvement in the near future.

Over the past 25 years the perch have all but disappeared off the Milwaukee shores and points south. Annual testing indicates big trouble for the perch population. This year’s assessment was done in May and June, with various size mesh nets used to capture various year classes.

After several days of work, only three perch were caught. To put this into perspective, on a single night of netting in the 1980s, thousands of perch were typically caught. Some difference!

Most scientists blame the decline to invasive mussels brought to the Great Lakes by international shipping. They now coat the lake bottom. The mussels filter out plankton, resulting in a lack of nutrition for larval perch and other species.

After the young perch absorb their yolk sacs, they drift out into the Lake looking for food. With none or very little available, most of them perish.

The perch shortages have had a costly impact on local businesses like restaurants, fish markets, bait shops and the entire tackle industry. The economic impact has been devastating.

The United States Fish & Wildlife Service is responsible for “restoring our native fish species before they become threatened or endangered,” as it says in their publication. The commercial fishing for perch has been banned, and the DNR has imposed strict bag limits for sport fishermen. So the ball is in the Fish & Wildlife Service’s court.

I spoke with then DNR director Ron Bruch at a Governor’s Opener several years ago, before his retirement, and we both agreed that dark clouds were forming on the horizon with the perch fishery. This prediction has come to pass and the fishery is in big trouble.

The Fish & Wildlife Service has done a great job on restoring the lake trout population over the past twenty or so years using federal money. What about our perch restoration? That would also fall under their guidelines. Let’s put pressure on your legislators to get these people to do their jobs.

Good fishing near Illinois

Down in Illinois it’s been hot off Northpoint on the Hill for big lake trout on the bottom. Coho, steelhead and occasional Chinook have been hitting in 160 feet.

Coho and a few steelhad have been hitting in 40 to 70 feet east of Waukegan. More coho out in 150 to 275 feet, along with steelhead, lakers and a few brown trout.

Successful lures

Yellow Birds 00 dodgers (Flourescent Red) and Eddie Flies (Blue) and (Green) and Warrior Spoons (Yellow Fin Tuna) have been working for coho and some Chinook in 100 feet.

Very good Chinook in 200 to 250 feet on Williams W-60 Wabblers (Candied Ice Silver Back) and Stinger Spoons (Blue Dolphin Super Glow) at 80 feet down; Yakima’s Big Al’s Fish Flash (Fish Eye Silver) has been working ahead of an Eddy Fly (White) 110 feet down.

Chicagoland

Chicago anglers have been having a ball at Montrose, casting crankbaits and spoons outside the harbor for sheepshead. A few northern have been mixed in, so bring a landing net. Some steelhead have been taking golden roaches on slip bobbers inside the harbors. Smallmouth have been hitting in Diversey, Belmont and Burnham Harbors.

Some coho, brown trout and Chinook have been taken by trollers off Wilmette in 20 to 40 feet of water and a few coho and Chinook off the R-2. Good coho, lake trout, steelhead and a few Chinook out in 75 to 125 feet.

Indiana

In Indiana, the fishing has been hot for coho and Chinook in 50 to 70 feet out of Michigan City, Burns Ditch and Calumet Harbor. The fish have been taking spoons like the Stinger Spoon (Grim Reaper), 0 dodgers (Coho Orange and Red Metallic Glow) and various colored Eddie Flies.

The Skamania steelhead have also started moving in. Shore fishermen have been taking them off the Michigan City pier on nightcrawlers and shrimp, under slip bobbers.