Feast on outdoor opportunities
Written by South Bend Tribune   
Friday, 26 November 2004 10:52

If you've overdosed on football, turkey and relatives or simply need to get outdoors this weekend, Michiana is the place to be.

Thanksgiving weekend is a time when just about every hunting season is in place, and for the hardy lot, good fishing can be found as well.

Want to hunt? Take your pick. The deer firearms season is in its final stages on both sides of the border, the best of rabbit season is just coming on and the lack of leaves have exposed squirrels hiding in trees. If you know where there is good habitat, pheasants can be hunted, too.

Cooler weather is beginning to push a few more northern ducks into Indiana. Waterfowl season is open on both sides of the border, although goose season is closed in southern Michigan.

Finding places to hunt is a common problem, but don't forget that state public hunting grounds are available. In southern Michigan, Crane Pond State Game Area (269-244-5928) and Warren Dunes State Park (269-426-4013) both provide hunting opportunities. Call ahead to confirm the property is open the day you plan to hunt.

In northern Indiana, public hunting is limited to Fish and Wildlife Areas. Nearby state land includes Kingsbury (219-393-3612) at LaPorte, Tri-County (574-834-4461) south of Syracuse, Jasper-Pulaski (219-843-4841) near Medaryville, Kankakee (574- 896-3522) near North Judson, and Winamac (574-946-4422) near Winamac.

It's easier to find places to fish, especially if you have a boat. Although early winter in Michiana gets a lot of credit for quality fishing, it exists.

Best bets include the St. Joseph River from Mishawaka to Lake Michigan or Trail Creek in Michigan City. Both tributaries are full of steelhead which will spend the winter in those waters. The St. Joseph produces excellent steelhead fishing since both Indiana and Michigan stock it heavily.

For details about fishing steelhead in the South Bend area, call Central Park Bait and Tackle (255-7703). Shore anglers have good access to the fish from city parks along the river or at the Twin Branch dam, east of Capital Ave.

Best methods for catching steelhead is to walk small clusters of spawn or a squirmy nightcrawler with the current into holes located downstream from gravel bars.

Cold weather brings the best out of walleyes which are found prominently throughout the St. Joseph River. Hot spots are near dams, especially at Berrien Springs, Buchanan and Elkhart. Nearby lakes with good walleye fishing include Lake of the Woods and Lake Maxinkuckee in Marshall County and Winona Lake in the city of Warsaw.

Best baits are jigs with curly-tailed grubs tipped with minnows that should be fished in and around eddies.

Kosciusko County also sports some of the Midwest's best muskie action and now's the time to catch big ones. They're found in Webster Lake, Tippecanoe Lake and the Barbee Chain. For details, call the Tackle Box (574-834-2011).

And what about panfish? The 2004 fishing season has produced one of the best for big bluegills, and there's no reason why that shouldn't continue through the winter.

The best place to find panfish this time of year is in deep channels away from the main lake or in canals that connect to the St. Joseph River. Fish with light line and a small hook tipped with wax worms (bluegill) or a minnow (crappie).

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