Meat rigs meet expectations for great day on big lake
Written by Chicago Sun Times   
Monday, 08 August 2005 03:38
Every guy needs a gal who understands the difference between a T-shirt and a flasher. Larry Trojan unhooked the first chinook Wednesday and began talking.

His girlfriend, Judy Arzola, came back from a vacation in Michigan last week. On the way, she stopped at Captain Chuck's, the legendary tackle shop in Ludington, Mich.

"She said, 'I have something for you, honey,''' Trojan said. "I figured a T-shirt or something.''

Try a new Fish Catcher flasher, a gizmo used as a fish attractor above the bait, fly or lure in salmon and trout fishing on Lake Michigan.

For the fun of it, Trojan had Ralph Steiger attach it with a meat rig on the last rod. Instant karma. Naturally, it caught the first fish at about 6:40 a.m.

Every fish has a story.

About every other year, Trojan invites me out. The Porter, Ind., man is a swing operator at Cargill on Wolf Lake. In his down time, he chases salmon on his 24-foot Thompson hardtop, Jacks or Better, out of Pastrick Marina in East Chicago, Ind.

Steiger, a 20-year-old from Hammond, has been pairing with Trojan in Salmon Unlimited tournaments for four years.

Trojan heard from Steiger I was curious about meat rigs. That was sort of true, but mainly I wanted to celebrate my birthday in a way I love. And this is the summer of the kings or chinook.

"Is the bait on board, Larry?'' was Steiger's first question before we took off at 5 a.m. Just perfect. The lake had enough chop to make fishing good, not so much as to make the trip overly exciting.

Out of sight of land, Steiger set rods in 72 feet as the red sun rose through the haze.

When he was 11, Steiger's mom would drop him off at the Hammond Marina. He outfished the local old-timers for perch enough that when Mik-Lurch Bait and Tackle opened in Hammond five years ago, Steiger was an early hire.

Every good bait shop needs good fishermen.

Steiger is one of those born to fish: ice fishing on the Fox Chain in winter, perch and coho on Lake Michigan in the spring, bass, catfish and bluegill in the summer, shoreline salmon in the fall.

Four of the nine rods had meat rigs on them. It made for a true test. The meat rig looks like the hollow front to a crankbait with about five inches of heavy leader with a treble hook on the end. There's a series of fish attractors above it. Steiger used a Kingfisher II flasher.

"It takes longer than a regular rod to set, but every trip, we get our biggest fish on it,'' he said.

The strips or whole herring need to be shaved slightly to fit tightly into the casing. Toothpicks peg the herring in place.

"A lot of guys want to catch fish, but they ain't willing to get their hands dirty,'' Steiger said.

At 9:40, I reeled in my birthday fish. The 17-pound chinook came hard to the surface like a steelhead, rolling big and silver far behind the boat.

Steiger needed to be at work by noon. At 10:30, Steiger and Trojan began pulling lines. On the next to last rod, Trojan hooked a good one.

It was time.

We had drifted out to 115 feet, 20.7 miles from Pastrick, an hour run back to Pastrick. But it was well worth it.

Of the seven kings, one coho and one steelhead, all but one (a Howie fly and Dodger) came on the meat rig. Five of the seven we hooked but lost came on meat rigs.

Every premise needs its test.

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