Smaller fish likely this year
Written by Gary Post-Tribune   
Saturday, 24 September 2005 15:54
There is good news and bad news regarding this year?s salmon run. The good news is that the annual migration of chinook and coho salmon already has begun. The bad news is that expectations of hooking in to those 20-pound plus kings seems slim.

"Over the past week we have noted chinook and coho salmon in both Trail Creek and the east branch of the Little Calumet River," Lake Michigan fishery biologist Brian Briedert said. "Last Saturday the fishing off of the pier in Michigan City was excellent early in the morning. It appeared that shore anglers were faring better than boats trolling."

Briedert said that due to the warm water temperature and lack of precipitation, this year?s salmon run likely will develop later than in typical years. He anticipates that it might be as long as two weeks from now before the majority of the fish have twisted their tail fin in the big lake for the last time.

Salmon make their final journey up the tributary where they were released three to four years ago, cruising under logs, over rocks and shallow spots just barely navigable. On the upper stretches of the tributaries they die off completing their life cycle.

Salmon, unlike trout, are not able to reproduce in area tributaries.

However, species like steelhead and brown trout can, and Briedert said he is optimistic that the brown trout might be on the threshold of establishing itself in waters such as Trail Creek.

"Last week we did a survey and found brown trout up to Liberty Trail on Trail Creek," Briedert said. "The fish were in spawning condition."

Biologists expect the number of salmon to be found in tributaries over the next month to six weeks to be comparable to what has been noted in recent years. However, the average size of chinook likely will be eight to 12 pounds, Briedert said.

"That has been the size that we have seen over the past week with the biggest king being a 37-incher that weighed 15 pounds," he said. "We may see a few that go 17 to 20 pounds but those likely will be infrequent."

The reason this year?s salmon will not be as large could be due to the decrease in the amount of alewife, the chief food source for salmon. While fishery biologists are not sure if the alewife population will soon rebound, they are keeping a close eye on it.

"We are having a Lake Michigan Seminar in Kenosha, Wis., on Oct. 1 and that is one of the issues that we will be addressing," Briedert said.

Rain seems to be one of the key factors in determining when salmon begin to migrate upstream. Last week the run came after a late week rain. With rain possibly in the forecast for this weekend, another run could ensue.

Meanwhile expect good action along the pier, the mouth of Burns Ditch and in lower stretches of Trail Creek, Little Calumet River and Salt Creek.

For those who have never had the opportunity to battle with a salmon traveling upstream in one of our area tributaries, it is worth considering.

Early morning at daybreak you?ll find the salmon moving upstream from hole to hole often stopping in a deep pool for the day. Casting a spoon such as a K. O. Wobbler or Little Cleo will often entice a salmon to hit more out of aggression than due to hunger.

Once salmon enter a tributary they realize that their days of gorging on baitfish for bulking up are over. They now conserve their energy for the migration.

At nightfall the salmon again begin to move upstream. If you are positioned along a bank, lantern over the edge of the water and look downstream you?re likely to see a "v" shape coming towards you that looks like a torpedo cruising just beneath the surface of the creek.

In shallow water you?ll often see the back and fins of the salmon as he struggles his way to the next hole.

That hole is where most anglers will try their luck under the dark skies.

Salmon, sometimes many of them at once, will congregate in these holes, resting up before again moving further upstream. At night it is often difficult to cast so fishing with a spawn sac, squid or night crawler is a good alternative.

Since the tributaries are chocked full of logjams, fallen trees and other natural debris, the best bet is to have a reel that is spooled with 10- to 20-pound test line. Many veteran anglers prefer seventeen pound test line, especially if bigger salmon are present.

A long-handled landing net is crucial for bringing the fish ashore. To ensure that your net does not get caught up on tree branches as you walk along trails or underbrush, tie a plastic garbage bag around the webbing.

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