Annual skamania contest at Michigan City this weekend
Written by Post-Tribune   
Friday, 30 June 2006 18:14

The 16th annual Skamania Mania Fishing Contest sponsored by the Northwest Indiana Steelheaders Club is slated for this weekend at Michigan City’s Washington Park.

This is a free event. Anglers do not have to pre-register and the contest begins at midnight Saturday. Any fish that is weighed in up to the 4 p.m. deadline on Sunday stands a chance to claim top prize.

“This is truly a fun event that has grown over the years,” said Steelheader member and past president Mike Ryan of Chesterton. “We are starting to see a lot of youngsters participate, which is wonderful.”

The rules are very simple and fisherman honesty is important. Though judges will inspect the fish for foul hook marks or inspect fish to check and see if they have been caught prior to Saturday, overall, the event has gone on without a hitch over the years.

Weigh-ins will be done on both Saturday and Sunday along the south side of Trail Creek near the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Building in Michigan City. The DNR building is to the west of the Washington Street Bridge, which is north of U.S. Highway 12.

First-place winner will receive a $100 gift certificate while second place wins $50. Gift certificates will be awarded to the next eight places as well.

The “Grand Daddy” of prizes, however, a $150 Steelheader rod/reel combination, goes to the 13th heaviest steelhead weighed.

“We thought by giving away a 13th place prize, some interest would be generated as well as adding some excitement for those that were not on the top of the leader board,” Ryan said.

The largest steelhead ever weighed in at the event was a 22.8-pound lunker caught in 1999 by Chris Pumroy of LaPorte.

The only two-time winner has been Bruce Weber of Portage, who caught a steelie in 1995 that tipped the scales at 21.4.

He won again in 2000 with the lowest weight to ever win the tournament with a steelhead that weighed in at 13.10.

Two types of steelhead trout reside in Lake Michigan. The summer-run trout, named skamania, is an elongated fish that was the first to be stocked in Lake Michigan tributaries.

In June and early July skamania travel up Trail and Salt Creek, as well as the east branch of the Little Calumet River, to spawn.

The second strain, dubbed “Michigan Football,” was a steelhead introduced by Michigan fishery biologists which swims up Lake Michigan tributaries in the fall to spawn.

Both strains of fish are known for their fighting prowess and leaping abilities.

Some people are inclined to think that once a steelhead goes past the pier head, they will be found upstream in tributaries shortly thereafter. Yet studies indicate otherwise.

“One year in the early 1990s we paid the DNR to tag some skamania near the DNR building to see where and when they would be located upstream in Trail Creek,” Mike Ryan recalled.

“Then a couple of weeks later a fisherman brought in a tagged steelhead that he caught from the east branch of the Little Calumet River near Burns Harbor.”

One of the beautiful aspects of steelhead as opposed to fall salmon, which once they begin their spawning run will not turn back, is that mother nature is very indicative of when they journey upstream, said Indiana’s Lake Michigan fishery biologist Brian Briedert.

“Steelhead may move into an area such as the mouth of Trail Creek or Burns Ditch and head upstream,” he explained. “However, when they reach the lower stretches of tributaries and if the water in the holes is too warm, they will turn around and head back out into Lake Michigan until the water temperature drops.”

What triggers most runs is a heavy rain.

The brief but heavy shower that occurred on Wednesday night could provide a fresh run of steelhead, and if the weekend forecasts of rain do indeed occur, another fresh run could be in the near future.

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