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Find the gravel bottom on local tributaries and you’ll find steelhead spawning this time of year.

To paraphrase William Wallace, “They may take away our” basketball, baseball and hockey, “but they’ll never take” our fishing!

Perhaps the prudent way to avoid the coronavirus pandemic is to fish. Steal yourself to the great outdoors. Abundant coho, leaping steelhead and hard-charging largemouth are providing their own kind of March madness right now.

In the interest of further prevention, you might want to stay upwind of other guys at the pier, cast from opposite ends of the bass boat and keep catch celebrations to a simple elbow bump with your net man. It remains OK, I think, to kiss a fish before release.

Coho fishing continues to be crazy good in Michigan City. Shore guys on the pier, in the harbor and the lower stretches of Trail Creek are still getting them with spawn, shrimp, squid and night crawlers either plunked on bottom or floated four to 10 feet under a bobber.

More trollers have been getting out and have been smacking coho along the beaches both east and west of the harbor. J-9 Rapalas, Thin Fish and other tight-wiggling plugs, mostly with some fluorescent red color on them, are accounting for the coho.

As good as the coho catching has been around here, it continues to be faster at Burns Harbor and other ports to the west. New Buffalo and St. Joe have had good coho when weather has allowed, too. In total, there have been tens of thousands of coho caught on the southern end of Lake Michigan already this year – and it normally just starts to get good about now.

Some fresh steelies surged up Trail Creek this week. Not quite like anglers expect around here as it has been a slow winter and spring, at least so far. There may be a big push of spawner to come, but it is time.

At any rate, there are fish available and it is exciting angling to watch world-class trout ogle your offering in shallow water. Find gravel or hard-bottom areas in the middle and upper reaches of local tributaries this time of year and you’ll usually see spawning steelhead. If steelies aren’t visible – spooked due to angling pressure or super-clear conditions, the first deep run or hole downstream of those spots often holds a bunch.

I like flipping brass-bladed spinners with a slash of hot orange or chartreuse on the underside of a No. 2 or 3 blade. Black is a good second choice. Fly guys dapple dark nymphs or black or purple egg-sucking leeches. Small jigs catch the big spawners, too. Bait is hardly necessary in the shallows.

A stealthy approach boosts the number of hook-ups in close quarters. Polarized sunglasses are crucial as well.

The St. Joseph River did receive a huge run of steelies this week. Biologist Ben Dickinson noted 1,600 steelhead passed through the South Bend fish ladder just this week.

Inland, I saw a lot of those “first” of the season bass showing up on social media on Thursday. A few crappie and bluegill are being caught, too.

Bass can be tedious this time of the year, but get a mild, sunny afternoon and they’ll be roaming soon-to-be lily pad covered flats or hulking just outside the first drop off.

Pause-and-jerk retrieves with suspending stickbaits, with plenty of emphasis on the pause, takes a large share of largemouths right now. Some plastics and swim jigs work, too, while a few guys do well casting lipless crankbaits. The panfish are best on small baits like waxworms or ice jigs tipped with the waxies. Three to six feet down outside the drop off is a good spot to start. Get a couple warm days and crappie and ‘gills will be checking out the shallows, too.

HCC Scholarships

A pair of $1,000 scholarships to college or trade school are available from the Hoosier Coho Club. The catch is application must be received by April 3. Rules and form are at www.hoosiercohoclub.org.


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