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TOPIC: Decade review around MC

Decade review around MC Jan 20, 2020 9:09 am #25752

  • dogsbestfriend
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From the salmon fishery on the brink to a speedy recovery to the miracle of the perches, Lake Michigan provided a doozy of a decade.
Salmon were skinny and few in 2015. The fishing became so bad the Hoosier Coho Club Classic champion needed a 60-mile round trip to Chicago both days to secure the only limits of scrawny coho. Chinook were even more scarce.
The combination of trillions of invasive quagga mussels filtering nutrients from the bottom of the food web and unsustainable numbers of predator chinook and lake trout pressuring from above pushed prey fish population, particularly alewives, to all-time low levels.
One more bad winter of alewife recruitment and the fishery may have collapsed. Biologists noted Lake Michigan had become more sterile than deeper, colder Lake Superior.
Fortuitously, fish managers slashed numbers of stocked predators, Mother Nature was kind and a remarkable turn-around occurred by the end of the decade. In fact, the 2018 Classic produced the biggest catches in the storied 46-year history of the Michigan City event
All-time marks were set in total weights, average weights and individual salmon in all divisions due to the huge size of the 2018 crop of chinook salmon. 2019 produced even larger fish, albeit fewer in number, including a 29.3-pound April chinook caught by Brad Kreighbaum.
Prior to 2015, chinook were plentiful due mostly to natural reproduction in northern Michigan and Lake Huron tributaries. Early in the decade every chinook stocked for a period of five years received a coded wire tag indicating release site. Subsequent analysis proved nearly 70 percent of chinook recovered were wild produced. No wonder the predator/prey balance was so skewed.
Also notable was chinook roamed far and wide and mixed freely between the lakes. It became evident a chinook caught outside Michigan City in spring or summer was as likely to be hatched 500 miles away in a remote Georgian Bay, Ontario tributary as produced in Indiana's own hatcheries.
Coincidentally, or not, water levels cycled down then up like the salmon fishery. Securing funds for emergency dredging was the crisis in 2013 as Lake Michigan neared all-time lows. Five years later the lake was at near-record highs flooding marinas, eating up shoreline and generally wreaking havoc on manmade structures.
The salmon drought at mid-decade focused renewed interest in a world-class lake trout fishery off Indiana's shore. The least popular of Lake Michigan species due to deep water hangouts and lackluster fighting at those depths, lake trout are beautifully marked fish and better suited to survive a more-sterile lake.
And they live long and grow large. A pair of magnificent 30-pound plus trout, the biggest salmonids of the decade, were landed in 2016..
Donnie Moore caught and released a 44-inch brute (estimated well over 30 lbs.) while jigging at the Port of Indiana in February. In June, Tyler Kreighbaum set the Indiana record with a whopping 37.55-pound laker, which also measured 44 inches.
Perch, once the most sought-after species in southern Lake Michigan declined steadily until a miracle of sorts happened during the summer of 2015. An unexpected, second-largest-hatch in recorded history occurred. Biologists cited a "perfect storm" of weather and plankton blooms, but again it was nothing short of a phenomenon.
Perch catches continued to trend downward during the latter part of the decade, but those "miracle babies" will be five-year olds and keeper size in 2020.
Other notable fish events in the past decade include a 35-inch muskie caught off the Michigan City pier in 2018. It was the first officially noted muskie caught around here in decades, although multiple others muskie have been caught at Indiana's western ports in recent years.
Walleye still have a presence and many are huge as noted by Ron Ryba's catch and release of a 13-pound, 15-ounce beauty in November, 2019. Several giant walleyes, as well as huge smallmouth, largemouth and catfish were caught every year during the past decade in Michigan City.
Off the water advancements mostly revolve around the phone/portable computer in your pocket. During the past decade it has become normal to have weather radar at your fingertips as well as easy, remote access to current wave, wind and water temperature on Lake Michigan as well as stream height and temperatures.
Calendar Marks
The Michigan City Fish & Game Club, 107 Chapala Pkwy. is hosting one of their famous all-you-can-eat breakfast fundraisers from 7 a.m. until noon on Jan. 26 (For more information, call 879-9741 or see facebook page).
The big North American Ice Fishing extravaganza in LaPorte, featuring free seminars and multiple fishing competitions, is set for Feb. 8-10 (see naifc.com for details).
The Indiana DNR will hold a "state of the lake" meeting about Lake Michigan and tributary programs on Feb. 8 at the Michigan City Fish & Game Club (see www.hoosiercohoclub.org for details).
The following user(s) said Thank You: Lickety-Split, reel fun, BAK47

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