Goshen News, Goshen, IN

October 8, 2012

OUTDOOR COLUMN: Don't give up on salmon run this fall


GOSHEN — So … really … where are the trout and salmon?

That’s the question of the month for anglers who have waited impatiently for the big push of trout and salmon into Indiana waters of the St. Joseph River.

I mean, we’ve got fish. Guys are catching them. But nothing what we expected.

As of mid-week, this fall’s run ranks as the third worst in the 15 years the fish have been coming to South Bend.

Through Sept. 27 – the last time South Bend fish ladder tapes were recorded – only 599 steelhead, 44 coho, 91 kings and 1 brown trout had wiggled through the ladder. By Oct. 5 of last year, we had 1,910 steelhead, 1,344 kings, 484 coho and 12 browns swimming between Twin Branch and the South Bend dams.

On the brighter side, this year is still better than 2010 when we had fewer than 500 fish total through the ladder at this time of year. Also, there have been good reports of more fish late last week and quite a few were being caught in Mishawaka.

But the big run is still MIA.    Fish biologists are scratching their heads and crossing their fingers that the best is yet to come this season.

“We’ve had an unusual set of circumstances with a record breaking heat, a drought and very little current to draw those fish out of the lake and into our waters,” said Lake Michigan biologist Brian Breidert. “I think we’ll see another run the middle of this month or in late October, especially if we can get some rain to improve water flow.”

Michigan biologist Jay Wesley agrees, noting that a strong current lures trout and salmon to their spawning grounds.     “There isn’t enough current and the water has been too warm,” he insisted.

“We had a crew out on the lake doing lake trout research and they found 60 degree water temps down to 100 feet. That doesn’t do much for sparking the fishes’ interest into swimming up river.”

Wesley said the steelhead run has been slow at all ports north of St. Joe, although the coho runs have been fairly impressive on the Grand River. The king runs in northern rivers have been average or below average.

There has been some speculation that the poor fall run could be attributed to a big harvest this summer by lake anglers. In other words, those fish that normally return to the river were caught.

Biologists say it’s possible, but not likely.

“I know the lake fishing for salmon and steelhead was good but I don’t think the harvest was that big to affect the fall runs,” said Wesley.

Breidert said there wasn’t a tremendous steelhead fishery in Indiana waters of the lake, and while the king fishery was good, he doesn’t believe it wasn’t that great to impact the run.

So, biologists insist it’s all about water temperature, water levels and flow.

Trail Creek, which runs cooler and has had a stronger flow into Lake Michigan at Michigan City, has experienced a much better run than the St. Joe.

“And the thing is, these fish we’re seeing at Trail Creek are tremendously healthy,” Breidert said.

He also believes the delayed run could be affected by moon phases as well as water flows, noting that the harvest moon came early this year.

“I really think that we should see more fish around the next full moon, so I’d expect to see things happen around the 23rd of the month, if not before,” he added.

We should see more coho, too. A meager return of some 8,000 fish stocked here a few years ago should contribute to the stronger coho fishery.

Next fall, survivors from a 51,000-fish Indiana coho stocking in 2010 will return and should offer a pretty exciting 2013 fall run.

But it’s the Skamania that anglers really like to catch. Wesley believes more are coming and could show up when Michigan’s winter-run fish move into the river between now and mid November. He expects an average-to-above-average return of Michigan fish this winter.

In other words, you better wait to put away the tackle. However, it might be a good idea to get out the long jons. Those anglers willing to brave the cooler weather still have a lot of fun ahead of them later this fall.

EHD continues

EHD continues to hammer away at southern Michigan deer and is becoming more visible in northern Indiana.

According to the Michigan DNR EHD website, more than 6,500 dead deer through Sept. 25 have been reported statewide and most of those are in southern counties.

Those numbers include 193 in Cass, 15 in Berrien, 426 in Branch, and 242 in St. Joseph counties.

Hoosier Wildlife biologist Linda Byer said this week she’s gotten more reports of suspected EHD outbreaks southwest of Warsaw in Kosciusko County, southwest of Plymouth in Marshall County, and additional reports north of Bristol in Elkhart County.

“Those deer were found near water with no visible signs of injury,” she said, which is an indication the animals were inflicted with the virus.

Jason Wade, who covers northwest Indiana, said he’s received dead deer reports from every county in his district, with Steuben and LaGrange topping the list.

Meanwhile, bow hunting successes the first week were mild, although you can expect that to improve as more fields are being picked. Several cornfields have been cleared already.

Kevin Claire of Lunker’s said trail cameras and field sightings indicate there are still deer quite a few deer around southern Michigan.

“Some guys are seeing quite a few deer, especially in the central and eastern part of Cass County where EHD hit two years ago but seems less severe this year,” he offered.

Deer pictures

Successful hunters wanting to show off their kill can do so at my website, www.michianaoutdoorsnews.com, where I’m creating a photo gallery of hunter successes.    

We will run some pictures of trophy bucks and the more interesting photos with this outdoors column as well, but the website gives everyone an outlet to show off their kill, including youngsters with their first deer.

Submit your photos, with details of the hunt (including names and hometowns of the people pictured) to me at the email listed below.


Contact Goshen News outdoor writer Louie Stout at info@comcast.net.