Goshen News, Goshen, IN


August 18, 2013

OUTDOOR COLUMN: Here come the trout in the St. Joe

GOSHEN — If you’ve abandoned your river steelhead fishing tackle the past few years due to poor fishing conditions, dig it out, clean it up and get ready.

This fall’s St. Joseph River fishing should be a vast improvement over recent years.

It’s already shaping up that way. Through Aug. 13, some 4,546 steelhead had passed the South Bend dam and there’s likely more by the time you read this.

That’s well above what we’ve seen the past few years when the fall run and fishing was a bust.

This year’s run supports what biologists have long contended – low water and warm river temperatures don’t bode well for a good steelhead run.

And that’s what we’ve experienced the past three years.

Since early July, however, water temps have dipped into the low 70s and good rainfalls have kept the river moving, luring the big trout into the river from Lake Michigan.

“Last year we had only 2,400 fish come in during the entire run, and we’ve already exceeded that,” said a gleeful Lake Michigan biologist, Brian Breidert. “We’re hoping to see at least 3,000 fish this month and somewhere between 5,000 to 6,000 when the fall run is complete.”

And that’s just the Skamania. A good return of cohos should add to the fall fishery, as some of those fish stocked here two years ago should be making their way back to Mishawaka.

A few already have.

Indiana stocked 60,000 coho in the St. Joe two years ago and another 90,000 last year. Coho are stocked as 1-year-olds, so returning 3-year-olds (that didn’t get caught in the lake) should make for an even more interesting fishery. Breidert said some of the 2-year-olds will return, too.

And let’s not forget a few king salmon that make it up stream, plus Michigan’s winter-run steelhead that come in a little later.

Ditto for Trail Creek in Michigan City that has experienced a phenomenal steelhead run this summer. Trail Creek runs cooler and Breidert says hundreds of fish are settling in the deep pools throughout the system.

Want more good news? Most of the returning fish are running above average in size. A healthy year class of alewives in Lake Michigan has kept the trout and salmon well fed.

The steelhead are running 8 to 16 pounds while 9- to 12-pound coho are common. The kings have been incredibly big with several pushing beyond the 20-pound mark.

So, if you’re gearing up for fall fishing, put new line on that fishin’ reel. That old stuff could get snapped easily.

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