Goshen News, Goshen, IN

August 18, 2013

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

By LOUIE STOUT
THE GOSHEN NEWS

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.



Bass tagging update

The Indiana DNR’s bass tagging of bass in the St. Joseph River has been postponed until fall.

Biologist Neil Ledet said sampling at three stations produced very few fish because the fish appear to have moved off shore.

The DNR uses electro-shocking equipment to capture bass but the gear is only effective in shallow water.

“We talked to a lot of anglers who said they were catching bass in nine feet and our equipment doesn’t reach that deep,” Ledet said. “We’ll return in the fall when the fish are shallower.”

The bass will be tagged for an on-going river bass study. Anglers who catch bass with tags and report them can win Bass Pro Shops Gift Cards.

Bird season dates

Indiana’s 2013 early migratory bird season dates have been submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by the Indiana DNR.

As in other years, these dates are not final until the USFWS approves them, which typically happens by the end of August.

The DNR also is requesting changes to bag and possession limits. Under the request, migratory bird possession limits would increase from twice the daily bag limit to three-times the daily bag limit. The DNR has also asked to increase the daily bag limit for the September teal season from four to six.

The season dates and limit requests are both within the framework provided by USFWS, so no changes are anticipated. A later release will notify of approval or change.

Here’s what the DNR has requested:

Mourning doves: Statewide, 15-bird bag/45-bird possession limit: Sept. 1–Oct. 13 and Nov. 8–Dec. 4.

Sora rails: Statewide, 25-bird bag/75-bird possession limit: Sept. 1–Nov. 9.

Woodcock: Statewide, three-bird bag/nine-bird possession limit: Oct. 15–Nov. 28.

Common snipe: Statewide, eight-bird bag/24-bird possession limit: Sept. 1–Dec. 16.

September teal: Statewide, six-bird bag/18-bird possession limit, blue- and green-winged teal only: Sept. 7–22.

Canada geese: Statewide, five-bird bag/15-bird possession limit: Sept. 1–15.



Guide available

Want to know Indiana’s hunting seasons dates, license fees, hunting opportunities or where to go hunting?

Those answers can be found in the 2013-14 Indiana Hunting & Trapping Regulations Guide.

The 48-page guide, featuring wild turkeys on the cover, is available at businesses that sell DNR hunting licenses and DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife properties.

The guide also includes useful information on bag limits, general hunting regulations, special regulations for deer and wild turkeys, furbearer hunting and trapping information, and contact information for DNR district wildlife biologists and DNR Law Enforcement.



Michigan waterfowl seasons

Michigan hunters will once again enjoy 60-day duck seasons this fall.

Indiana hasn’t released their dates but they are due out soon.

Michigan’s duck seasons will be split into two segments in all three of state duck-hunting zones.

In the South Zone, duck season is slated for Oct. 12–Dec. 8 and Dec. 28-29. North Zone dates are Sept. 21–Nov. 10 and Nov. 23–Dec. 1 while the Middle Zone is Oct. 5–Dec. 1 and Dec. 14-15.

The daily bag limit is six ducks, to include no more than four mallards (no more than one hen), three wood ducks, three scaup (bluebills), two redheads, two canvasback, two pintails and one black duck.

Waterfowl hunting starts with the early Canada goose season beginning Sept. 1 statewide. The season is Sept.1-10 in the North Zone and Sept 1-15 in the rest of the state except in Saginaw, Tuscola and Huron counties, where the season is Sept.1-10. The daily bag limit is five.

The regular Canada goose season is Sept. 21-23, Oct. 12–Dec. 8 and Dec. 28-29 in the South Zone, except in designated goose management units; Sept. 11-Dec. 11 in the North Zone; and Sept. 21-29 and Oct. 5–Dec. 26 in the Middle Zone;. The daily bag limit is two.

In the Allegan County GMU, the season is Nov. 2 – Jan, 31, with a daily bag limit of two.

The late goose season in the South Zone is Jan. 18–Feb. 15, with a daily bag limit of five.

Contact Goshen News outdoor writer Louie at stoutoutdoors@comcast.net.