Goshen News, Goshen, IN


May 5, 2013

OUTDOOR COLUMN: Nation’s best bass lakes are nearby

GOSHEN — I’ve always believed we have some of the nation’s best fishing at our doorstep and Bassmaster Magazine agrees.

The 500,000-circulation periodical listed the nation’s best bass fishing lakes and six of those lie within 3 1/2 hours of Goshen.

More impressively, Michigan’s Lake St. Clair landed No. 1.

Think about that; it ranked higher than lakes Guntersville in Alabama or Falcon and Amistad in Texas - all well established big bass lakes.

Other nearby waters making the top 100 list include Lake Erie, ranked No. 5; Lake Michigan (especially Traverse bays) was 29th; Lake Charlevoix, Mich. was 40;  Burt was 81 and, closer to home, Lake Wawasee ranked 92.

These lakes are excellent for other species, too. Erie might be the best walleye fishery in the world, Lake Michigan is tops for trout and salmon, and Charlevoix and Wawasee are darn good panfish lakes.

I asked Bassmaster Editor James Hall how a lake on Detroit’s doorsteps gets top billing.

“Well, there are a number of reasons,” he said. “First, it’s been a crazy good smallmouth bass fishery forever. Secondly, the pros tell me the largemouth fishing is almost as good as the smallmouth fishing, but few people fish for them.”

He’s right about that. The smallmouth bass fishing at St. Clair has been spectacular – beyond belief – the past few years. Largemouth bass, found primarily in the slower, heavily vegetated backwaters, take a backseat to the phenomenal smallmouth fishing.

Kalamazoo pro Kevin VanDam told me there’s not a better bass lake for numbers of 3- to 4-pound smallmouth anywhere in North America. And he’s seen them all.

“Here’s another reason,” added Hall. “We had a Bassmaster Open tournament there last summer and there were nearly two tons of bass brought to the scales. Had the tournament been a four-day event instead of a three-day tourney, winner Jason Christie would have threatened the 100-pound mark. And remember, we’re talking smallmouth that don’t get as big as the largemouth.”

That 100-pound mark, which gets eclipsed occasionally on lunker largemouth lakes, could be surpassed in August when the Bassmaster Elites compete there. Elite pros fish four days and are permitted 5 bass per day.

All of the lakes from this region that were mentioned in the article are popular bass tournament lakes that have been good for a long time.

Apparently, their reputations are starting to grow.

Youth fishing event

The Indiana DNR and the South Bend Parks and Recreation Department will host a free youth fishing day Saturday at Pinhook Park in South Bend.

To encourage participation, the DNR will stock 400 keeper-size rainbow trout into Pinhook Lagoon for young participants to catch.

The event is open to the first 100 youths to register, ages 7-17. You can sign-up online at www.sbpark.org or call 574-299-4765.

The fishing day for families includes basic instruction on casting and angling, fish cleaning, water safety, and fish identification. There will also be a DNR shocking boat demonstration.

After the clinics, fishing coaches will accompany the youths to the waterside and poles, bait, and tackle will be provided. The event will end with an awards ceremony for all anglers who complete the clinic and prizes will go out to the top five biggest fish caught.

A fish boil lunch will be provided by the Michiana Steelheaders to all participants and their families.    The youth fishing day is a partnership between the DNR, South Bend Parks and Recreation Department, conservation organizations and local businesses.

For additional information, please call Keilah Ehrman, South Bend Parks and Recreation Department, at 574-235-9504.

‘Fuzzy Bear’ wins Pro-Am

“Fuzzy Bear,” captained by Carl Stopczynsk of North Liberty, Ind. claimed the Hoosier Coho Club Pro/Am title at Michigan City last weekend by a mere 15/100’s of a pound.

The Fuzzy Bear team, a perennial favorite in Michigan City salmon contests, edged another former winner, “Blue Fairways” (captained by Wally Laaksonen of Ludington), 156.55 points to 156.40.

The Club’s Pro-Am is an annual event designed as a practice round for this weekend’s Hoosier Coho Classic, Lake Michigan’s oldest and most prestigious trout/salmon event.

Scoring is based on a 10-points-per-fish, one-point-per-pound scoring system. A maximum of 10 salmon or trout, including no more than three lake trout, could be weighed in the Pro/Am.

    “Uncle Bud” (Bud Roche) blew away the competition in the Amateur Division with a whopping 181.80 points, despite weighing in only eight fish. Anchoring the impressive catch was a 19.45-pound chinook which took big fish honors among amateurs. Big fish in the Pro Division was a 17.35-pound brown trout pulled aboard Jeff Eck’s “The Rodfather.”

UP deer threatened

Late snowstorms in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula could lead to lower survival and fawn recruitment rates than what have been seen during the last few years, according to the Michigan DNR.

Winter conditions are a significant factor for the U.P.’s deer herd. Mild winters, such as those experienced from 2010-2012, provide favorable conditions for over-winter survival and allow pregnant does to produce healthy fawns. Harsher winters with deep snows restrict movement and challenge energy reserves. Those conditions affect survival rates, particularly for deer living in harsher conditions, and put additional stress on pregnant does.

Heavy precipitation in February and March left deep snows across the peninsula and extended well into April. U.P. deer were showing visible signs, including thin body conditions and lethargic behavior, and biologists have received reports of deer mortalities.

No extra trout stocking

A shortfall of trout has caused the Indiana DNR to cancel additional trout stockings into five northern Indiana streams in May.  

Since 1990, the Pigeon River in Steuben and LaGrange counties, Turkey Creek in LaGrange County, the Little Elkhart River in Elkhart County and the Little Kankakee River in LaPorte County have received May trout releases to extend trout fishing opportunities. In 2012, Potato Creek in St. Joseph County was added to the list.  

These May releases are not extra trout but part of the annual allotment which are held back from the initial release of trout for opening day of stream trout season conducted in late April.  

The trout shortfall this year resulted from the high water temperatures and low water flow at the DNR trout production facility last year.  

The DNR plans to continue the May releases in 2014.      

Trout from the initial releases in late April are still available in most of northern Indiana’s trout streams. Anglers fishing the more remote areas continue to report good catches.      

Contact Louie at info@louiestout.com.


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