As summer heats up, so does steelhead action in Lake Michigan and its tributaries. Anglers should act fast to take advantage of these high-flying, challenging steelhead.
"Skamania” steelhead, so named for the hatchery in Washington from which they originate, are a unique species of summer-migrating steelhead trout the Indiana Department of Natural Resources stocks in southern Lake Michigan.
In most parts of the country, steelhead fishing is done during the fall, winter and spring months, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
“The beauty of Skamania fishing is that you can do it in shorts and a T-shirt, catching a tan along with your steelhead,” said IDNR Lake Michigan biologist Ben Dickinson. “It’s a great way to introduce people to steelhead fishing, especially kids. Pier fishing in particular is family friendly, since it only requires a medium action rod, a bobber and widely available bait like nightcrawlers or cooked, peeled shrimp.”
Trail Creek is the crown jewel of Skamania fishing in Indiana, with more than 100,000 fish stocked annually. Trail Creek also supplies Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan with Skamania steelhead eggs.
"Indiana is the home of Skamania steelhead in the Great Lakes," said Dave Meunick, manager of Bodine State Fish Hatchery. “Our hatchery staff continues to work diligently each summer, collecting adult Skamania steelhead to ensure our hatcheries have an ample supply of eggs for Indiana's stocking programs and for those of our Lake Michigan partners.”
Salt Creek, the Little Calumet River\ East Branch and St. Joseph River also have summer and fall returns of Skamania as a result of annual stockings. Once these fish enter the rivers, they become accessible to local anglers until the following spring when they spawn and migrate back into the lake. This unique fish provides a nearly year-round steelhead fishing opportunity in Indiana.
"Fishing the Michigan City or Portage Lakefront Park piers in late evening or early morning in June and July is best for shore anglers," said local expert Mike Ryan, who also serves as Indiana’s Great Lakes sportfishing adviser. “Water temperatures are key – I look for surface water temperatures of under 68 degrees for the best action.”
Anglers must purchase a trout stamp to pursue steelhead. Anglers looking for up-to-date information on the fishing status or where to fish can check the IDNR fishing report at wildlife.IN.gov/8270.htm or call the Lake Michigan office at 219-874-6824.
IDNR hatchery employees are stocking hybrid striped bass across the state for the benefit of Hoosier anglers.
These striped bass, also known as “wipers,” are a hybrid species of white bass and striped bass. By hybridizing the two, hatchery staff is able to produce fish that grow faster and larger than a typical white bass, yet can tolerate a wider range of conditions than pure striped bass.
On June 17, DNR hatchery staff began stocking nine different lakes across the state with hybrid striped bass. These fish average between 1-1.5 inches when they are stocked, but can reach sizes averaging 13 inches by their second year.
Hybrid striped bass are known for being a challenging catch, but they also help control undesirable species, such as gizzard shad in some Indiana lakes. Hybrid striped bass are typically not capable of reproduction.
Stockings will be completed in these areas near Batesville: Monroe Lake, Monroe County, 53,750 fish; Hardy Lake, Scott County, 7,000 fish; and Patoka Lake, Dubois County, 44,000 fish. All three lakes are good spots for beginner anglers.
Please note anticipated stock numbers are not always realized due to production issues and other circumstances.
For more information on hybrid striped bass, visit wildlife.IN.gov/3386.htm.