Welcome!

My business is to provide people the opportunity to sample the exciting and challenging fishing available at the southern end of Lake Michigan. This page is dedicated to showing a bit of the behind-the-scenes work it takes to do that and to highlight the trips and fun my customers are able to experience.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

AT THE BEGINNING

  Most have heard the reasons why salmon had been put in Lake Michigan - to clear up the overabundance of alewives. It was horrible. In 1968 I remember a day the the beach at Michigan City, Indiana seeing dead alewives floating every 10 feet or so in the shallows. Rumor had it, the Michigan DNR had stocked coho salmon in the lake to eat the alewives. The salmon were in the lake, no one knew where.

Dead alewives fouling beaches. 
  The next spring they showed up in Indiana and people actually started catching them. It was big news. A photo in the Chicago Tribune accompanying this news showed an aerial view of the lake  showing what I realize now was a cloud shadow. But the photo caption proclaimed  the shadow to be a huge school of salmon swimming near the surface. Fake news even back then!


  Still, with youthful confidence, I was convinced. It was spring break. A friend and I drove up to Odgen Dunes. No gate, back then. We parked as far north and east as we could and then hiked over the sands between there and the mouth of Burns Ditch, sat along the edge and cast bass and pike lures out into the ditch water. No fish.

A brown trout I caught in the late 1980s


  My dad had traded services for a 50's era 14 foot, Glastron “speedboat” in the late 60s.  Originally it came with a “Gale” outboard (sold at Montgomery Wards). He repowered with a 35 HP Johnson and I inherited it in 1979. (He was tired of mowing around it in the back yard.)

  I nursed it back to health - barely - it would only pull start. Eventually, I built some home made downriggers, home made rod holders, home made downrigger weights and became a “salmon” fisherman.

  I caught 56 salmon that first year in probably 10 trips. That sounds good, except back in those days, any mope with two rods and an orange Rapala could catch an easy limit.

  After the second season, now repowered with a 50 HP Evinrude  A few years later I met a man who told me he fished every morning from a boat at Michigan City and invited me along. I went, we caught four or five cohos and I was hooked. I fished with friends a few times in the several years and in 1979 I got my break. - I caught many more fish including several 20 plus pound kings.

  That winter I bought a 16-foot Sylvan SeaMonster, slapped the Evinrude on it, rebuilt my downriggers, rod holders and fished that boat from northern Wisconsin to Port Clinton until 1987 when I traded up to an 18 ft. Sylvan with a 3.OL Mercruiser. Great boat. I wore it out by 1995, sold it for more than it was worth and went back to buy an identical boat. By then, Sylvan didn’t make 18 footers with I/Os so I moved up to a 21 footer with a 3.0L. Horrible boat.

  It rode like a john boat, the seats fell apart, motor mounts collapsed, hull rivets popped loose. The only good thing was it was large enough to comfortably hold four people and myself so I earned my captain’s license and started Brother Nature Fishing Adventures. I chartered out of it in 1998, found a sucker to buy it that winter and bought the current Brother Nature in 1999. It's still going strong, but I installed a new motor in 2017.
The Brother Nature, new in 1999

  Through all of this the fishing evolved from cohos only, to cohos and kings. Brown trout and steelhead were added. Skamania mania swept the Great Lakes like an epidemic and Indiana was ground-zero. Bacterial kidney disease nearly wiped out the king salmon program, Early Mortality Syndrome nearly wiped out the coho program. Mussels changed the nature of the lake, gobies were supposed to be as bad, commercial fishing wiped out the perch, Asian carp get all the money and lake trout get all the blame.

  The fishing has gone from three guys holding rods trolling lures, to rod holders, downriggers, planer boards, diving planers, lead core, stainless steel, copper and fluorocarbon line. My first sonar was a flasher, then paper graphs then a liquid crystal graph. My first  marine radio had tubes and three channels. I was cutting edge with Loran-C navigation system, then a handheld GPS and now I have one unit that does it all and two back-up units.

  It’s been a wild ride, fun, exciting, enjoyable and I’m as excited about my first trip next spring as when my college friend and I marched across the dunes almost 50 years ago.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

ROD'S BIG ENOUGH COHO

 Whew! It’s been a busy spring and summer. Why do I feel like I’m in a rut, then?  Busy doesn’t mean I’m doing a lot of different things.  When I’m heading up I-65 at zero-dark thirty, preparing to slide the Brother Nature off its trailer and get ready for another day on the lake - for the fifth day in a row - it’s hard to not feel like the commute, the meet and greet and all the rest isn’t somewhat akin to having a “real” job.

  Don’t get me wrong, each day on Lake Michigan is a new adventure, usually with new people or at least with people I haven’t seen since last year or the year before. I thoroughly enjoy the experience. But by the time I get back home, tidy up some loose ends from the day and settle in, I haven’t thought, “Oh!  I need to go post a blog about.....

  So when  a Texan named Rod and his father (Rod Sr.) climbed aboard the Brother Nature a couple days ago and told me, I want to catch a fish big enough to get my photo on your blog, I was determined to “make it so,” as Capt. Piccard would say. Pictured here is Rod Jr. (along with Rod Sr.) with his fish "big enough" to post.

  The cohos are still blasting our baits and not all that far out in the lake. It’s been the best coho year I can remember. There are plenty of lakers around, should we need to switch over and nearshore Skamanias are “in” if we choose (or weather-forced) to fish for them.

  ‘Til next time, readers. The boat is cleaned, trailer lubed up and we’ll be heading up I-65 at zero dark thirty again in the morning.  I’m looking forward to it!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

PLAN B SUCCESS

  The leader of the “A-TEAM” on the old TV show popularized the maxim, “I love it when a plan comes together.”  Who doesn’t?

The first steelhead of the year has been caught. 
  I love it when the weatherman is right about favorable climatic conditions and waves on the lake are negligible. I love it when the fish have been biting well, stay in the same place and continue to bite the same lures. When that happens, it’s easy to make a plan and love it when it comes together.

  But when dealing with wind, waves and weathermen (not to mention finicky fish) the first plan doesn’t always come together. Plan A can be a bust.

  That’s why I always like to have a Plan B in my pocket when I’m out on Lake Michigan. I’ve been at it long enough to have a whole book of plans and the book of plans really paid off this week.

Lake Trout are often Plan B fish, and welcome! 
  I had a group of guys from Kentucky on the schedule for Tuesday and Wednesday. It looked like they were going to hit it perfect, weather wise. Predicted rains were to end before dawn on Tuesday and a couple days of light winds were in the offing. Plan A was going to work!

  Except, when we actually got out on the water we found “residual” waves from overnight storms and a bit more breeze than the weather-guessers had promised. Worse, the wind was one direction, the rolling waves another and boating was like in a pot of boiling water with lumps and bumps going every which way.

  Plan B was needed. Though the hot bite area was nearly unfishable, I knew a spot a few miles away where industrial breakwalls would provide sheltered conditions and hopefully, enough fish to make it worthwhile.  I love it when Plan B comes together!  We caught several salmon, not limits, but enough to keep everyone happy and the first steelhead of the year was captured.

  On Wednesday, I knew I needed to produce something spectacular for the Kentuckians. Though it’s still early season, I took advantage of the near glass-like conditions of the lake to motor offshore to an area I knew would be teaming with lake trout in a few weeks. Were there any there now?  

  You bet! And even with the increase from 2 per day to a 3 trout bag limit, the KY anglers had no problems - other than sore shoulders from the trout work-out they were given. Our plan of easy fishing nearshore for spring-sized cohos wasn’t missed in the least. Plan B did the job just fine.

THE RIGHT CALL

I hate to have to cancel a fishing trip due to weather. Worse, is trying to do it as far in advance as possible. Some captains won't make "the call" until the morning of the trip at their dock.

 Fine, if everyone is local. But I don't want someone driving an hour or two in the dark; or even worse, to drive up the night before our schedule day on the lake, rent a room or two to accommodate the group and then be told, “Sorry Charlie” at the boat docks.

Sure, there are probably several days when the weather “guessers” get it wrong and the winds or rain or whatever trip-ender conditions are predicted don’t materialize and the trip is saved. I’m sure there are far more times when either the fishermen go home with wasted time and treasure.

Sure there are times when I get surprised and do call a trip off at the dock or as soon as I see the lake conditions up close and personally - not often. Maybe once or twice per season; some seasons zero times.

When I’m wrong, I’m bummed. My first sentence is worth repeating. I hate to have to cancel a fishing trip due to weather.

However bummed, I’m at least relieved when I check the radar the morning of the trip or monitor the wind/wave buoys afloat in the lake and find the predictions I believed well enough to cancel a trip are proving the forecast correct.

Why am I sitting here, blogging, instead of sitting in my boat helping a group of anglers experience the fun and excitement of Lake Michigan fishing?  Look at the weather radar screen-cap pictured here at about the time our adventure would have started.

As I told my customer last night when I was calling off the trip, “I don’t care if a person has a thousand dollar rain suit or a one dollar plastic poncho. By the time you’ve fished in a steady rain for a few hours, you’ll be wet and cold.z"

THE END

Thursday, April 13, 2017

CHEMICAL SPILL AT PORTAGE

APRIL 13, 2017
  In the news the past couple days comes a report of a toxic chemical, hexavalent chromium, accidentally being spilled into one of the discharges at a steel processing plant along Burns Waterway, a.k.a. Burns Ditch. This is the river leading from Lake Michigan to the Portage Public Marina where I originate many of my Lake Michigan fishing trips.

WHAT I KNOW
1)   The steel company, fixed the leak and stopped the outflow as soon as possible. The company self-reported to authorities including the EPA, Coast Guard, IDEM and DNR.

2) The Portage Marina and boat traffic on the waterway was closed for a short time but both are now open, as normal.

3) The aerial photos of the mouth of the waterway is misleading.

4) The EPA is the lead agency with other agencies helping where needed.

5) Drinking water intakes and nearby beaches are closed for precautionary reasons only and testing is on-going.

6) Hexavalent Chromium is bad stuff, made famous by the Erin Brokavich movie. The H.C. contamination in the movie was long-term exposure to people through drinking water contamination from long-term dumping by a power company. That doesn’t make this incident good. It does make the Portage incident different than the California incident.

WHAT ISN’T KNOWN
1) No one knows how much H.C. was spilled.  The broken pipe leaked contaminated water, not pure or concentrated H. Chromium, but how much went down the drain isn’t known.

2) Official reports are none of the stuff made it to Lake Michigan. Is this true? If it were certain, no need for #5 Known Fact.

Regardless of knowns and unknowns, let me say: THIS IS BAD. THE TOLERANCE FOR TOXINS ENTERING PUBLIC WATERS SHOULD BE ZERO.

  So far what I’ve seen is a mix of real news, conjecture and fake news. I’ve not heard many facts not filtered through three or four sources.

  FAKE NEWS - There have been substantial rains recently and there's a lot of silt in the water flowing down Burns Waterway from upstream. The ditch-water is brown, Lake Michigan is green/blue. Fly over in a copter or with a drone to take photos for your news show or newspaper and you see a big brown plume of water running out of the ditch into Lake Michigan.

  On screen or in the photo it looks like there's a bajillion gallons of water, chemically tainted dark brown, flowing out into the lake. The look of this photo would be identical whether the spill had occurred or not. Similar photos can be taken at every tributary of Lake Michigan after storm run-off runs into the lake.

  My best guess is if there are any affects, they will be localized and short-lived. I would imagine we'll get the "rest" of the story in the next few days or weeks and it won't be as glamorous as the drone-photo of the muddy water flowing out of Burns Ditch so it will be a page two filler article.

      There are plenty of places to fish, completely unaffected.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

THE CIRCUIT

 


I don’t know when the concept of winter “outdoor shows” was invented. This year one of the country’s largest shows, the Indianapolis Boat, Sport and Travel Show marked it’s 63rd incarnation so my quick math put it’s origin in the middle 1950s.

SHOWS FEATURE PEOPLE FROM
FAR OFF PLACES
   The first shot I attended was the Chicago Boat, Sport and Travel Show held at the now long-gone International Ampitheater which was built adjacent to the even longer-gone Union Stockyards. (When I first attended the Chicago show, the stockyards were still open.)  

   Regardless of where or when, to a young kid from the country, barely into his teens and infected with a yearning for all things outdoors, it was better than a trip to Disneyland. Aisle after aisle of places to hunt, fish and travel opened before me, each booth was manned by men who lived in the North Woods and who caught strange and exotic fish. There were exhibits with mounted moose heads, northern pike as long as my leg, displays of tackle I didn’t know existed and could never afford.

   Naturally, this was pre-Internet, pre-Outdoor Channel on TV, pre-anything other than a few outdoor magazines for outdoor destinations to advertise their wares and facilities. Some entrepreneur invited a few resort and lodge owners to one location and eventually a circuit of outdoor expositions had developed. Outfitters, guides and lodge owners lived a carnival-like existence spending their winter on the road - far from their moose and strange fish. They’d spend a few days in Minneapolis, then off to Milwaukee, Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville and on across the region. It was expensive, but as the ad salesmen say, advertising doesn’t cost, it pays.

  Soon after I started Brother Nature Fishing Adventures, I found myself on the other side. I built a display, purchased booth space and watched armies of outdoor enthusiasts, bored stiff with winter weather, walking the aisles, mostly looking, sometimes shopping, often stopping by just to talk for a while.

I'LL BE CLOSE TO THE BEAR
  Luckily, I didn’t have the time or money to run the circuit. Luckily, the Internet “happened” and I don’t have to run the circuit to drum up business. But I still attend a show or two each year. For old time’s sake, I suppose. Occasionally, I’ll make a sale. Mostly, they are an enjoyable, a winter diversion, a chance to meet new people, to meet up with old friends and talk fishing, hunting, old age pains or future plans.
 
   This weekend, March 11 and 12, I’ll be at the Hammond, Indiana Cabela’s Store for their Captain’s Weekend.  Stop by my little display for a visit. We’ll talk fishing, hunting, old age pains or who know what. Hey, if you want to book a charter fishing trip, I’ll be glad to do that, as well.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

SHARE A CHARTER

  There are many reasons a person may want to go fishing. I could list the reasons from Action to Xcitement alphabetically, but the important words this time in the above sentence is “a person.” Singular, “a person” by him or herself, loner, a lone traveler or perhaps the only person of a larger group possessing the urge to go fishing.


AS LONG AS YOU ARE IN THE AREA
LET'S GO FISHING! 
 Imagine a person is traveling to Chicago or Northwest Indiana on business, to visit parents or other relatives. Imagine an avid angler  person sharing a vacation to the area with his or her spouse but the spouse has no desire to go fishing. Perhaps a fishing oriented person has heard of the world class fishing available on Lake Michigan and wants to sample it but has no regular fishing partners who share the same desire. Pick a reason, A to X (or Z).

I CAN HELP! 

  I set the prices for fishing trips on the Brother Nature trying to make them affordable for smaller groups. Still, I can’t afford to make a trip for two half the price of a trip for four or a trip for a single fisherman half the cost of a pair of fishermen. Basically, a single person has to pay the same as I charge a pair of people. Two people can’t go with me at the same price per person as three or four people.

  For some - several each season - price is not enough of an issue to cause them to shy away. They plunk down the price of a two person trip and off we go, just me and him.

  I’m sure there are many others who check out my website, check out my prices but decide the single person rate is just more than they are willing to spend. I don’t fault them. If nothing came with a price, we’d all be driving Cadillacs.

  Over the winter I heard of a company called Share a Fishing Charter. Their business model is simple. Charter captains like me list with them. Individuals or couples go to their website (www.shareafishingcharter.com) pick a date they’d like to fish and sign-up for it. Or they can look at what date others have pegged and see if that day works for their schedule. Either way, once three people sign up for the same day, all are contacted (along with me) and the arrangements are made.

  The individual anglers get to go fishing at a very more affordable rate than going alone, I get a booking for the day and Share a Fishing Charter earns a small commission. Everyone wins except the fish!

 
Check out Share a Fishing Charter and sign up for a fishing trip with me. If you are planning a trip other than to Indiana, check out their other listings for sharing partners in other places. I know I will.