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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


  I always think it’s odd when a person on my boat catches a fish and then goes all “icky” at the thought of actually touching it. Some of the time it’s because of the size of the fish. Grabbing a crappie or bluegill flopping on the dock is one thing, but grasping a salmon or trout almost three feet long is something else.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Most of the time size doesn’t matter. Many people are just plain reluctant to grip the fish they’ve just caught whether it’s a panfish or the biggest fish in the lake.

  Some of it is unfamiliarity. It’s easy to figure out how best to hold a puppy or a cat. It’s not so easy to grasp just how best to grasp a fish.

  Granted, some fish have sharp pointy things on them such as teeth, spines on their fins or sharp stingers like catfish do. These can hurt. Trout and salmon do have teeth, but no spines or stingers.

  Mostly, I think, it’s the fact fish are generally wet and slimy. Is it a human trait to have a natural aversion to grasping things wet and slimy?  I don’t know. If so it expresses itself (most often - not always) in women and youths.

  These days, I don’t even ask when a youngster or one of my female fishing guests catches a “photo-worthy” fish. Instead of trying to coach or coax the fisher person to correctly grip their fish while the photographers on board get their “happy-snappies,” I just pull out my Fisherman’s Handy Hook.

This fish has a date with the deck. Should have used the Handy Hook!
  Basically, it’s a tough plastic tool with an easy to grip handle on one side, a strong spike on the other and a plastic divider to ensure none of the “icky-gooey” stuff on the fish gets on the hands of the person holding the fish. Easy to use, all I have to do is slide the spike under the fish’s gill flap and out through the fish’s mouth. Now the happy angler has a fish with a handle on it and chances are I’m not going to have the clean the icky-slimy stuff of the floor of the boat after the fish has been dropped a few times.

  Check out www.thefishermanshandyhook.com for more details and purchasing information.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


  A person catches a fish. Perhaps it’s a nice specimen. Perhaps it’s the first fish he ever caught or perhaps it’s the first musky, lake trout, name a species, he or she has ever angled from the depths. It could be the angler’s biggest fish ever or the largest musky, laker or whatever. What comes next is almost inevitable - the hero photo!
Dan Small's Facebook Post
You’ve seen them, I’ve seen them, I’ve been behind the camera and in front. For the most part, they are awful.  At best they are moderately interesting.

  A friend of mine posted a hero shot on Facebook recently. He’d caught a nice muskie on a fly rod and posed for the inevitable happy-snappy session to record the catch for posterity.

  The comments on Facebook were the normal, “Nice fish,” “Way to go,” “What did it weigh?”

  I don’t usually make comments like that. However, in the hero photo posted, he’d made one alteration to the usual grip and grin pose. He’d positioned his fly rod behind his neck, balancing it on his back over his shoulders.
 “Interesting pose,” I thought, and decided to make a decidedly different sort of comment on his Facebook post. “Nice balancing act with the fly rod,” I wrote.

  Few of the comments I make on Facebook go viral, regardless of how astute, asinine, insightful or germain they may be. This comment engendered a long list of follow-up comments.

  Who knew?  I’ve seen hero shots with fly-rodders holding their rod and reel in their teeth. Those are weird. The over the shoulder pose, less so and plenty of fly-flickers let me know the balance-on-the-back pose is now a widely accepted.


What’s good for one is good for all. So when Marc Garringer caught this steelhead on my boat recently, we went with the new-age pose for his hero photo.  How do you like it?

Saturday, March 12, 2016


  The 2016 season is off with a bang. Actually, there was no bang, but it was a bang-up start. Unless I’m shooting ducks from a boat, there’s nothing involved that should go bang. Nothing did.
  There was a bit of noise in the form of a fog-horn. Early season fishing often entails finding the warmest water possible. These warm oasis areas are fish magnets compared to the ice-water cold liquid in the rest of the lake. The warm water also boosts the metabolism in the salmon and trout making them more likely to strike our lures.

  So I headed out from the East Chicago Marina at a comfortable 7AM and headed for the Indiana Harbor where two different steel mills pump heated water to keep the harbor ice free and extend their shipping season. Two miles out of the marina, we hit a fog bank that gave us no more than 50 yards visibility. We slowed and made our way but in the harbor, we had to watch for both other fishermen, the rock-lined walls of the harbor and potentially, giant ore boats hauling taconite pellets from the northern lakes.

  That’s when the fog horn sounded. Something was coming so I steered a course to the west (shallow) side of the channel knowing whatever vessel was exiting would stay in the deepest part of the channel. It was a tug, pushing a barge. We were plenty far away by the time the working boat passed and as a salute, the captain waved and then blew his fog horn one last time before heading into the misty, open waters.

  The fog horn must have woke up the fish since seconds after that last blast, a rod doubled down with a spunky salmon on the line, then another on the other side. The first fish of the season is always special, starting the season with a double is extra fun.  We hadn’t even got the fish out of the landing nets when another salmon bit and so went the fun of late winter/early season action on Indiana’s end of Lake Michigan.

  Minutes after the fog horn tooting tug left, the fog disappeared and a welcome, warm sun kept us toasty on board. We didn’t really have time to worry about the cold, anyway. The fish kept us too busy.

  It’s the “spring break” time of year but you don’t have to head for a Florida beach to get in on some hot action.  Give me a call.

Monday, March 7, 2016


Time to hook 'em up
  I love the trip from the boat launch to where I plan to set lines and begin fishing. Sometimes in early spring, that may be only a few minute ride. Other times in the heat of the summer it might be a half-hour or more. Whatever the length of the boat ride, those minutes are filled with what I call the “pleasant uncertainty.”

Check it out
  There’s no sure thing when it comes to fishing. I’ve had spectacular fishing one day go as flat as possum on I-65 the next. I’ve had days when the results of the day’s fishing far exceeded expectations. In short, each day faces uncertainty but since I’m “going fishing” it’s a pleasant uncertainty.

  Right now, I’m in a slightly different sort of pleasant uncertainty. It’s time to drag the Brother Nature out of it’s winter hibernaculum, clean out the vestiges of last season, then make sure the early season lures and other gear are stowed on board.
  Then, drag the garden hose out of winter storage, hook it up to the lower unit and see if the motor can be coaxed to life. A quick check of wheel bearings, a bottle or two of HEET in the fuel tank and then just wait for a weather report good enough to run with.

Catch some fish
  Can I get it all done?  Will everything work as well on the water as it does at home? Which marina should I visit?  What time should I aim to hit the water.

  I’m uncertain.... But it’s a pleasant uncertainty!

Friday, September 18, 2015


There are five species of salmon and trout in Lake Michigan. They are coho and king salmon, brown trout and steelhead trout and Lake Michigan’s native trout, the lake trout.  Catching all five in a given period of time is called getting the Grand Slam.

Long ago friends and I caught a one-day Grand Slam 
Indiana’s Salmon Unlimited club used to hand out patches to anglers who caught one of each species during a whole season. Occasionally, a lucky group of anglers get a Grand Slam on the same boat in one day.  I’ve never heard of one individual catching all five species in one day but it’s probably happened, sometime, somewhere.

On the Brother Nature I’ve had numerous “mini-slams” catching four of the five species on one outing but only once has the crew on the “Bro” produced a fully fledged Grand Slam on one day.

While was looking back to my fishing trips in the first half of September, I realized I’d achieved a September Slam!  On Labor Day, my fishermen’s catch included a coho salmon, king salmon and a lake trout.  The king was where it was supposed to be, just off the mouth of the river. Given the time of year, that’s not where the coho and laker should have been found. This highlights the fact you never know what could bite next anytime, anyplace.

King salmon are the usual catch in September
Several days later, in addition to the kings (which are the target species in September) caught on the Brother Nature, the second fish of the day was a brown trout! And not just any brown trout, but a fourteen pound brown, easily among the five top largest browns on my boat, ever.

Yesterday, just as the sun was brightening the morning sky one of the rods came alive and eighty-four year old, birthday boy, Stan Jones, eventually subdued a spunky steelhead hooked in only twelve feet of water.  It dawned on me that made all five species caught in just a couple of late summer weeks.  The September Slam!  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


It started with a message on my answering machine. “Hi, I’m Drew. My wife and I along with my three year old and one and a half year old are coming up to the Indiana Dunes for a few days next week and we’d like to go on a fishing charter. With the little ones on board, I’m sure we won’t be able to do a full length, five or six hour trip. Can we go out for an hour or hour and a half?”
My first thought was to just call him back and tell him to forget it. Even if he offered to pay for a full length trip and then only fish for a short time, I’d feel bad about doing that to him. Then I came up with a plan that worked out just fine.

I was scheduled for a morning charter on Monday, the trip ru
nning 5 AM to 11 AM. I’d already have hauled the boat to the lake, the boat would be in the water, another hour or two wouldn’t make much difference to me and would give Drew and his family another adventure on their trip to Northwest Indiana.

Since I seldom get back to the marina exactly on time, I called Drew and set our departure for noon. We agreed on a pro-rated price for a short trip and all was set.

Except for lifejackets! I carry lifejackets suitable for youths up to 90 pounds but not for toddlers.

Then I remembered the Portage Public Marina is one of almost 600 marinas around the country  signed onto the BoatUS Foundation’s Life Jacket Loaner Program. One of the program's goals is to educate boaters on the significance of wearing the appropriate size and type of life jacket while boating. Another is to make sure a day of boating isn't spoiled just because a family forgot a life jacket at home. And finally, the most important goal: simply to keep kids safe out on the water!

When Drew and Susan arrived, I directed them to the marina office and in a few minutes both Will and Evelyn were decked out in appropriately-sized PFDs.  No charge. The program is funded by donations from the more than half a million members of BoatUS and the general public.

It was a fun trip. Without enough time to run offshore to the area I fished in the morning, we gave a little shot at finding some nearshore steelhead. The youngsters generally enjoyed the trip, I know mom and dad did. In a couple years when Will is a little older, perhaps I’ll take them out on a “real” fishing trip.

Sunday, May 3, 2015


  Shad Raps in the long established FireTiger color as well as the chartreuse/silver have accounted for many, many salmon on my boat. Still, those are not normally the best colors to attract cohos most days.

   Their favorite color of lure to bite is a fluorescent red with black stripes or dots. Rapala’s Shad Rap’s new “Demon” color, though patterned to look somewhat like a crawdad, is basically fluorescent red with black stripes.
  So I purchased a few of the the Shad Rap Demons to test against the tried and true coho lures in my tackle box.  

  Unscientific, for sure, but I matched the new lure up against five of my old standards, all fished the same way at the same time. Though the test was small scale, I hypothesized if the Demon caught one-sixth of the fish, it was equal to the lures I usually employ. If it caught more than it’s share, it’s even better. More testing would be needed!

  The first day of the test I caught three fish on the “demon” which meant it latched onto a quarter of the fish caught - pretty good. The next time out I caught three more on it. Then the lure broke.

  One of the down sides of balsa-body lures is they are fragile, much more fragile than plastic lures. The Shad Rap is especially fragile at the tail end because it tapers to almost nothing. Cohos are especially hard on them because they tend to twist when netted so it’s not unusual for the trailing end of a Shad Rap to look a little battered and bent after tangling with several salmon. More than battered, this time the wire hanger snapped off.

  I mentioned this to Bob Ringer, PR guy for Rapala, and he said Rapala has a warrantee program, just download the form from the website and send it. I’d never heard of a lure coming with a warrantee, but I gave it a shot.

  A couple weeks later I got my broken lure back and a nice letter from Rapala explaining they warrant for shoddy workmanship or materials, not for durability. That’s understandable. If you want an unbreakable lure, use one made of steel. It probably won’t catch many fish, at least as not as many as a Shad Rap in similar conditions, but it could last a lifetime.
  Now if a lure company would only come with a warrantee or money-back guarantee for their product to catch fish every time they are used, I’d buy a dozen of them!