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.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

FAMILY PLANNING

  I’m not writing about couples deciding when or if there’s a good time to have kids. I’ll leave the timing, good or bad, planned or surprises to those with more wisdom than I and people still of child bearing age.

   I’m talking about planning a family fishing trip. The conundrum is family fishing trips are a great way to spend family “together” time, but planning the time when work, responsibilities, youth activities and all the other “demands” of life allows for a mutually agreeable date to simply go fishing is difficult. I’ve been told dozens of times, “I wanted to plan a fishing trip with you but we just couldn’t come up with a date that suited everyone, between work, school, Little League....”

   I frequently get a call or message from a potential customer asking about a fishing trip with me. The person sounds excited and optimistic with what they learn, but when they say, “Great, I’ll get with the others and see what day will work for us,” I know it’s probably a no-sale. Trying to get three or four peoples' schedule to coincide perfectly is unlikely to happen in this age.

  My advice to them (and to you readers wanting to plan a fishing trip or other family outing) is to pick a date, make the date and then put on “the big-boy pants” and just tell the others, “This is the day we are going fishing.” (Or hiking or to the zoo, or....).

  Realize, few family things short of weddings and funerals are so unchangeable, the scheduling is indelible. If scheduling were easy, we could all spend New Year’s Day planning every activity for the following year. In truth, plans are being juggled all the time and if you plan “unalterably” the day you and others are going fishing, almost miraculously, other plans (short of weddings and funerals) can be rescheduled.

  No more excuses! Put on your big-boy pants and give me a call. Let’s go fishing. 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

LUCKY BREAKS OR BRIEFS?

   One day a few years ago a friend was fishing in his boat in the same area I was piloting the Brother Nature. We were in radio contact and regularly gave each other updates about how our fishing was going. For some reason the “early” bite on his boat died down to almost nothing while the people on my boat were still reeling in salmon, one after another.

Was Bill's luck due to his hat, sunglasses
or his snappy bibs? 
   Southern Lake Michigan captains are always good about telling each other where and how they are catching fish with other fishermen. So it wasn’t long until I was coaching my friend about the lures, how deep and all the other particulars.

   It didn’t help. The fish kept coming for me, not so hot for them. Finally, the other captain said something like, “I’m using the same lure, same depth, we’re going the same speed. Everything is the same.  What color of underwear are you wearing?”

   Ever since, it’s become a joke between the two of us. Each day we fish near each other, one of us will radio to the other asking about our choice of under shorts for the day. 

   It got me wondering. Almost all fishermen are superstitious. Some wear the same hat for luck. I have a friend who swears he has lucky sunglasses he only pulls out when the fish are proving particularly reluctant to bite.

   Does the color (and/or style) of undies hiding under my jeans put out any fish-catching mojo? I hope not. I have enough details with which to keep track of each day without starting each trip by matching my choice of boxers to the wind direction or some other factor.

   Still, when I got the email advertisement from AFTCO, one of the most trusted names in fishing gear, announcing the addition of “Fishing Camo” pattern boxers to their line of fishing shirts, shorts and other apparel, I had to take a look.

   What do you think?  Would I look good in these? (No.) But would it make any difference to the fish? 


Monday, February 19, 2018

ICE OUT, FISH ON

Unlike some places with set dates for open and closed seasons, the fishing season on Lake Michigan is open all year around. It’s Mother Nature and the fish making the determination as to where and when the “season” will be open. At this time of year it’s all about ice out.
 
   The photo here was taken from a satellite in mid-February. As you can see, the 2017-18 winter didn’t produce a significant amount of ice in total and what is there has blown down to the south end of the lake. That ice and the ice inside the marinas where I launch and load the boat are all that’s between “wishing and fishing!”  A few warm days with south winds and it’s game on!

  The photos here show what’s happening. The one on the left shows approximately where all the cohos in Lake Michigan are now swimming. That zone was the last area to cool down in the fall and winter months and where the salmon schooled up (huddled up?) trying to keep in their preferred temperature range.

  The photo on the right is where almost all the cohos in the lake will be in a few weeks. You can see the lake ice already disappears or thins out near the south end shores due to water temperature. Each bright sunny day will warm those shallows a couple degrees and as soon as the salmon detect that warming, they will literally “storm the beaches.” 

  It won’t be long until the “wishing” will be over. The fishing season will be underway! 

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