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, December 7, 2011


Somehow, a tiny bit each year over the last 12 years that I've owned Brother Nature and its trailer, the rear axle on the trailer became bent to the new tire I put on the trailer last spring was worn out by late August. I bought a new tire and made the last few trips of the year in September.
Once the boat was winterized, I put the boat and trailer on jack stands, removed the tires then removed the 4 U-bolts that fasten the axle to the trailer.

The new axle is in position, held tight by Jeep bolts and ready for the bearing hub and wheel.

Sidebar, here. Some of the nuts on the U-bolts came free quite easily, others had to be wrenched free the entire length of the threads. Dreading having to replacing the tight nuts when reassembling, I took the U-bolts to a friend who had a tap and die set. Running a tap through the nuts and a die down the bolt threads usually shapes them up like new.

This was when I learned there was a 3rd configuration of bolt threads used on U.S. bolts. Most standard (not metric) bolts are NC (National Course). Many hardened bolts used in heavy duty applications are fitted with NF (National Fine) threads. I ran the fine threaded die down the threads on one of the U-bolts.

When done, I noticed a large number of filings came off the bolt. “Wow!” I thought. “That’s unusual.” No, that’s what happens when a NF thread bolt gets re-threaded with a NS die.

There is another thread configuration called “National Special” and that’s the die I used to ruin the U-bolt. The die set had been passed down to my friend from his machinist father. Evidently, machinists have a need for “special” threaded bolts.

So off to the NAPA store. I showed them a U-bolt, no match. Ditto at Autozone. How about eBay? Guess what? The axle bolts for an ‘83 Jeep Wrangler are exactly the size I needed for the boat trailer - and only $16 for a set of four.

Back to the axle. I took it to a local blacksmith to see about bending it straight. He sized up the job and decided it could be done, but he questioned if the axle actually started perfectly straight or was built with a camber in it. The axle had a sticker with the manufacturer ’s phone number so I called and asked for someone in the engineering or parts department and was connected with Ross. I explained my project and asked about the camber.

Before Ross answered my question, he suggested, “Why don’t you just buy a new axle?” On the Eagle Trailer website, new axles were listed for $285 each, plus freight. Then Ross said, “We sell that particular axle for $85 and freight from Elkhart, IN to most places in Indiana is about $40.”

I did one better. I bought the axle and the next time my friend, Captain Mark Johnson, came down to Jasper County from his Elkhart home to deer hunt, it was delivered for free. The new axle is on, held firmly by the Jeep bolts. I’ll have a new tire on it in the spring and be ready to fish.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Most people know me as Brother Nature - Captain Mike - the charter boat fisherman and rightly so. This blog has been mostly oriented to my boat, my customers, the fishing and the enjoyment of Lake Michigan. Rightly so.

But now, the fishing season is over and I'm off to other activities.

Among them, is writing another blog detailing the things I do when I'm not being Captain Mike. If you'd like to follow me down this trail, feel free. I invite you along and welcome your comments. Go to http://www.bronature.com/. Be a part of Mike's Outdoor World.

Friday, September 30, 2011


What a hoot! I was at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park near Branson, Missouri a few days ago for a variety of planned activities. One of the activities not on the list for us were Segway tours of the facility--new to Dogwood Canyon.
You know, Segways, -- those goofy looking motorized, 2-wheel carts used by security guards in malls and airports.
I have always been intrigued by those things. How do they work? Why don’t the riders fall flat on their face or bum?
At the end of my planned ATV tour on the rugged trails through the Ozarks, one of the Segway guides was putting away the machines after his last tour of the day. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
"How long does it take to learn to ride one of those things?" I asked, then added, "I only want to ride from here to that tree (about 20 yards away) and back."
"Only a couple of minutes," said the guide. "Here, put on a helmut."
"First, we’ll turn it on and let it get running." Evidently there are gyroscopes or something in the foot platform that help keep the gizmo from tipping over. Once the "go" lights came on, all I had to do was step onboard. To make the Segway move ahead all you did was tranfer your weight to the front part of your feet. To stop, rock your weight back on your heel. To turn, just move the handlebar to the left or right.
It was very unsettling for the first 15 yards or so, but it didn’t take much farther than that to become comfortable. Is a Segway in my future? Probably not...but I’ve now done it and it was fun!

Sunday, September 25, 2011


I was in Iowa last week at the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers meeting at Honey Creek Resort and spent an enjoyable morning on Lake Rathbun fishing for walleyes. Weird experience!
I recently wrote a story for Indiana Outdoor News about the many ways to fish for walleyes–using anecdotes from my first experience with them in northern Wisconsin, subsequent walleye successes in Canada, Lake Erie, rivers and reservoirs–finally, ending up in an August outing on Lake Winnebago where we fished walleyes in pea-soup-green water which was almost pea-soup-warm! Fished and caught!
I thought that was the weirdest walleye fishing I’d ever do, but no! My Iowa experience outdid my Fond du Lac experience.
My fishing partner, Jim Gaston handed me a bottom-bouncer set-up, then slow trolled over a pair of 2-foot deep humps about 15 yards apart. I was incredulous.
You can catch bluegills in 24-inches of water, bass–for sure. Surely not walleyes in an Iowa reservoir with plenty of deep water nearby–especially after a cold night chilled the surface. Wrong, fish-blog-readers! And it wasn’t a fluke. The other, more conventional areas we tried produced one skimpy white bass. The fish in the picture and the rest of our morning catch came off that shallow rubble. Wow! Who’d a thunk?
The equipment Gaston used was great. The Lund boat was powered by a 150 hp Mercury engine and had a MinnKota troller on the bow. For electronics we had an X-15 Lowrance and a stand alone Lowrance GPS. I used a 6-foot, medium action, Johnny Morris rod and reel combo from Bass Pro Shops.

Friday, September 16, 2011


I’ll be the first to admit to not being "religious" when it comes to wearing a life jacket. I’ve never been in a situation where I had to put one on due to an emergency. I’ve worn them due to legal requirements, such as when water skiing, or when it seemed a good idea, such as in a kayak. I’ve worn them at the request of the captain of the boat–their personal safety rule while underway–usually guys with high-speed bass boats. I’ve got plenty of life jackets on my boat. They are big, clunky Type I styles adorned with reflective tape, luminescent lights and whistles. Forget stylish and they are about as comfortable as a body cast. Required by law, they’ll do the job if ever needed.
The way my boat is set up, it’s almost impossible to fall out. Most of my boating is in the daytime. I was never overly-concerned except in late summer when we start fishing long before dawn. In the dark, you can’t see the waves, you can’t see wakes from passing boats, you can’t see any floating objects in the water ahead, it’s tough enough to see the other boats around you and judge the direction and distance to them.
Murphey’s Law says if something can happen, it will happen--and I can imagine situations requiring a life jackets being more likely in the dark than in the day. Much about life jackets are simple common sense so I let common sense prevail.
This year, when the pre-dawn bite got underway, I put another bundle of life jackets on my boat and asked all on board to use them. No one has objected. It never took more than a few seconds to get them on and adjusted.
I did have to remind a few people to take them off at the end of the trip. They weren’t trying to steal them. They’d just forgotten they were wearing them.
My fishing partners were all wearing Type V PFDs which are the inflatable kind. Uninflated, they are a simple belt and fanny pack. Once activated, they balloon into an "over the head" configuration with all the flotation of a Type 1.
There are several brands and models from which to choose. These, from Mustand Survival are terrific! After all, it's plain common sense.

Monday, September 5, 2011


It’s September and the Lake Michigan season is winding down. I close-up shop on October 1st.
But the season doesn’t always end with a whimper. September features the peak of the king salmon run and the early stages of the coho salmon run.
These are not whimpy fish! The kings are at the end of their 4-year lifespan, the cohos at the end of their 3-years and both species are bulked up as big as they will ever be. I’ve already taken a couple of trips for the spawners and this year’s crop looks big.
The kings being hooked on the Brother Nature are averaging over 15 pounds so far and several were at the 20-pound mark.

Here's one of the upper-teen kings caught the first weekend in September by Bill Keaton.

There are plenty of weekdays available for morning trips and, since we are fishing very near shore, 4 or 5 hour excursions are possible which will save you a few dollars as well as put some salmon in your freezer. Check out my website for exact prices and contact information:http://www.bronature.com.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


There are a several sounds you don’t want to hear when you are in a boat. An unaccounted for splash is one of them, or the sound of silence as your motor shuts down unexpectedly. I can think of others, as well, but the most recent unwelcome sound was

The Coast Guard towing us towards shore was a happy, if unwelcome, sight!

the Brother Nature's motor unexpectedly revving up to high rpms as the boat slowed to a quick stop.

Motor going faster, boat going slower–something is amiss! Eventually, I learned a gear had given way or the propellor shaft had broken in the lower unit.

The immediate problem was we were drifting with the wind approximately 5 miles offshore of Ludington, MI.
I switched to channel 16 on the radio and hailed the US Coast Guard Station at Ludington. Once contact was made, we switched to channel 22 and I explained the situation. No immediate danger, no medical problems, just a no-go boat.
The Coast Guard attempted to call local firms with tow boats but none were available so they launched their fast response vessel and came to our aid. Thanks to GPS technology and marine radios, finding us was no problem and soon we were hooked up and underway.
We were safe, but our Ludington fishing trip became more an adventure and less a fishing trip than we’d hoped.
A new "bottom-end" will be on the Brother Nature’s outdrive early in the week so we’ll be back for fishing adventures by Labor Day weekend.

Friday, August 19, 2011


What does a fishing captain do when he goes on vacation? He goes fishing!

It’s not as unusual as it might seem on the surface. People often choose their work because it’s a good way to earn a living. Why else would there be garbage collectors, proctologists, crab fishermen in the Bering Sea or any of the other "dirty jobs" Mike Rowe features in his TV show.

Being a fishing guide isn’t a good way to earn a living, it’s a good way to make a few dollars doing what you like to do.

Ludington salmon bite early and late

in the day

Next week, myself and a pair of fishing friends will be making our annual pilgrimage to Ludington, Michigan for a week of sleep deprivation and fishing for king salmon. Why? Because year after year, Ludington is one of, if not the top port, in all of Michigan for salmon fishing. It’s where the fish are. Wild fish, stocked fish–hopefully some big fish and lots of them.


But it’s fishing. Sometimes we hit ‘em good, sometimes we watch the wind blow. For me it’s no pressure. If we catch fish, great. If we don’t catch fish, at least I don’t have unhappy customers. We start early, stay late and get up early the next day to do it again. Wish us luck!

A limit catch from last year!

Friday, August 12, 2011


On a recent trip I took to Marquette, Michigan, Lake Superior charter captain, Terry Huffman, took a few minute detour from our way out to Stannard Rock to get up close and personal with one of the largest iron ore boats on the Great Lakes. The ship, named the James R. Baker, is one of only 3 carriers on the Great Lakes which measure 1000 feet long.

Most of the lakers–the boats which only operate on the Great Lakes, never venturing out to sea - are 600 to 800 feet long. Most of the "salties," as ocean-going vessels are called are much shorter. The beam of all these ships are constrained by the width of the locks at Sault Saint Marie (to move from Lake Huron to Lake Superior), the locks in the Welland Canal (to by-pass Niagara Falls and move from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario) or the locks at the St. Lawrence Seaway to move ships up the St. Lawrence River and into the lakes.

Here in Indiana with a major international port (the Port of Indiana) as well as several steel mills on the Lake Michigan shoreline, it’s a rare day when we don’t get to view one or more of these huge ships. Early in the spring and during the fall spawning run we often fish within spitting distance of the huge vessels. It’s all a part of the ambiance and vitality of Great Lakes fishing.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


There are 5 species of salmon and trout available to be caught at our end of Lake Michigan. We catch cohos and chinook salmon (the Indian names)–also known as silver and king salmon. There are steelhead trout, lake trout and brown trout. Interestingly, the steelhead is genetically similar to a rainbow trout–often caught in streams or stocked into small ponds. The brown trout is also widely stocked, but it originated in Europe and isn’t closely related to either a steelhead or lake trout. The lakers are actually in the char family, which includes arctic char and brook trout. Catching all 5 of Lake Michigan’s common species in one trip is called the Lake Michigan Grand Slam. It doesn’t happen very often.


It's only happened once on my boat and even catching 4 of the 5 – a mini-slam – is a rare occurance, happening only once every couple of years. Here are the happy fishermen that did the deed on the Brother Nature for the first time this year!

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I run a full service charter boat. I supply all the rods, reels, bait–basically, anything that’s needed to catch fish is on board. I even supply ziplock bags and filet the fish that get caught.

So when my customers ask, "What do I need to bring?" I tell them drinks, snacks and whatever clothes are suitable. In the early season suitable clothes include thermal underwear, thick socks and a warm coat, but by mid-summer, not much more than a light jacket is required for the first hour or so. My last group taught me something else I may consider adding to my suggestion list.

Try to wear bright colored shirts and coordinate the colors. As I was snapping a photo of the last fish of the day, the other 2 fishers joined the happy angler for a group photo. Don't they look stylish and colorful in their bright Tees!

Why have a color camera if everyone is going to wear muted tones! So be on the bright side. Dress up for your next outing. It’s the stylish thing to do!

Sunday, July 17, 2011


When I bought a Lowrance LMS 350A sonar/GPS unit for my boat it was the top-o-line unit available. That was 15 years ago or more. It served me well but the sonar part of the unit failed last summer.

I replaced the unit with another top Lowrance unit, the HDS 7. It has a color screen, maps, connects to the Sirius Marine Weather system and has more screens, apps, buttons and features than I’ll ever use. So when I installed it, I left the 350 in place and relied on the old unit for 98% of my GPS needs. (And 98% of the time all I need is my current position, the speed I’m going, the direction I’m heading and the direction I need to go to get to somewhere else.) The HDS 7 will do that, but punching through the various buttons and commands to get the basic info kept me relying on the antique model.

The 350 burned out about 6 weeks ago. One of my first thoughts was to purchase a used 350 on eBay. My wires were still in place, just swap out the old and in with the new(er). A few units were listed and I hoped to pick one up for about a hundred bucks. I lost the first auction at $150. Haven’t seen a unit since go for less than $200–some much more if the seller offers a money-back "guarantee" the unit works. Most sellers say in their description the unit was working, last they knew–take your chances.

I have a hand-held GPS but the batteries are usually dead, the screen is so small I need my "cheaters" to read it and I use it so infrequently, each time is a learning experience. They no longer make "stand-alone" dash-mount GPS units.

Plan "B" came when I got a sale flyer from Cabela’s. The sale was for a Lowrance Cuda 350 for $169. It’s a sonar/GPS, but with a small sonar screen with fairly low resolution. Since I only wanted it to show a screen which shows my location, speed and direction of travel--98% of the time--and in a font size I could read, easily. I didn’t need the sonar–I already have 2 of those on board. I’ve used it on several fishing trips and it does exactly what I want. (I didn’t even install the sonar transducer.)

So what about my LMS 350A? At the time it was made, the best GPS units required remote GPS module/antennas to work. I sold the antenna module on eBay for $145. And for giggles and (35 cents) I listed the 350 unit, announced it was broken, blew fuses as fast as you could change them and came with no wires, GPS, transducers or guarantee of anything other than it was broken.

Go figure! I sold that unit for 50 bucks. So I’m happy, I’ve got a user-friendly back-up GPS on the boat and I’m money ahead!



Tuesday, July 12, 2011


There’s nothing I worry about more in my Lake Michigan fishing business than the weather. The weather affects the fish. The weather affects the fishermen. The weather affects where we can fish and affects if we can fish. On a lake the size of Lake Michigan, the weather affects whether it’s even safe to be on Lake Michigan.

So during the season, I’m constantly in tune with what the "great minds" on TV, Internet, the National Weather Service and others are thinking, saying and predicting.
By and large, they are good at what they do. Good enough–most of the time.

We Watched Storms in Iowa quickly blew up and over Lake Michigan on the HDS 7 screen. -> -> ->

But since I’ve been doing this for 3 decades, I’m an expert, as well. I also have the tools I need to make my own opinion of expected weather conditions.

The newest tool is my Sirius Weather Radio module that interfaces with one of the Lowrance GPS units on the Brother Nature. It paid off on Monday when storms grew overnight in the Great Plains and headed for Lake Michigan.

When we left the dock, the wind was calm, the sun struggling to burn through the summer haze. A great day. But the Sirius Weather Module showed storms at the Mississippi River on the screen of my HDS-7 unit. In an hour, it the storms were halfway across Illinois and soon knocking on the west suburbs of Chicago. With 12 miles back to the dock, I pulled the lines and we headed for shore. As we were tying the boat at the dock, the sky unloaded, the wind whipped but we were safe.

The weathermen were surprised about the speed and ferocity of the storm. I didn’t worry about surprise. I used the technology, my experience and was safe, once again.

Saturday, July 9, 2011



There’s a new generation of Great Lakes anglers coming along. I monitor a couple of Internet sites that host discussion groups and hardly a week goes by that some newcomer doesn’t post a question asking basic information about some aspect of the sport. What’s a slider? Where’s the gong? How do you get to a specific marina? You see them at the lake, as well.

They have a recently commissioned boat, some gear and enthusiasm. I was one of them long ago and I did it the hard way–all trial and error.

Luckily, much of my gear was home made and I could make it, try it, then come home and remake it or alter it to make it better.

That’s why, when a newby posts on one of the sites, I suggest they hire me for a charter one day and I’ll take them fishing while they go to school.

Steve and Bob did just that recently. Steve has a smaller boat and Bob a 19-footer with some of the gear they need to fish Lake Michigan. So we headed out, I set lines and then instead of just letting our conversation drift to whatever popped to mind, I went over the equipment I use.

We covered rod holders, their location and other details. We covered electronics, rods, reels, lead core and copper wire. Colored line, clear line, wire line, divers, nets, places to go, when to go, how to go.....Oh, and we caught a few fish along the way, as well.

Money well spent? They thought so! I think so too. It probably cut 3 or 4 years off their learning curve and saved them from making some costly mistakes. Want to go to school? Give me a call–and we’ll catch a few fish, as well!

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Avid birders (bird watchers) keep a life-list to track the number of different species of birds they have spotted. David Howard, from Arlington, Virginia, has his own life list. Dave is a fisherman and keeps track of all the various species of fish he’s caught. His fish list is a part of the strategy Dave uses to plan how to use his vacation time. First, he looks for airfare bargains. Next, he checks what sort of fish and fishing opportunities are available near discount destinations. The only thing better for Dave than planning a trip to catch something new, is one where two or even three new species can be caught.

Dave with his new "listings." Top is his steelhead, brown trout in the middle and the coho, closest to the camera.

That’s how we got together. My website has a fishing calendar which shows what species of fish are most apt to be targeted and caught as the season progresses. During the mid-summer season, steelhead, lake trout and both king and coho salmon are common catches. So we set a date and crossed our fingers for the chance to hook several species on Dave’s day.
The weather man did us no favors. Northwest winds were blowing 2 to 4 foot waves making it impossible to head to the offshore areas. However, Indiana’s Skamania steelhead were biting close to shore so by staying in shallow water he had an excellent chance to add at least one species to his list–if he could land one. The first fish jumped and threw the hook before Dave could pull the rod out of the holder. The second fish pulled the same stunt on our next pass. The third time, however, had a better outcome and a beautiful 14-pounder was eventually coaxed to the boat. Success!
But there’s more. Mid-morning Dave added a brown trout to his life list, – and a dandy, at that, weighing nearly 10 pounds. Just before time to quit, the waves calmed enough to allow making a troll a half-mile or so offshore to see if the water in the depths was cool enough for any salmon to be there. I didn’t need the temperature probe to show the results, a coho almost as big as Dave’s brown latched a deep running lure and his multi-species outing was a fulfilled.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Carl and Dennis work for the Norfolk and Southern Railroad servicing the "Executive Train." It’s powered by an immaculate 1952 locomotive with a dining car, meeting room car and places for the execs to live when riding the rails. The train heads for some city, Carl and Dennis make sure it’s polished, shiny and waiting so when the VIPs show-up, they have their meeting in style. The train was ready for Monday’s meeting late on Saturday afternoon. The two Pennsylvania residents, looking for a bit of "south-Chicago" excitement found themselves at the Horseshoe Casino at the Hammond Marina and a short time they’d parlayed their "investments" into a pile of cash.

Looking out over the calm waters of Lake Michigan, they decided to add a day of salmon fishing–courtesy of Jack Binion’s losses–and found my website. We met at the East Chicago Marina at dawn and after a short trip north to the Illinois border, we were into the fish. One after another came at a steady pace. All cohos–summer fat, sassy, spitting-up alewives.

Can gambler’s luck turn into fisherman’s luck? For these guys, the answer is yes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


When someone asks me what’s my favorite species of salmon or trout to catch from Lake Michigan, it’s a tough question.
I like what’s biting best. I like the bulldog strength of a big king salmon. I like the fact that lake trout are "supposed" to be there–the lake’s natural top predator. I like the fact we on the south end of the lake have the
best coho salmon fishing in the world. But for a period each summer, I like Indiana’s "summer-run" Skamania strain steelhead better than all of them. Skamanias routinely grow larger, fight harder, jump higher and break more tackle and hearts than all the other fish put together.
Take yesterday, for example. Captain Doug Iliff asked me on board his boat along with 3 other captains from the East Chicago marina for a day of fun fishing. Rumor had it, the Skamanias–Skammies–were "in" at Portage, at the extreme southern tip of Lake Michigan.
I mean extreme! Not only were we fishing at the exact southern point of the 300 mile long lake, we were only in 10 to 20 feet of water most of the day, close enough the beach-goers could cheer us (or our fish) as we gave battle.
In the end, we boated 5 of the fish. The line broke seconds after a strike on another, they bent the hooks open on the lures we were using twice and another 7 or 8 of the silver torpedoes pulled a variety of Houdini-like tricks of their own making to offer us moments of thrills and disappointments.
All in all–a successful day in Skammy-Town. Expect the Skamania steelhead to continue offering fun and excitement at the south tip of the lake for another month or more. Call me! I’ll look forward to the trip as much as you!

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Sixty years ago Mrs. Cronin gave birth to a set of twin boys in New Jersey . Sixty years later, one of the twins, John, now living in Florida called me to set up a special birthday party for Jim, his twin, and himself. A fishing trip on the Brother Nature. They couldn’t have picked a more spectacular day. The sun was an orange ball as we motored up to full cruising speed, leaving the Portage shoreline behind us. At 30 miles per hour, the ride out to deeper, cooler water was short–about 15 minutes or so and the 15 minute rule seemed about right for the day. John told stories of his bass fishing passions on Florida lakes. Jim reminded him of other days fishing they’d spent together. I reminded them, just about every 15 minutes that we were out there to catch some fish and they’d best handle the one currently bending down one of the rods. Salmon and lake trout bit steadily. The lake remained glass smooth all morning. Some of the fish escaped (the big ones we agreed–the big ones always get away–and laughed.) Some of the fish went home, destined for the backyard grill at Jim’s Portage, Indiana home. Happy Birthday!

Saturday, June 11, 2011


In a recent column I wrote for Michigan Outdoor News I told about attending a Great Lakes fish-boil while on a trip to Door County, Wisconsin and how the original GLFBs featured lake trout, not the whitefish used in modern day boils.
So on our way home from the trip I blogged about below we decided to serve some of the trout pictured in our own fish boil. The real-deal fish boil was our goal. No stove-top boils, no whimpy flames for us. It was to be outdoors, in a big pot over a big fire. Peggy stopped by the grocery store for some red potatoes and some potato-sized onions and we were set–almost.
I built a good sized fire out of dried oak and mulberry wood. Once it was blazing, I set a raised grill over the flames and positioned a backyard fish-cooker fry-pot on the grill, filled about 3/4s with water. When the water started to boil, we were ½ hour from dinner.
A pound of salt (just a guess) went into the pot with a dozen (3 each) red potatoes and the timer set for 10 minutes. When the timer rang, the onions were added (2 each) and the timer reset to 10 minutes. When the timer beeped, the lake trout chunks were added for the final 10 minutes. The lakers were fileted, skin removed, fat and lateral line trimmed and de-pin-boned.
Traditionally, liquified bacon grease is added to the fire to make it flare at the end of the cooking time. I had no bacon grease or kerosene, so I improvised.
Three-quarters cup of vegetable oil went into a container along with a quarter cup of lawnmower gas. This isn’t something I advise anyone to duplicate–but it worked!
From a distance I doused the fire with my concoction, the fire flared up, the water went from a medium boil to a raging boil in a few seconds, cascading over the rim of the pot spilling ash and lake trout oils into the fire.
Served with melted butter over everything, it was terrific! Much better than the whitefish boils I’d eaten previously and much more fun than a traditional backyard fish fry! Try it for yourself–but be safe.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Tom Lowrey (Wisconsin) with his Uncle Bill from central Indiana held a family reunion and Laker-Fishing-Fest on the Brother Nature recently!

I’ll admit to being a lake trout lover. I agree, pound for pound they don’t fight like a king salmon. I agree, plate for plate they don’t taste as good as Great Lakes salmon in some recipes, either. But they are fun to catch and there are many recipes for lakers which will have you wanting seconds. So when the laker bite is on, I relish the opportunity to fish for and catch the fish which were once the top predator in the Great Lakes.

When I was a youngster I relished reading outdoor magazine accounts of jet-set anglers traveling to the ends of the Earth. These guys fished for huge fish in exotic locales, and those guys heading to the far north in search of sag-bellied lake trout were as much my hero as Justin Bieber is to today’s "citified" youths. I never knew lake trout were once endemic to Lake Michigan, a short drive from home. The commercial fishermen and lampreys had wiped them out.

Now they are back, they are big and when they are available, I love fishing for them. I’ve never come back to shore with a group of unhappy anglers who have had a been through a laker-smackdown.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


One of the most effective tactics for catching lake trout in Southern Lake Michigan is now one of the least used. Properly called "sinker releases," a more popular term is "tin whistles."

When Jim Van Maas contacted me about a charter, he asked if he could bring some of his "old" gear along, left over from when he used to come to Lake Michigan with friends, fishing out of their own boat. Sure, I said. We can give it a try. When he showed up, last Friday morning, he hadn’t dug deep to resurrect any of his old Tadpollies, but I did! And, I dug out a tin whistle.

At this time of year lake trout swarm up from their customary depths to slurp on gobies just east of the Indiana Shoals. Besides the tin whistle, I dug a bit deeper for a container of one-pound disposable weights and tossed a wire-line rod and reel into the boat–one I usually use for fishing deep with Dipsey Divers in mid-summer.

The whistle has a line tie on each end. One end connects to the wire line, to the other end tie a monofilament leader. A snapswivel goes on the other end of the leader and is used to attach a likely-looking spoon. A special clip is located along the barrel of the whistle to which you attach a 3-foot length of mono with a one-pounder tied to the other end.

The rear line-tie to which the leader attaches is spring loaded. The weight of the lure pulling along won’t compress the spring, but the weight of a laker will. When the fish bites, compressing the spring, it opens the clip in the barrel of the whistle, the sinker drops off and you get to fight the fish without a heavy weight on the line.

Let out enough wire so as you troll along the one pound weight just maintains contact with the bottom. Dragging it along the bottom is better than not touching the bottom at all, but perfect is when it just skips along the bottom touching it every couple of seconds.

Out on the shoals, it didn’t take long for the tin whistle rig to connect. I don’t know if it was a "memory trip" for Van Maas, but it sure was for me.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


One of the benefits of living at the south end of Lake Michigan is how our fishing gets started earlier in the year than "up the coast" on either the Michigan or Wisconsin side Okay, maybe when our fishing peps up we catch 2 pound cohos and when the northern ports start popping, they do it with double-digit kings. In my book, a 2-pounder now, is better than the hope for a 10-pounder later. Still, I look forward to heading up the coast to either state as spring transitions to summer. There’s a flavor, there–a feeling–a goal (and some 10 pound kings and more.)
Recently, I attended the Second Annual, Saugatuck/Douglas, Michigan area "Salmon in the Classroom" fishing outing, where local charter skippers and sportfishermen take the entire class of 5th or 6th graders from the Middle School for a morning on the lake. These kids grow chinooks from eggs to stocking-size smolts in their classroom "fish hatcheries" (and learn valuable biology lessons along the way.) The fishing trip shows them what their project can produce.

Jada with her first fish ever!

My "team" of anglers consisted of Clair Conley, Jada Mitchell and Zoie Driy, on board Capt. Dave Engel’s boat, the Best Chance Too. It was cold, it was slightly choppy and exciting enough that the fisher-gals didn’t much mind. We drew straws to see who would go first, but that didn’t much matter either since all shared nearly equal amount of rod time.

Did we make some future fishermen? Does the Salmon in the Schools program make future fish biologists? Only time will tell. I do know, it makes for a great chance for me to get "up the coast" just a little.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


"Okay, guys," I said. "When a fish bites you need to yell, ‘FISH-On’ as loud as you can, okay?" Both Joey and Luke shook their head. "Loud," I said. "So loud they can here you in that boat way over there. Okay?"

Less than a minute later one of the planer lines snapped free from its release and the rod folded over. I don’t know whether Joey or Luke helped, but in that boat way over there, I’m sure heads turned when they heard my own "fish-on" call.

I handed Joey the rod and he just held on. "Turn the crank," I coached. He’d never held a fishing rod before. I guess I should have coached a bit more in depth. Once he started cranking, Joey was fine and when we netted the coho and flipped it onto the deck, his smile went ear to ear!

Seconds later another coho struck a crankbait on the other side of the boat and Luke was onto his first salmon.

Each year Indiana’s North Coast Charter Association conducts a "Special Kids Gone Fishing" outing, where we take area youngsters with chronic or debilitating problems or disease for a morning on the lake. I’ll admit, it makes me feel like a special captain, as well.

At the photo session at the end of the trip, I think all the kids but one held up their hand when asked if they’d caught a fish. When they were asked if they had fun, I think heads turned in a boat "way over there" to see what the cheering was about.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Fine Feast

People often ask me what’s the best way to prepare the salmon they catch on the Brother Nature. I always ask them if they remember the scene in Forest Gump when Bubba starts listing the ways to cook shrimp. It’s like that with salmon. You can broil it, grill it, bake, fry, poach, smoke, pickle and don’t forget salmon loaf, salmon cheese balls, salmon..... There’s no bad way. I also tell them to first cook it the way they prepare the walleye, bass, bluegills, catfish or other kinds of fish they catch. My theory is they know how that tastes, cooking their salmon the same way gives them a basis for comparison.

All that being said, the Wadas family (mentioned in my previous blog) didn’t follow that advice when preparing the cohos they caught for the main course for their Easter meal. Here’s a photo of the main course, just out of the oven.

Looks good to me!

Sunday, April 24, 2011


I hate beating up customers so I elected to stick close to shore yesterday instead of heading out to laker-land 7 or 8 miles offshore and risk the prediction for stiff winds a'comin'. Storms and strong winds had muddied the nearshore areas and put the shallow-water fish on hold the last several days.
Pressure was on since the family told me they were planning salmon for their Easter menu. Three hours into the trip, it was looking like perhaps a trip to the supermarket for some farm-raised stuff would be needed. An Storm Rattlin' ThinFin saved the day down by the 3rd light out of the East Chicago Marina. Then another coho hit a dodger/fly on the way back to the second light, followed by a 3rd, between there and the first light. "Good," I told them, "We've gone from a 'couple' in the box to a 'few' in the box. One more fish and we can say we did okay and 'caught some'."
I'm happy to report, we caught some and some more and the Wadas family ended up with enough for Easter and another meal in the future.

Pictured here is Michael Wadas and friend, Ally Ylo with her first fish ever!

I don't know if the sunny skies helped, the fish just turned on (a little) or it was the fish-god smiling.
I have a group from Iowa for the next couple days. They always bring foul (fowl?) weather so we will be answering the radio as the "Gore-Tex" team.
Wish us luck. Only 2 inches of rain predicted......

Friday, April 15, 2011


I should have known the "Perfect Storm" would be a-brewin’ this weekend. Doug Wheelock and he Iowegian Team of fishermen were scheduled to make the drive from Sioux City, Iowa for 3 days of Lake Michigan fishing. Not that we have never had nice weather when the Iowa-guys have come for the last couple of decades. We’ve experienced the rare day of calm seas and warm sun. Usually, however, they bring wind. Often lots of wind and then think back to the rainy days, the snowy days, the hail storms and other weather anomalies. So it’s no wonder I’m writing this instead of just leaving the harbor for another day of adventure on the Brother Nature.

The wind is howling at 30-knots–due east. When we quit, yesterday it was 21knots northeast and we climbed over a few 8 foot waves heading back to Hammond Marina.

Calumet Harbor, built prior to WWII, offers several miles of protected breakwall for a northeast wind. So that’s where we went on day one of the Iowegian visit. It took about 15 minutes to bounce the two miles from Hammond to the detached breakwall and about 5 minutes to hook up with the first coho.

I’d like to report the action stayed that fast but it didn’t. It never died completely and actually, as the day progressed the bite got better. Perhaps as the waves outside the breakwall intensified, it pushed more fish to the inside. Our last 5 fish came in about 15 minutes.

When Wheelock and I fished in Ludington last summer, our best lure was a "Wonder Bread" J-Plug and so with rumors of kings being caught, recently, we put one of them out, mid-morning. Lucky for Roger Gruber, Wheelock was playing a coho when the downrigged J got bit. Doug knew it was the "big-fish" rod and has been known to jump the rotation at the sound of a reel’s drag being tested.

Gruber wrested the rod free and ended up with a trophy brown trout to score top honors for the day. Of course, with 19 cohos to go with it, no one went home with empty hearts.

So we are sidelined today and with the winds predicted to veer to southerly quadrants tomorrow, dawn will find us, slickered against the rain, ready to do battle.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I don’t deny being a fisherman. I don’t deny choosing travel destinations on the quality and quantity of fish which swim in nearby waters. But don’t think I can’t participate in other adventures (in addition to catching some fish) when I’m away from home.

I just got back from several days at Canyon of the Eagles Resort on Lake Buchanan west of Austin, Texas. Sure, I caught some fish. Nice ones! Purebred stripers, white bass and man-made hybrids of these species. But let me show you a couple of the other "views" of Texas I was able to see on the trip.

Paddle Sports are all the rage, these days. Canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding is booming. I’ve canoed plenty of times, so when the opportunity to jump into–or is it onto–a kayak, I jumped. Fun stuff and an interesting view of Texas and Lake Buchanan--over my toes and the pointed bow of the kayak.

The next afternoon, I met William. I called him Willy and he was the horse I was assigned at the Post Oak Farm a short distance away from the Canyon of the Eagles. On Willy’s back, I got a more traditional view of Texas as we meandered through the scenic pastures and woodlands, not much changed from the days of the cowboys.

My thoughts? I may buy a kayak–I can see the fishing potential. Willy will remain a resident of Texas.

Canyon of the Eagles: www. canyonoftheeagles.com

Post Oak Farm: www. postoakfarm.com

Sunday, April 3, 2011

LADIES DAYS (and others)!

It’s been an interesting 4 days. It’s not common in late March or early April to have the opportunity to fish 4 days in a row. I don’t usually get that many bookings and when I do, the weatherman doesn’t cooperate enough to allow it.

On Wednesday, I fished Abby Seitzinger (seven years old) who brought along her dad and uncle to do the driving. She was the fisher-person! We fished out of East Chicago, specifically at the Indiana Harbor Ship Canal. I don’t remember Abby losing any fish, but her "drivers" did. Still, the cohos were cooperative and she coached them on to their limits.

Thursday, I hosted a trio of Michiganders who headed "south" to get some fresh fish to eat. You can see from the photo, they got their wish, with several bags of coho filets to keep them in meat until "spring" moves north to their normal fishing lakes.

Friday was a group from Kansas who drove 500 miles to catch some fish. They were joined by one Indiana friend. We had a great time. The fish mysteriously vacated the ship canal, but we located them offshore of the U.S. Steel Gary Works a few miles away and ended up with 15 beauties in the cooler before the rains showed up.

Finally, on Saturday, a long awaited "family reunion" sort of trip. A couple of years ago my brother and his wife set up a "gift certificate" to their son and his new wife of a Lake Michigan Fishing Trip on the Brother Nature. By spring, Carrie was with child and in no morning mood to fish. By the following spring they were well into child care activities to plan a trip so this year, Grandma babysat while Grampa, Justin and Carrie came to fish. We found the fish right outside the marina and slowly picked away to a catch which included the first steelhead of the year, as well as limits of cohos. Carrie caught the first, last, biggest and several fish in the middle.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Boat maintenance done. Some of my family duties (daughter moving) finished. Weatherman finally pre-cognized a great day, I rounded up a couple of friends and we hit Lake Michigan aboard the Brother Nature for the shake-down cruise. Though I’ve done it a couple times, I don’t like heading to the lake with "paying" customers for the first trip of the year. Ya just never know for sure.

But the Brother Nature fired right up with some fresh $3.60 gasoline. It didn’t seem to leak, the boat went backwards with the gear lever in reverse and forward once we were away from the dock at the East Chicago Marina.

Reports had cohos right outside the marina so why leave fish to go find other fish? Side planers were deployed, lures deployed and with only 4 or 5 rods set in our 9-rod array, the first salmon of the year struck, was skillfully played and soon entombed in the fish well. Then another and another and it seemed as though we were in for a quick limit.

So Greg decided to shake one of the smaller cohos hoping to replace it later with one a few inches larger. Then Tom misjudged his fish tossing skills and banked a coho he’d caught off the live well lid and back to the lake. No matter we thought, only to realize we’d abused our standing with the fish god (or lady luck) after a 2 hour dry spell.

The skies brightened and put the fish back in the mood and soon we were at or close to our 15 fish limit. Greg performed the count, by pulling each fish from the well tallying 15. But as he was stowing the load, the last fish caught, only a minute or two from the lake gave a tricky flip and it too suddenly found itself back home in the lake. We were back to needing one more fish.

Tom with our final 15th coho.

I started the fish cleaning and had all 14 fillets cut and bagged. Tom handled the clean up chores, washing down the deck of the coho blood and the final fish hit a Red Arty.

It’s game on! And I’m looking forward to a great season.....

Monday, March 7, 2011


My butt is as flat as a road-killed possum. The sport show season is over for me after attending the Cabela’s Captains Weekend at their Hammond, Indiana show. That’s a lot of sitting on a relatively uncomfortable stool for hours on end!

Actually, I enjoy the shows. They are not my most productive way of selling fishing trips on the Brother Nature, but there’s a steady parade of old friends and fellow fishermen stopping by my station–all with cabin fever as bad as I have. It’s good to see them and talk fishing. I didn’t keep a strict tally, but I’d estimate over the weekend the discussions at my table involved the harvest of several thousand salmon, a few mahi-mahi and amberjack, more than a few walleyes and a good number of ducks, deer, geese and turkeys.

Between the early calls coming from past customers, people finding me in other ways and the phone ringing after the show weekends, I’ve got a healthy number of trips lined up right on through the spring. There are plenty of weekday openings left and some weekends (mostly Sundays.) Give me a call and we’ll get you set up!

In the past week the ice in the marinas has broken and melted so the lake is open and apparently the pack-ice on the main lake has disappeared, as well. A very few boats have squeezed in some early action and have had a bit of success on cohos and brown trout. The water is still very cold and the fish concentrated in the warm water discharge areas. It’s also quite dirty looking which is a good thing.

That dirty water is what the sun works on and heats more rapidly than clear, clean water. The salmon would rather be in the warm water than the clear, offshore cold water so they swarm to the shallows. Things will break loose in the next week or so and the spring fishing excitement will be going full force!

Saturday, February 19, 2011


As a kid, I was constantly on the go outdoors and when winter showed up, I got cold feet. That didn’t mean I stopped hunting, ice-fishing, going on winter hikes in the Boy Scouts or other activities. It meant my feet were constantly cold. My best guard against the cold was whatever boots I owned and used for hunting were given a quick coating of waterproofing grease and then I put on as many pairs of sox as I could wear and still get my toes inside.

The waterproofing worked only as long as I didn’t get the boots wet and the socks only served to cramp my circulation and make the situation worse. But, not knowing any better, I thought it was normal. And I thought that way for a long, long time.

It was a cold, gray day on Lake Michigan and I was hunting diver ducks with a friend of mine near Whiting, Indiana. I bundled against the cold and in a few minutes, my feet felt as though they were frozen solid. “Normal,” I thought, then it dawned on me. Maybe it wasn’t normal....

At home, that afternoon, I looked in my Outdoor Writer’s Association of America directory and found Rocky Boots was a corporate member of the group and they afforded us members a discount from the retail prices we’d pay at a store. I contacted the rep for Rocky and in a few days I had a new catalog and ordering instructions.

At the time, Rocky listed their winter boots by how low a temperature they’d protect. The top of the line boot was listed at minus 40 degrees. I put a pair of those on the order blank. But there was another pair (listed at only minus 20) which featured GoreTex waterproofing and were slip-ons. “How convenient,” I thought, while imagining wearing them for quick errands–so I added them to the order as well.

That was probably 15 years ago or more.

I received both pairs and the slip-ons became a favorite winter boot for me. I wore them for quick errands, on the ice, while plowing snow, hunting, spring coho fishing, on my trapline and never once, never ever, not one single time did I experience cold feet while wearing them.

The other pair sat on a shelf.

Nothing lasts forever, and late last winter, the soles on the slip-ons wore through and disintegrated. It was a sad day they went into the refuse barrel.

When planning my trip to Marquette, Michigan recently, I thought of the “other” pair of boots I’d purchased way back when. Could I find them? Would they fit comfortably (I’d never worn them), were they excessively heavy–airline weight restrictions, you know?

I found them. They fit well enough with a thin pair of socks and were surprisingly light.

Best of all, continuing the tradition started with the slip-ons, my feet were never cold. One morning while ice fishing the rest of our group started comparing how cold their feet were getting. Reports went from “pretty cold” to “frozen solid.” I almost felt embarrassed to admit I had toasty toes.

I wish I still had the slip-on model–but when I’m worried about extreme cold and keeping my feet warm, I’m glad I still have a pair of boots which will do the job!

Saturday, February 5, 2011


It must have been a warm day just before the first lake effect snows turned the world white for the winter. It must have been during the time my wife lit the fireplace for atmosphere rather than extra heat. That’s when the invitation must have been given me to come to Marquette and Munising for a week of "Silent Sports."

But now my trip is on me. The weather prediction is for cold, snow and wind. The advice I got from my hosts was to dress in layers. So I’m attempting to put 100 pounds of layers into a carry-on bag to ensure I have enough layers for the week. Will it be a week of silent sports? Or will the sounds of winter include an old man’s cries, whining and screams as they drag me to the wilderness for another day of merriment? Check back for updates.

We’ll be ice fishing on Lake Superior and a couple of inland lakes during the week. I’m no ice-fishing fan but that won’t matter. I’m not going to see how many fish I can catch. If I catch one, that’s great. If I catch more than one, I’ll be surprised. My goal is to survive. My hope is to survive comfortably. After all, being too hot in the summer is uncomfortable, being too cold in winter is painful.

Stay tuned. If I’m not frozen solid and tipped over into a snowdrift, I’ll either post on my Facebook page or update with another blog if I something exceptional occurs. Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 23, 2011



During the off season, I use some of my time to go over the gear I use on the boat each year to make sure it’s in top shape and ready to go when the time comes. I sharpen hooks, sort lures, put new line on fishing reels, make repairs to equipment as needed and on and on. Let me tell you, as a person who fishes several days a week–from a boat–using a myriad of rods, reels and other tackle–it never ends.

I can’t remember when I got my first Penn 9M reel. I’m sure I was excited because, undoubtedly, it was one of the first "real" reels I had on my boat. The first reel I could hook onto any fish in Lake Michigan and feel confident the reel was up to the task. Back in the early days, that wasn’t always the case. There were victories and sad tales–many of the sad tales ended up with broken reels or burned out drag systems.

Not so with the Penn 9Ms. I know I got a couple of them as "hand-me-downs" from an elderly friend who got too old to go on his own boat with his own gear and became one of my regular fishing partners. I bought one at a yard sale, one at an auction and some on eBay. They aren’t as flashy as some of the Shimanos and Diawas I have on the boat–but they never let me down–unless....

Unless the level wind mechanism which lays the line down evenly on the spool conks out. It’s the weak link in the chain on 9Ms. The culprit is usually a part they call a "pawl" which engages the worm gear and moves the level wind mechanism back and forth. Penn used to include a spare pawl with each reel in a little compartment on the side plate. My guess is they knew of the weakness, but couldn’t really fix it and for most users the original and the spare they included would last the life of the reel or the life of the fisherman.
Not so for me and my addiction–as well as my business–of fishing on Lake Michigan. After time (as in 7 or 8 years) and adding several pawls to a reel, the level wind mechanism boogered to the point a new pawl would be a fleeting repair or wouldn’t repair the reel. So I ended up with a pile of broken Penn 9Ms sitting on the sidelines.

The only other downside to the reels was the drag washers would wear out or become sticky with use and over time. Penn solved that probably 20 years ago when they came out with their HT-100 washers which were made from Space Shuttle brake material or some such hype. (I don’t know from what the new washer material is made, but reels with the new materials have indestructible drags and I long ago equipped all my reels with them.)

A month or so ago I opened the drawer with the 9M discards in it earlier this winter and it dawned on me how foolhardy I’d been to cast them aside, replacing them with other reels, when a bit more of an overhaul would likely have them back in the game. I counted up the 9M reels I owned, added up the number of pawl, worm gears and miscellaneous other parts I would need to put them back in the game and found all the parts numbers on-line. For less than $7 per reel, I now have a fleet of 9Ms.

When you come fishing with me this year, count on having a couple or maybe even several of the 9Ms on the rods we will be using. They may not be flashy–but I guarantee they’ll do the job.

Friday, January 14, 2011


I’m often asked what I do during the off-season when I’m not fishing. One thing, is to play catch-up on the things I put off doing during the season. But there’s more than that. I beef up the writing I do. I try to get ahead on some of my writing by penning some columns and stories I can use in the future. Not all topics are time sensitive.

I also travel. I attended the annual conference of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers in Ashland, Wisconsin. If you don’t know Ashland, it’s about midway along Wisconsin’s Lake Superior shoreline. While there, I fished Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior and caught smallmouth and northern pike.

A couple weeks later I was again in Wisconsin, fishing the Mississippi River up and downstream from LaCrosse along Wisconsin’s Great River Road. Great fishing and gorgeous country.

Not one to let the grass grow for long, I found a "natural escape" (the logo of the tourism people in Franklin County, Florida) and spent some November time in Apalachicola. This area escaped the oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the fishing was great for amberjack, grouper, snappers and spanish mackeral. I almost overloaded my luggage with frozen filets.

Now is the time of year I pay off the officials that allow me to remain in business. When gangsters shake-down local taverns owners for their weekly "dues" it’s corruption. When the government assigns fees to businesses "just because they can," it’s, well, business as usual.

Were we to get something for our fees, that would be an argument for the payola captains are assessed. We pay taxes and the government hires an army to protect us and yadda, yadda.... You buy a fishing license and it pays for hatcheries and biologists and game wardens. You pay for your charter captain’s license and you get bupkiss except for more paperwork to fill out, and additional fees for mandatory inspections.

So that’s what I’m doing this month. Filling in forms (with much the same information I sent them for the past 10 years–can’t they just save it and ask me for the money?) Writing checks for services I’ll never get and then doing it all over again for each of the states I fish.

I think I need another Natural Escape.