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.