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.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Sometimes lake trout are the only game in town on this end of Lake Michigan. Though some people disdain the “great gray trout,” I don't mind them at all. One of my boyhood dreams was to make an excursion to some far-off destination where I could tangle with lunker lakers. Now, I can do it in my own back yard. I accept a laker isn't a salmon and love ‘em for what they are.

Though lakers readily bite spoons, plugs, flies and other sorts of baits, few baits can outfish a simple winged spinner body such as a Spin-N-Glow or Mepps Prop run behind a dodger. A few years ago I started substituting a small trolling fly instead of the beads and bare hook behind the spinner body and for me, the bit of mylar improved the presentation's overall performance.

Then one day, caught off guard with a paucity of laker lures on board, the trout bite got so hot, they demolished the flies and left me with only a bare hook dangling behind my Spin-N-Glow. I had some Berkley Gulp minnows on board, however - small, 2 1/2-inchers left-overs from a recent perch fishing outing.

"What the heck," I thought as I skewered one of the plastic minnow bodies on the bare hook. The minnow gave a bit of bulk to the rear of the spin-n-glow and I've had good luck on many species of fish using Gulp.

One of the things the Berkley scientists who invented their Gulp products engineered into it was an ability to leave a scent trail as the bait is pulled through the water. Did it work?
In spades! The rod with the beat up lure and the Gulp minnow trailer, ended up getting the lion's share of the action the rest of that day; and since then, Gulp rigs have continued to work great.

The 2 1/2-inch shad minnows continue to work, but the new garlic flavored pinched nightcrawler segments are giving the laker lovers on my boat a hardy work out this year.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


I wish I could remember why I invented the stupid white spoon. I would imagine someone called me on the radio one day and told me they were “killing” the fish on a white spoon with black dots. I must have believed them.  
The STUPID WHITE SPOON is a reliable favorite.

I had a supply of magnum white spoon blanks I’d bought from Cabela’s a few years earlier. I’d spray paint them with fluorescent red paint to use as Skamania steelhead lures. The white finish was an undercoating that made the bright red even brighter. So I added a hook to one of the plain white spoons and used a Sharpie to add nine dots to it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained - and I could always paint over the dots.
Most Lake Michigan trolling spoons are bright, shiny, gaudy things. Many of them glow-in-the-dark. The patterns painted on them rival anything Picasso could have envisioned - or Timothy Leery while experimenting with LSD. A white spoon with nine black dots was, well, stupid. 

But I tried it and for some reason, the fish liked it.Perhaps it only catches the stupid fish with too few brains to recognize it as a stupid looking spoon. Perhaps it only catches the smartest fish. The one’s with enough brain-power to snub the holographic, mylar crusted, atomic coated lures everyone else is using. 
Buoyed by success, I made a couple more (for spares) and handed one to Capt. Doug Iliff to use on his boat one morning. Later, out on the lake the spoon got it’s official name. Doug called me on the radio and told me he’d just caught his biggest fish of the day on that Stupid White Spoon. The name stuck.
Kings, cohos, steelhead - it works for all of them. Lakers love ‘em. So do I. Of course, I’d like any lure that is as reliable as the Stupid White Spoon.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I offer “gift certificates” of a sort for fishing trips on the Brother Nature. Instead of a fill-in-the-blanks form like you used to get from stores or the plastic gift cards you get these days, I send a letter that says something like:

Dear Mr. Lucky:
Your loving wife is giving you a special gift for your birthday, this year. You and three of your friends are going fishing on the Brother Nature.

Then I add other pertinent details, a brief run-down on how the season is going so far and prospects for the rest of the year. I send the letter to the gifter who can purchase a card and use the letter as an insert.
Since I accept credit cards, it works perfectly. The “giftee” doesn’t have to bring any money the day of the trip. It’s paid for - it’s a gift!

Ike dumped over 16 inches of rain on NW Indiana
Joe Davis was “Mr. Lucky” a few years ago but the stars seemed stacked against us. Joe picked a late September “king salmon” date but it turned out to be after Hurricane Ike came through and dumped a foot and a half of rain on the south end of the lake.

What happened to the fish after that much rain, no one knows, but there weren’t any to be caught.  “We’ll put it off until spring.”

The following spring came and then summer, then another season was gone. We kept in touch but our schedules just never matched up.

Joe and Joe Jr. with some of the "party favors." 

Happy Birthday Joe! We finally had Joe’s Birthday Party. There wasn’t any cake and ice cream, however. Not enough time for that and the eats would have had the distinct flavor of Lake Michigan trout and salmon. We did have a party with the fish!  Better late than never.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Lots of people love their jobs. Many doctors, truckers, blue-collar, white-collar - even no-collar laborers as much look forward to going to work each day as coming home at day’s end. But few of them love every part of their work. All would have an answer to the question, “What’s the thing you dislike most?”

I love my job as a charter fishing captain. I love to be on the water. I love being outdoors. I love the challenge of getting the fish to bite for my customers and I truthfully enjoy watching them reel in a big one more than if I had the fish on the line myself.

So what’s the worst thing about my job?  Boat maintenance? Compliance with government regulations? Reluctant fish? Snotty customers?

Nope - it’s predicting the weather.

Everyone has expressed amazement that meteorologists can mis-forecast the weather so much of the time and still stay employed. (Maybe that’s why they like their jobs.)

Easy for them, they work indoors. No matter if their light and variable wind predictions turn into unexpected gales. No matter if a slight chance of rain turns into downpours.  For charter captains, it’s different.

All of my customers are choosing to go fishing with me over other leisure time activities. No one gets off work to go fishing, they plan for it. If they are out on the Brother Nature, they aren’t camping or golfing or staying home to putter in the garden. So if I’m wrong, not only do I subject my people to a miserable day on the lake, I exclude them from a different, probably more enjoyable activity.

This couple drove from Central Illinois to fish with me. 
Many of my fishermen come from afar. I’ve had them fly in to fish with me. Most drive several hours or more. I once had a guy drive non-stop from Slidell, Louisiana.

So I have to be better than the weather bimbos and staff meteorolgists. I have to be better than the weekend interns the government leaves in charge on weekends at the National Weather Service. I have to sift through and analyze forecasts that predict winds 10 to 20 miles per hour.

There’s about 5 feet of wave height difference between 10 and 20 miles per hour. There’s no such thing as a passing thunderstorm if it passes over the boat when we are 10 miles out in the lake.

So I’m sitting here side-lined on a white-capped weekend. Saturday was an easy call. Northeast gales always keeps the boat on the trailer. This time yesterday, however, the pros were calling for fairly calm seas for today. I didn’t much believe them.

I bet they are inside, maybe still in bed. Perhaps the interns are looking at the data and wondering what went wrong. The lake's weather buoys are registering east gales and showing 10-footers on the lake.

 Though I’m happy I made the right call, this time, I’m looking ahead to Tuesday when my next outing is scheduled. It’s not looking good. Wednesday looks better but what about the rain?  Thursday - I won’t even believe my own prediction for Thursday on a Sunday morning.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Reed, Jim, Doug and Roger with some of their
Ill-Weather trout.
Doug Wheelock and a group of his friends from Northwest Iowa show up every April for a few days of fishing on the Brother Nature. I won’t say we haven’t seen the best Lake Michigan can offer on a few occasions, but it sure seems we get a good dose of the worst weather each year or at least some years, as well.

Had the weatherman been right, the recent “Iowegian” outing would have been about on par. Great weather was predicted on day one, turning to so-so weather for Friday and iffy to downright dangerous forecasts were posted for Saturday.

The weatherman couldn’t have gotten it much farther from the mark. Thursday was okay, but we fished in 2 to 3 foot waves most of the day, though sunny and bright.

What would Friday bring, when more wind was added to the mix in advance of an approaching front. In a word, nothing. The wind calmed and the waves subsided making for another bright, sunny day with plenty of fish caught.

Saturday, with all day storms, lightning and wind did prove to be different from the first two days. No wind gave us slick calm seas but the skies were overcast. If anything, that made the fishing even better.

With the season running a month or so early from the warm spring, we targeted lake trout on the Indiana Shoals, a huge sandbar that juts out into Lake Michigan from Lake County, Indiana. The lakers invade the shoals to chow down on gobies and at times it seems the bottom is layered with the great gray trout. 

Limits were taken daily, along with a few salmon but the important thing is the fun and excitement each trip brings to the group.  I’m already looking forward to next year - though there’s plenty enough left of this year to keep things interesting, I’m sure.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Ray Shepard earned the LOSER tag! 

Chapter 1)  I know how the black lace brassier got into my tackle box and I laughed at my friend’s effort to “punk” me. In fact, I stuck the fancy lingerie garment in the back of the Brother Nature’s glove compartment and used it as a “joke” prop to pull out occasionally when the fishing was slow.

I’d hold it up and tell the others, “You should have been on board last week when one of the customers left this!”

Chapter 2) I pulled out the black bra and told the joke one day when my customers and I were experiencing some frustrating action. We were getting lots of bites, but an inordinately large percentage of the fish were becoming unhooked before they could be pulled close enough to net aboard the boat.

I don’t know who thought of it or why, but one of the customers, seconds after losing yet another fish, ended up with the black bra strapped across his upper torso (at least it was on the outside of his jacket). Donning the bra became a penalty for losing a fish and the lingerie had to stay on until the “loser” redeemed himself by successfully boating one later.

I also don’t know just what the wives of these guys may have thought when they were shown the photos taken on board that day.
Can he be redeemed?

Chapter 3) I thought it was a good joke - but not right for every group and I could understand that some guests would view the penalty as being downright distasteful. Still....

So I resurrected a neck-strap name tag holder, printed up and fitted the holder with a card having “ LOSER” printed on it in bright red ink.

Now, when an angler whiffs on a few fish or displays a particularly poor fish-fighting technique resulting in a lost fish, out comes the LOSER tag. Usually, a few seconds after having this badge of dishonor bestowed, out come the cameras. The morose of losing a nice fish is transformed into fun and good natured ribbing. Again, hooking and boating the next fish allows the “loser” to remove the garnishment - and whoa to the next loser!

After all, if you aren’t having fun, what fun is it?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


    There’s a saying among salmon fishermen: “A coho is a silver, the chinook is a king.”  It’s partly a maxim to ease the confusion between the Native American names for the two species of salmon and the names Europeans have given these fish. What Indians call coho salmon, English-speaking people call silver salmon. The Indian’s chinook salmon is the Anglo’s king salmon.

Nathan Eaton boated the first king
of the year on the Brother Nature
 But it’s more than that. The chinooks (or kings) are truly the kings of the salmon world. Both for size – the world record king is over 90 pounds, the world record coho is barely a third that size - and also for fighting ability.

  It’s easy math to say a larger fish fights harder than a smaller fish. But what if you were to hook a 7-pound king salmon to a 7-pound coho salmon?

The answer is subjective; since, to my knowledge, no one has ever done the experiment. But I’ve caught plenty of 7-pound coho and equally sized chinooks. The chinooks are much stronger. I think in the above “species to species” tug-o-war, the winner (you could say the “king” of the competition) would be the chinook.

   That’s not to say the cohos aren’t spunky and deserving of the “silver” medal in the contest. The two species react completely different when hooked to a lure, fishing line, rod, reel and fisherman. Cohos are more prone to jumping during their struggle, less prone to making long reel-torturing runs and very prone to spinning like a dervish when brought to the surface and into the landing net. The kings do make long runs - repeatedly - and are tough to wear down.

King salmon will bring a smile to
any angler's face. 
    It’s the way kings fight that bring a smile to knowing Great Lakes anglers when they hear good numbers of chinook salmon are being caught. Just whisper “the kings are in” and watch a salmon fisherman’s eyes glaze as he ponders his immediate (non-fishing) schedule, the weather forecast and other factors that stand between going toe to toe (hand to fin?) with some Great Lakes kings.

     Kings don’t usually get active until the water temperature in the lake warms solidly past 40 degrees and they kick into their spring feeding frenzy when the alewives move close to shore to spawn. That’s now!

    I told my fishermen yesterday it looked good on the sonar when huge schools of alewives showed close to the shoreline. I set some likely lures just above the swarms of spawners. Before the day was done, each of my guests had tangled with one or more of the king-chinooks, as well as a bevy of coho-silvers.

    As they left they told me, “Be sure to let us know next spring when ‘the kings are in’!”