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, May 28, 2012


Perry Pendell, from Chestertown, NY, completed the BN
Grand Slam for 2012
 The Salmon Unlimited club used to give an award to any member who caught a coho, chinook, brown trout, lake trout and steelhead all in one year. Those are the 5 major species of trout and salmon in Lake Michigan. There are a smattering of pink salmon and Atlantic Salmon that stray into the northern part of the lake from Lake Huron, but not many. The award was called the Big Five. Others called it the Grand Slam.

Nowadays, getting the Grand Slam for the season is not as big a deal. Some people manage it in a single day. The Brother Nature normally has fresh DNA from the big five species on the boat by mid-April and if there’s a missing specimen, it’s usually lake trout since I stick close to shore as long as possible in the spring, before heading “out for trout” when the nearshore action wanes.

This year, the Brother Nature anglers had caught lake trout by early April and there were plenty of kings, cohos and browns in the mix starting in March. It wasn’t until I mailed in my catch report for April I noticed there hadn’t yet been a steelhead on board for 2012.

Steelhead should be increasingly important the
rest of this summer. 
Normally, in the nearshore early season fishery, one steelhead bites for about every dozen cohos. And since catching dozens and dozens of cohos is normal, the first steelhead isn’t long in coming.

Yesterday, May 27, was the first day we dripped a bit of steely-juice on the floor. I don’t think it’s a reflection of fewer steelhead available, rather just poor concentrations of ‘heads in the area I’ve fished and luck of the draw. The Indiana DNR stocks more steelhead than any other species.

As we get into the summer season, I expect to see these hard-fighting, high jumping beauties on the ends of the line on an increasing basis. I suspect in a week or two or three, the summer run Skamania strain will start crowding the shorelines and steelhead will become the feature attraction.

‘Til then, it’s good to have broken the ice and completed the Brother Nature’s annual Grand Slam.  

Friday, May 25, 2012


Pick your favorite flavor!

It’s partly because I’m cheap and partly because I enjoy making and using handmade items. In this case, it’s both. A 10-pound downrigger weight from Cabelas costs 40 bucks. I can make one for 25 cents worth of propane, scavenged lead, a discarded beer can and a piece of wire coat hanger.

But does it work as well as an “engineered” store-bought weight?

I’m a professional skipper. I use what works and what works well, not just something that works “well enough.” We aren’t talking rocket science here - it’s a 10-pound weight!

If you don’t mind what the can looks like, the chore is very simple. Melt lead, pour it into an empty can, hold the wire attachment loop and release loop in place and fill the lead to the rim. The paint will burn off the can, but won’t melt the aluminum. Done.

To keep the paint from burning off takes a bit more effort. You will need a 1-foot square piece of half-inch or thicker plywood. Measure the diameter of the rim of your can. Measure the diameter of the barrel of the can. Cut a round hole in the plywood midway between these measurements so the plywood will sit on the can, but not slide over it.
I use rubber band releases but any kind will work

Find or make a container slightly shorter than a can. (It can be plastic.) Fill it with water. Put the plywood on the can and the can into the container of water. Now, the paint won’t burn off when the molten lead goes into the can.

I use a propane fish cooker for heat and melt the lead in a small cast-iron skillet. Any ol’ skillet will do, or any old pot. It’s not rocket science, it’s just melting lead.

Once the can is about 3/4-inch from being full, stick the wire loops in and let the lead cool until it’s hard and supporting the wires. Now add enough more molten lead to top off the can.

This is dangerous and you can be burned.
Do the project outdoors for fumes and to keep from burning your house down.
Molten lead and water don’t mix. Use the plywood, make sure the can is empty. Do the words “steam explosion” mean anything to you?
Use personal protective equipment - safety glasses, gloves, leather boots, etc. I don’t, but you should.

Depending on the exact alloy (wheel weights are different than pure lead which is different from bullet lead, etc.), a 12-ounce can will weigh within an ounce or so of 10 pounds.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Nephew Sam from my Webpage

I’m often questioned about bringing young kids along on Lake Michigan fishing trips. Do I have any policies regarding kids? Is there a minimum age? The answer is no.

One of the reasons I show my nephew, Sam on the front page of my website is to show that youngsters are welcome. Sam was only 6 or 7 when he caught the pictured salmon. My own son, Wade, started tagging along on Lake Michigan outings when he was five. Both of these youngsters, however, had been handling rods and reels almost since they could walk - maybe not for king salmon, but the motor skills needed to hold rods and crank reels are the same whether the fish on the end of the line is a 7-inch sunfish or a 17-pound salmon.
Family Outings can include Mom

I was reminded of this last weekend when both days featured a pair of young boys in the quartet of fishermen on board the Brother Nature. Each duo was similar in age, but not in fishing skills.

On Saturday, each salmon boated turned into something of a torture-test, requiring both youngster trying to hold the rod and crank the reel and the oldster also holding the rod and even assisting with winding in the fish. We boated most of the fish that bit, but few of the catches were stylishly simple.

Abby shows off youthful fishing skills. 
On Sunday, we actually lost more of our hook-ups, but that’s more a tribute to “fishing luck” than lack of skills. Each boy wielded the rods and cranked the reels like seasoned pros. Because they were experienced from early life like Sam and Wade.

My point in this essay is to encourage parents to get “toy” fishing gear for their kids. Even if it’s a cheap Snoopy pole or comes in bright pink for a daughter. That early familiarity could engender a life-long passion for fishing in particular and the outdoors in general.

If you are reading this and wondering about bringing your own youngster, don’t hesitate. We will make it work, regardless of experience. There’s no gain in leaving them home.

Monday, May 14, 2012


My Lake Ontario Coho

So what does a fishing guide do when he doesn’t have to go fishing for a few days? He goes fishing!

At least that’s what I do and it’s not so much that I go fish for panfish, since I so often fish for Great Lakes salmon and trout. Nothing against panfish, or walleye, or bass or most any other kind of fish.

I love Great Lakes salmon and trout and I love to fish for them. So when I showed up in Niagara Falls for the annual Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writer’s "Cast and Blast" and got the chance to hop on Capt. Bob Cinelli’s boat for a morning of Lake Ontario salmon fishing, I went.
Capt. Bob helps Berdette pose her fish.

Fellow AGLOWers, Berdette Zastrow and P.J. Perea came along and plenty of fish showed up for the morning fun, as well.

Did I learn anything? Probably.

Did I care much? Not really.

I just enjoyed not being in charge. Let Capt. Bob and mate Roy handle setting the lines, net the fish, swab the deck and all the other details. I took my turn at the rail. Caught a couple, whiffed on one, tossed back a little one and caught some nice fish.

Captain’s holiday! Tomorrow is more salmon and then some smallmouth in the afternoon. Wednesday is, well, who cares? I’m going fishing.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I’m a somewhat lucky guy. You might say, lucky, though not richer.

Originals I Re-Scanned
My boat is fairly open to the weather. Despite that, I’m required by law to carry certain legal documents with me on the boat. All boaters need to keep their boat registration and have their fishing licenses available if they are angling. I need to keep my captain’s license, proof of enrollment in a random drug testing program and the various licenses required by Illinois and Indiana to be in business as a charter boat.

Because of the lack of secure and dry storage, I tuck all the necessary papers into a Rubbermaid container designed to carry a large, rectangular cake to a bake sale or party. The container fits into a storage compartment and even if it gets damp or a bit wind-blown, the snap-on lid keeps everything secure.

It’s been a good plan since I bought the boat in 2000. When the government sent me the documents and registrations, I stuck them in the plastic box. When someone bought a fishing license, I stuck the money in the box. Though I always worried about leaving the box out or open on windy days, everything I ever put in the box had to be removed manually.

Over the winter my computer’s printer crapped out on me and I bought another that happened to be a printer/scanner combo. Didn’t really need the scanner, but it was the cheapest model available.

So when the paperwork started piling up for licenses, registrations, inspections and all the rest in late winter, I started scanning the documents and putting the originals in a file, kept in my office. After 11 years, no accidents, I decided to play it safe.

Lucky me!  On Saturday morning I climbed aboard, removed a couple books of blank fishing licenses so I could make sure the attendees at the Sunday, writer’s outing were covered. Evidently, in my haste, I didn’t return the plastic box to the storage compartment.

After trailering the boat 55 miles to the marina, I climbed in to find a few papers wedged here and there on the deck, but most of the contents of the box were scattered along I-65 somewhere. Luckily, the books of unsold licenses (which are paid-in-advance) were rubber banded together and didn’t blow out. Unluckily, over $50 of “folding” money in the box is gone forever. Most fortunate, is that I was able to locate the original registrations and licenses, re-scan and restock the box.

Lesson learned?  Only time will tell for sure....