As summer heats up, so does steelhead action in Lake Michigan and its tributaries. Anglers should act fast to take advantage of these high-flying, challenging steelhead.
“Skamania” steelhead, so named for the hatchery in Washington from which they originate, are a unique species of summer-migrating steelhead trout the DNR stocks in southern Lake Michigan.
In most parts of the country, steelhead fishing is done during the fall, winter, and spring months, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
“The beauty of Skamania fishing is that you can do it in shorts and a T-shirt, catching a tan along with your steelhead,” said DNR Lake Michigan biologist Ben Dickinson. “It’s a great way to introduce people to steelhead fishing, especially kids. Pier fishing in particular is family friendly, since it only requires a medium action rod, a bobber, and widely available bait like nightcrawlers or cooked, peeled shrimp.”
Trail Creek is the crown jewel of Skamania fishing in Indiana, with more than 100,000 fish stocked annually. Trail Creek also supplies Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan with Skamania steelhead eggs.
“Indiana is the home of Skamania steelhead in the Great Lakes,” said Dave Meunick, manager of Bodine State Fish Hatchery. “Our hatchery staff continues to work diligently each summer, collecting adult Skamania steelhead to ensure our hatcheries have an ample supply of eggs for Indiana’s stocking programs and for those of our Lake Michigan partners.”
Salt Creek, the East Branch of the Little Calumet River, and the St. Joseph River also have summer and fall returns of Skamania as a result of annual stockings. Once these fish enter the rivers, they become accessible to local anglers until the following spring when they spawn and migrate back into the lake. This unique fish provides a nearly year-round steelhead fishing opportunity in Indiana.
“Fishing the Michigan City or Portage Lakefront Park piers in late evening or early morning in June and July is best for shore anglers,” said local expert Mike Ryan, who also serves as Indiana’s Great Lakes Sportfishing Advisor. “Water temperatures are key – I look for surface water temperatures of under 68 degrees for the best action.”
Anglers must purchase a trout stamp to pursue steelhead. Anglers looking for up-to-date information on the fishing status or where to fish can check the DNR fishing report at wildlife.IN.gov/8270.htm or call the Lake Michigan office at 219-874-6824.