Chesterton Tribune



The steelhead trout are running in record numbers this spring

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The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is urging anglers who’ve never caught a steelhead trout to visit Northwest Indiana this spring.

That’s because record numbers of steelhead are migrating into the region’s trout streams from Lake Michigan.

The region’s chief trout streams: the St. Joseph River in the South Bend area, Trail Creek in Michigan City, and the Little Calumet River near Portage.

Steelhead migrate--or “run“--into streams to spawn. Depending on the strain of steelhead, some run in the summer and some in the fall/winter. They generally weigh six to 13 pounds, are known for fighting hard on the end of the line, and make good table fare.

DNR biologists monitor the steelhead runs using motion-triggered cameras on a South Bend fish ladder. Since June 1, 2013--roughly the beginning of the summer run--the DNR has counted more than 16,000 fish passing through the ladder.

“The last time we surpassed that was in the 1999 to 2000 period when we had 20,000 fish,” DNR spokesman Brian Breidert said.

Spring is a transition period between winter-run and summer-run steelhead, and sometimes stream fishing for steelhead slows down. But not this year, Breidert said. Biologists counted 8,006 steelhead moving through the South Bend fish ladder in April, which was a record. Breidert expects another 900 in the first week of May. The current record for May’s first week is 200.

“So this could end up being the best May as well,” Breidert said. “There are some years where we don’t even run in May.”

Breidert credited the numbers to near perfect water levels and temperatures for spawning as well as cooler temperatures on Lake Michigan.

Steelhead trout are native to the West Coast and were introduced to the Great Lakes by surrounding states to provide an additional fishing opportunity for anglers and help control invasive alewives. Indiana’s steelhead program dates to the late 1970s and the fish population is supported by the state’s Bodine Hatchery in Mishawaka and Mixsawbah Hatchery near Walkerton.

“The excellent fishing conditions this year have resulted in an increase in anglers trying their luck on all three streams,” the DNR said. “And those anglers are supporting the local economy by buying gear, bait, food, fuel and sometimes lodging.”

The daily bag limit for steelhead is five. Catching steelhead for in-state residents requires a $17 annual Indiana fishing license and an $11 salmon/trout stamp.

Breidert said the fish can be caught with a seven- or eight-foot spincasting rod and 10-pound-test fishing line using spinners or bait such as night crawlers, fish eggs, and shrimp.

“If you’ve never caught steelhead, this is a great opportunity to give it a try, and steelhead fishing could continue right into the summer with the cooler lake conditions.” Breidert said.



Posted 5/6/2014