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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Fished three perfect surf condition days on a SW beach last week, 1 nice male steelie just under 10 pounds. Surf conditions were perfect, water temperature ideal, and peak part of the season. This combo used to result in 15 plus fish days, now 1 fish in 3 days.

Most depressing part is that a couple of my long time buddies compared logs. The three of us collectively used to land around 800 steelies a season. Currently, we’re at 20.

Hard to keep at it without a reasonable expectation of hooking up a fish. Perhaps the next week will be better? At least the coho should show up soon. December was always good for Browns when we had them, but those are gone now too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks. I know fish are being caught in that area, but due to time constraints and conflicting demands of my time I decided to fish locally this fall. Also got really tired of dropping $75+ in the gas tank every time I want to catch a fish.

Might be getting close to time to start taking a political route to get fish in the south end of the lake again. I, along with my buddies, don’t expect double digit catches but folks here sure would be happy if we just had a reasonable expectation of catching a fish.
 

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Might be getting close to time to start taking a political route to get fish in the south end of the lake again. I, along with my buddies, don’t expect double digit catches but folks here sure would be happy if we just had a reasonable expectation of catching a fish.
What am I missing here?

Hasn't steelhead stocking been the most consistent of any species? I don't recall any big changes in stocking numbers or distribution. Last I checked at least half of the entire steelhead stockings are in the southern half of the lake. Plus all the steelhead Indiana stocks in the St. Joe

Yeah the fishing has been brutal the last few years but if stocking is consistent but fishing tanks... it's not the numbers of fish stocked, it's something else

Seems to me the fish just aren't nearshore in the fall like they used to be. They just all run up in like a 3 week window in March/April. Sucks for pier and surf fishing, that's for sure
 

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I’ve received good to steady reports at 5 locations, no reports south, and none from a county with two very good rivers in mid Michigan.

I used to fish the Joe a lot, both from the beach and pier. But the numbers were dropping when I stopped driving. One otherwise smart guy kept insisting that too much cross breeding was going on between summer runs and winter runs there. 🙄. Whatever you do, don’t tell that to Drexter politically. He’ll do what he can to stop Indiana from planting skams, which he hates already.


I had a year maybe 3 or 4 years ago, where a buddy and I had a lot of coho, plus seem to come up with a lot of semi chewed bags, which apparently caused by schools of emeralds or spottails? Are you seeing any of that?
 

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I’ve received good to steady reports at 5 locations, no reports south, and none from a county with two very good rivers in mid Michigan.

I used to fish the Joe a lot, both from the beach and pier. But the numbers were dropping when I stopped driving. One otherwise smart guy kept insisting that too much cross breeding was going on between summer runs and winter runs there. 🙄. Whatever you do, don’t tell that to Drexter politically. He’ll do what he can to stop Indiana from planting skams, which he hates already.


I had a year maybe 3 or 4 years ago, where a buddy and I had a lot of coho, plus seem to come up with a lot of semi chewed bags, which apparently caused by schools of emeralds or spottails? Are you seeing any of that?
I wish they would stock more skams in other rivers, literally the best fishing I get to have all year is when the lake flips in june. Not to mention I dont have to freeze my ass off and I actually get to have a limit of fish to bring home for the freezer.
 

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It’s sad that I believe I catch as many or more Indiana fish than Michigan fish. When I had energy that seems gone now; I’d run to Indiana in some years to both buy a license and fish. But it seem pretty rare that I’d have the time to drive like that anymore.
 

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its a pain to pull the hartson steelhead stocking. But I'm pretty sure they have knocked those numbers back. It hasn't been as extreme as kings but its less.

The DNR has also acknowledged there is a problem with recruitment. This wouldnt affect southern rivers as much, but there is still some nat repro in southern river tribs.

I have next week off. So weather permitting, I'll get a good idea of how fishing is.
 

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I'll take walleye all day. Not so great opportunities over here though for shore bound. Although I did get a 16' tin can.

So I'll have to get that figured out and plan to shift fishing gears a bit this spring.
 
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Not much interest in walleye this time of year. Much rather go after Steelhead. As Grundy stated, not very good shore opportunities for fall eyes in this area. Spring fishery can be good for them from shore. Have to travel a bit farther north for the fall eyes.

Fall gills and specs are very good this time of year in our area. I’ll catch those if I’m not trying for what is now the elusive steelhead.
 

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its a pain to pull the hartson steelhead stocking. But I'm pretty sure they have knocked those numbers back. It hasn't been as extreme as kings but its less.

The DNR has also acknowledged there is a problem with recruitment. This wouldnt affect southern rivers as much, but there is still some nat repro in southern river tribs.

I have next week off. So weather permitting, I'll get a good idea of how fishing is.
I don't think they've cut steelhead at all. Looking at the stocking database, for the zone MM8 (Holland and south), these are the numbers of yearling steelhead by year. If anything they're slightly higher than they were a decade ago

2010
126,232​
2011
102,886​
2012
130,189​
2013
138,253​
2014
142,415​
2015
132,671​
2016
174,574​
2017
134,495​
2018
156,073​

I'm guessing a combo of worse survival and/or changing movement patterns in the lake is the real culprit. There's still a ton of spring steelhead going up the St. Joe, it's just really crammed into a short period in the spring. I think the run has gotten way less spread out, and a lot of the fall fish are staying offshore and not running until the spring. Which is a bummer because I'd much rather catch chromers in the fall
 

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I commend your skill/patience to pull that data!

Interesting that stocking is slightly higher.

The DNR has eluded to some survival/recruitment challenges. Maybe there is a pattern shift?

Looking at personal data from the past year. 50% of my steelhead are clipped/planted.

For what all thats worth anyway?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I suspect there are several things going on and it would be really nice to be able to find some of the data that may help explain potential variables. One of those potential variables is steelhead tag harvest data. During the chinook BKD years we learned that a high percentage of adult steelhead harvested in the northern Lake Michigan offshore fishery were southern Lake Michigan plants. If this is true today, this may explain some of the loss, particularly adults, similar to what occurred in the 80’s.

Also, for this fall we are really missing the skippers which have been a high percentage of our catch for the last several years, as catch rates for adults plummeted several years ago. The loss of skippers could be explained by the missed plants last spring. That will affect us down the road also, but at least the skippers should be back next fall.

My home surf relies almost entirely on plants. As such when plants are reduced or eliminated we have very few fish to target. I could drive farther to fish ports where there is some reproductive contribution, but I’ve chosen not to do so this year for various reasons. I knew going into the season that it would be by far the worst fall steelhead season in my lifetime, but I chose to stick it out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Actually, it’s been all about driving north. Regardless, nice fish. I usually fish your beach a few times a year and most times can catch a few. Had some pretty incredible days there a few years back. For various reasons, I decided this year I wasn’t going to drive north to surf fish. Instead I stayed in my home surf at South Haven. Fished South Haven again today for 6 hours in a beautiful surf and not a bite. Can’t catch fish that aren’t there. I’ve had enough, I’m done for the year now, unless I break down and go north. Virtually no fish south. The few guys steelhead fishing on the pier got zipped again also.
 
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