That's 30 pounds -- at least -- of king salmon that Mary Beth Breininger, left, is hefting. The hand-held scale she and her husband, Wayne, had with them measured 30 pounds in a hurry. The smile on Mike Janiszewski's face is almost as wide as his 24-pound king salmon is long. He took it at Ludington, Mich.
Two tales of recent king salmon fishing from the Pere Marquette watershed in the western lower Michigan coast are too good to keep.
One you might title "Bait and Switch Salmon," and the other "Fishing for Salmon like Hunting Bear with a Switch." Here goes:
Part One -- Four Toledo salmon-fishing enthusiasts, led by the "Kielbasa Boys," Mike Janiszewski and Dave Zawacki, trailer their boat to Ludington, Mich., for the fall run of king salmon up the fabled Pere Marquette River system. Zawacki's brother, Jim, and Greg Schumaker round out the foursome.
The days immediately prior, over Labor Day weekend, a typical Lake Michigan "blow" had pushed "very, very cold water" shoreward, Janiszewski said. "It drove the fish into Pere Marquette Lake [at Ludington Harbor] and the lower river. So the fishing was close to shore."
In fact, of the 45 kings of 16 to 25 pounds they landed in a four-day trip -- not counting 20 to 25 fish hooked and lost -- most came 100 to 150 yards inside the Ludington pierheads to 150 yards outside the pierheads. "The deepest water we fished was 40 feet," said Mike, calling the compact fishing zone and the many boats a recipe for "combat fishing."
Nonetheless, they caught superb numbers and sizes of fish, which also included a couple of 8-pound coho salmon. "It was an awesome, awesome trip," Janiszewski said.
They set their downriggers at just 20 feet, Dipsy Divers 45 to 50 feet back, and Jet Divers at 25 to 30. "Ninety-nine percent of our fish came on J-Plugs," the salmon man said. Best color was a pink-and-white pattern they call a Pinkie, followed in distant second place by a green ladderback pattern.
"The best bite was sunrise and sunset, typical of this time of year salmon fishing," the angler said. "Last year the fish were long and slender. This year there were alewives [prime salmon baitfish] all over the place and the salmon were like they were 15 years ago, big and fat and full of fight." Twice the crew battled "quads," four kings on at once. Talk about a three-ring circus.
But, speaking of circus, it was an unnamed woman angler in the Peanut Gallery, the fishing pier, who stole the show. One of the Toledo crew's fish made a mad dash for the pier, from which land-locked anglers were casting Little Cleo spoons. The "rather petite" woman in the tale, as Janiszewski described her, cast out a spoon and it snagged and then ran down the line to which the mad-dashing salmon was attached. Presently the spoon reached the terminal end and also hooked the salmon, which Schumaker has been fighting.
The woman worked the fish in, her boyfriend netted it, they tossed Greg's line and J-Plug back in the water, and then courteously offered up the fish to the boat crew. "We yelled at her to keep the fish," Janiszewski said. "There was no way we would get that close to the pier.
"I talked to her later, when we got back, and she said she had been doing this [pier casting] for four years and this was her first fish. She was delighted." But give an assist to the kielbasa crew.
For the record: Mike owns the Fix-it Shop on Sylvania Avenue and Dave owns Zavotski Meats nearby. They once teamed up to win a Polish sausage-making [and eating] contest; hence their sausagey nickname.
Part Two -- Mary Beth Breininger and her husband, Wayne, of Sylvania, are fly fishing fans and they tackle salmon and steelhead with light six-weight and five-weight rods, respectively. Liken it to bear hunting with a switch.
They towed their travel trailer four and a half hours north to near Baldwin, about 25 miles "upstream" from Ludington as the crow flies. Their aim was to take advantage of the autumn king run on the P.M., as the Pere Marquette is known. Boy did they ever.
Those fish that ran the gauntlet down at Ludington harbor still were in a fighting mood when they reached the Breiningers. "We had two weekends of unreal fishing.
"We went up on a whim Labor Day weekend and in three days of fishing we hooked 130-plus salmon. We land four -- that's how powerful they are," said Mary Beth. The returned to the same beats of the P.M. last weekend and hooked 100-plus fish. Just angling crazy, eh?
The couple use six and eight-pound-test tippets and were casting single-egg yarn flies. "I was getting mine on hot pink," Mary Beth said. "One of them ran so far it snapped off my [reel] backing." The lady landed one fish that went more than 30 pounds -- it pegged their hand-held scales.
The couple released all their fish, both weekends. "We had canoers and kayakers stopping to watch us fish. One of them said, 'that woman is a fish whisperer'." Amen to that.
The annual family perch-fishing derby by Spot 'n Spam's Bait Shop, 5802 Edgewater Dr. in Point Place, is set for tomorrow 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. For details call Scott Stanford, 419-297-0243. Biggest perch wins.
In related news, the waters about two miles north of West Sister Island have been producing good catches of yellow perch, weather and winds permitting, according to John Jokinen at Jann's Netcraft. He said charter skipper James Cortez, has been doing well there and north of Cone Reef, near Davis-Besse, in 28 feet of water.
Fishapalooza, a fund-raising family fishing derby, is set for Sept. 24 from 9 a.m. to noon in the south pond at Bass Pro Shops in Rossford.
Advance registration runs through Sunday with forms available at Bass Pro. The fee is $8 advance for adults ($10 on the 24th) and $1 for kids ages 11 and under. Most fish caught and the largest fish will be eligible for prizes, including a top prize of a Jon Boat for fishing or $300 cash, with a top-shelf rod-reel outfit for second place or $150, and a Bass Pro premium tackle package for third or $50.
The event's KidZonewill feature both fishing and an opportunity to join in a casting game, a tailgate toss, and face-painting. A feature program includes trick kite-flying. The store's first-ever customer, WSPD radio's Brian Wilson, an avid fisherman, is honorary chairman. Steve Pollick and Jeff Basting of The Blade will be on hand to sign their new book, Best of the Outdoors Page, and representatives of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources also will be on hand.
Members of the Perrysburg Area Historic Museum and Maumee Valley Historic Corridor will be on scene to describe local history and lore as well. Details are available online basspro.com/toledo/events, or call 419-973-0404.
Contact Steve Pollick at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068