Hot Spots: Creek Fishing in Portage, Indiana
Any anglers who happen to find themselves in Northwest Indiana and have some time to spare will do well to make a trip to a few of the small streams and creeks that meander throughout Valparaiso, Portage, and Michigan City. With such close proximity to I-94 and dozens of access points throughout the area, Salt and Trail Creeks, and the Little Calumet River offer some of the most exciting and rewarding trout and salmon fishing you can find.
Action on the river is most rewarding starting in mid-October and lasts almost until February, as trout and salmon are typically cold water species. There are a few different techniques that local anglers commonly practice when fishing the rivers. With all styles, though, you'll want to make sure you have strong line and a longer, light action rod, in order to reduce strain on the line while still keeping the fish securely hooked. Inline spinners and casting spoons are common lures on the river, but many will also fish with slip floats, using precooked shrimp, spawn sacs, and skein (undeveloped fish eggs) to attract hungry fish.
When casting artificial lures, throw down stream and very slowly retrieve them against the current, as the natural flow of the river will provide action to the lure without the angler having to retrieve very fast at all. Using the slip float is a little trickier, as those without knowledge of the deeper holes throughout the river will have to implement trial and error to find the right depth for the bait. It doesn't take too much time, however, and with a few split shots, a small mosquito-style hook, and abrasion-resistant line, all it takes a simple toss into the current. Allow your bait to float downstream a little ways without a bite before retrieval and then toss it back out. If after a little while you don't get any action, move a little further down stream and try again. Set your depth and find bottom, then work your way shallower until you find a depth that works for you.
Anglers who have never tried this sort of fishing before may not have the necessary tackle to get the job done. Not to worry, as there are several locations nearby where you can stock up for a bountiful day on the river. Most of the required tackle can be purchased at the nearby Bass Pro Shops, which sits conveniently right off I-94, in Portage, IN. There, you can find rods, lures, line, and even waders for those who find themselves in deeper parts of the river or just want to get more connected with the river. As far as shrimp and bait is concerned, driving a few minutes west on I-94 will bring you to the Ripley Street exit in Lake Station, IN, where you'll want to head south roughly a half mile until you reach Slez's Bait and Tackle. Owned and operated by Rich Sleziak, a local Lake Michigan charter captain and experienced fisherman, the shop is open from 5 am to 8 pm daily, and offers everything you'll need for a day on the river, including good access points and hole locations in the area.
Some will find, however, that spending a bit of money for a day of fishing they've never tried before to be impractical, and may want to contact a local guide to take them out for a few hours and show them the basics and still catch fish. There are several available in the area, but a knowledgeable young man named Matt Kobylinski, with Prime Time Outfitters, is the guy to contact. Available for both half and full days of fishing, Kobylinksi supplies the tackle and bait, as well as tips and advice, for an exciting trip out to the creek.
Along with bait and tackle retailers, local hot spots, and guides, there are several accommodating hotels in the area for anyone who wants to spend a few days learning the ins and outs of trout and salmon fishing on the streams. Most are located at the I-94 exit where you'll find Bass Pro Shops, as well as restaurants, for everything else you'll need for the weekend. If you ever find yourself in northwest Indiana and have some time, or even if you want to plan a weekend trip and try a different type of fishing during a time of year when most put their tackle in storage, the creeks and streams of Chicagoland offer their bounty to any angler willing to learn. All it takes is a little different tackle than most are used to, a true love of the outdoors, and a little local knowledge for you to experience the incredible jewels this region has to offer.
For more information on Triplecatch Charters and Slez's Bait and Tackle, both owned and operated by Rich Sleziak, visit slezsbaitshop.com or contact 219-963-9204. To contact Matt Kobylinksi, with Prime Time Outfitters, call 219-241-5536.