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Capt. Ralph Steiger’s expertise helping anglers to strategize

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Updated: April 9, 2013 11:56AM



I remember when Capt. Ralph Steiger was 21, the youngest captain on southern Lake Michigan.

Being the youngest in a business where being an old salt has some real value in experience helped Steiger learn to look at the lake differently.

I caught up with Steiger, now 28, during the lull before the ice blows off Lake Michigan. He had another top young fisherman, Bobby Bergren of Region Bass Buzz (Saturday mornings, WJOB-AM), waiting to crawl around the attic of his newly-purchased home in Hammond.

“Based on what I am seeing when I got out a couple weeks ago, brown trout were outstanding,’’ Steiger said.

Early fishing for coho and brown trout is casting in the discharges, then, as spring warms, the fish scatter. But Steiger learned something.

“Once those fish moved out of the discharges, you didn’t have to go back to trolling,’’ he said. “It was almost like smallmouth, cast the rock walls, points or any place with current. I started to key on that.

“It is the same in Chicago, at the mouth of Burnham Harbor and the holes in Chicago breakwalls.

“Everybody went to trolling and I got a couple extra weeks of casting. ... You have three or four or five weeks to cast, then four or five months of trolling. Take advantage of the casting.’’

That’s good advice.

The other thing he found was that lake trout were on the Chicago breakwalls and could be caught in the spring, either by jigging or casting. And the browns were loaded on any sharper point early in the year.

He said it’s fun and productive enough that fishermen should take the time to learn those early spring options.

“That style of fishing, you have to go do it,’’ he said. “You can’t wait for somebody to get to you.’’

Steiger has carved a niche out for himself on Lake Michigan enough that his No. 1 customer request is fishing for smallmouth bass, followed by finding “alternative ways beside trolling for salmon and trout.’’

“I am still learning every year,’’ he said.

Part of that learning is captainsreports.net, an innovative pay, information-sharing site, which he and a partner started last year. In recent months, Capt. Dan Keating (North Point Marina in Illinois), Capt. Jason Woda (Milwaukee) and Capt. Rick Bentley (Waukegan, Ill.) were added.

Every year is more experience.

For Steiger, go to captainsteiger.com.

Fishing: Saturday, with sun, melting snow and temperatures pushing or topping 50 degrees, should give many the itch to fish. ... “It is just right around the corner,’’ said Capt. Rich Sleziak Slez’s Bait in Lake Station. “We just have to get it broke and going.’’ He said there’s been a few coho, browns and steelhead from the Portage Marina to the mouth of the Ditch; and on-and-off perch at 92nd and 95th in the river on Chicago Southeast Side. ... Ben Dickinson, new assistant fisheries biologist for Lake Michigan, emailed, “I suspect that steelhead fishing in the tribs will pick up if we get the warm temps and rain that they are forecasting for this weekend. There’s been varying levels of ice cover in the Michigan City harbor, but folks are catching a few browns, steelhead, and cohos — mostly on spawn and shrimp. Action has been sporadic at times.’’

Clubbing: Capt. Carl Stopczynski of Fuzzy Bear Charters speaks on salmon and trout trolling at the Wednesday meeting (begins at 6:30 p.m.) of the Hoosier Coho Club (hoosiercohoclub.org) at the Skwiat American Legion in Michigan City.



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