Bill Bale, a licensed captain and Engel's second-in-command, noticed a planer board moving backward on the surface and directed me to grab the rod.
MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. - It can be strange fishing on the big lake in April. It may be shorts-and-sandals weather on shore, but get out offshore with the wind blowing across all that 40-degree water and its like fishing in a refrigerator.
Except the fish are biting.
Or at least they have been so far this spring, said Dave Engel, skipper of Best Chance, Too, one of the top-performing charter boats in Lake Michigan tournaments year in and year out.
Engel, who's from Saugatuck but follows the fishing around the lake, invited me to accompany him and
his crew on a reconnaissance mission here the day before a weekend tournament. Engel, who already
had figured out how and where he planned to start the tournament, was looking for a Plan B.
We headed due north out the harbor and when we hit 160 feet of water, Engel throttled down the motor and began setting lines. I think we had four rigs in the water when a diving planer trailing a spoon started throbbing in the rod holder. Minutes later, we had our first Coho salmon on ice.
"Early fishing appears to be better than in previous years," said Engel, a 30-year veteran of the Lake Michigan charter boat scene.
"With the early spring, it seems that things have kicked in sooner.
"We're fishing right now like we would in the middle of May and that's because that's where the bait is."
There was good fishing right on the beach in early April, Engel said, as usual, but by mid-month he was running out to deep water. And he's been rewarded with good to excellent fishing most days.
"It hasn't been crazy or stupid, like can happen down here, but we've only missed a limit three days in April. We've had to work for our fish, but we've been catching 20 to 30 a day - whatever we havel icenses for."