Coho in southern Lake Michigan: Catches & history

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Dr. Slaughter? Fairy Dodgers? Some mornings, I just go with the flow.

Bill Kommenich first fished coho on Lake Michigan from Michigan in 1967. He thinks out of South Haven.

“It was in an 18-footer,’’ the 79-year-old from the south suburbs said. “I was raised in Panama. All the fish I caught around here were tiny [until salmon arrived]. The first year I caught fish and had a good time. I kept fishing and trying to find out what is working.’’

For a guy like Kommenich, a retired UAW rep and machine repairman for GM, the tinkering of salmon fishing is perfect.


“I build it just to see what I can do,’’ said Kommenich, as he paged through a ring of plastic bags with colorful Dodgers.

Years ago, he looked at Yellow Bird planer boards and thought, “I can do that.’’

He makes his own boards and Dodgers, ties his own flies.

He became so involved that he was part of the cabal that formed a South Side club (now defunct), a splinter from Salmon Unlimited.

On Monday, I went out of Hammond Marina with him and Frank Lagodny, a shop teacher at Prosser I met goose hunting and on a Prosser project with wood-duck boxes.

As I snapped a photo before we took off in Lagodny’s 22-foot Alumacraft Trophy 220 Cuddy, I said, “A pair for posterity.’’

“You mean a pair of posteriors,’’ Lagodny cracked.

So began a morning of banter, stories (say Kommenich having his heart work done by famed Dr. Slaughter) and changing lures to find active coho. Until last year, they fished with Lagodny’s dad, Russell, 90.

Lagodny started us northeast of “The Wreck’’ in Indiana waters. Coho made a surprising return to far southern Lake Michigan from points north a few weeks ago, probably related to cooler than usual water temperatures.

They set up one rod with a spoon, one with a venerable (No. 2) J-Plug and the rest with Dodgers and flies.


“I just follow what is working, I don’t try to make something work,’’ Lagodny said. “This is supposed to be fun.’’

The first three coho came on the same rod on what Kommenich called a fairy Dodger (red on one side, red with yellow dots on the other) with a blue-green crinkle fly.

Even so, Kommenich kept changing lures and depths non-stop, explaining, “You have to experiment.’’

We ended up catching coho on other presentations, too. It was hunt and peck, not like the two times they were out last week with quick limits.

“Noon?’’ Lagodny suggested as the ending point.

It was time.

We went 5-for-8 on coho.

“Guess that is why we keep coming back,’’ Lagodny said. “I thought we had this knocked.’’

Building southwest winds drove whitecaps on the 10.4-mile ride in. Hottest air of the summer blew off the land.

But there were fish to clean.

STRAY CAST: Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan are like bighead carp and common carp; only common carp have been around long enough to be ours.

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