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A morning on Lake Michigan: Life thoughts, Chinook, coho, lakers

Over a quarter century of fishing together, Bill Kommenich and Frank Lagodny have honed their banter and exchange of ideas on fishing Lake Michigan to an art.
Credit: Dale Bowman

HAMMOND, Ind.–Some of the dilemma of managing Chinook in Lake Michigan has more to do with the social aspect of fishing than the biology of the salmon and their primary prey, alewives.

It’s one of the reasons I wanted to fish with Frank Lagodny, a just retired CPS shop teacher, and Bill Kommenich, a feisty 80-year-old retired UAW rep and machine repairman for GM.

The pair has fished together a quarter century, honing bantering and arguing to an art.

We launched early Tuesday from Hammond Marina and headed toward “The Wreck.”

After we set lines, I asked about the reduced stocking of Chinook in Lake Michigan next year (and Indiana’s decision to stock steelhead instead of Chinook) and Lagodny said, “I think it would be nice to be back to the coho numbers [of years past] with Chinook as a bonus.”

In practice, recent years on southern Lake Michigan have been near that.

That turned to a discussion on ocean fishing.

“I like numbers in ocean fishing,” Lagodny said.

“I would rather fish for a marlin or a big sailfish,” Kommenich said.

Put me in the numbers camp. Give me 10 good bluegills over one muskie.

We had time to talk because we had no bites for the first two hours.

A pair of coho and a small lake trout.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman
A pair of coho and a small lake trout.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Then we had a solid bite on a meat rig, but the fish came unhinged for me. That started a small flurry of fish.

We landed a fat coho on a meat rig. Lagodny sets his meat rigs (herring) at 100-110 feet of line with a Dipsy Diver on No. 2 setting, which puts the bait down about 35 feet.

There was a quick strike and release on a meat rig

Then came the only strike on something other than a meat rig. It was a nice coho on Kommenich’s special setup: a gold Dodger he made and a blue-green fly he tied.

“He finally decided to go over fish that would bite,” Kommenich cracked.

That flurry came in 55-58 feet due east of the haze-blurred Chicago skyline.

Fresh lake trout nuggets are the ultimate bonus to a morning of fishing Lake Michigan.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman
Fresh lake trout nuggets are the ultimate bonus to a morning of fishing Lake Michigan.
Credit: Dale Bowman

“Most important thing is not how many fish we catch, it is that I catch more fish than he does,” Lagodny said.

A small laker came on a meat rig.

“Looking at the graph, this is where we should be fishing,” Lagodny said.

The marine radio crackled with a captain reporting a 15-pound drum.

It was time.

But we made another pass deeper toward 70 feet, but the fish had other ideas.

All the same, as the hottest weather in a couple years builds this week, any excuse to be on Lake Michigan works. Chilling on the water allows you to find out tidbits such as Kommenich did rodeo as a young man. Seriously?

BEAR: A black bear, thought to have crossed the Ohio River, has been confirmed in southern Indiana by the DNR.

STRAY CAST: Surviving political convention week is like ice fishing honeycombed ice.