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Lake Michigan fishing charters hang on despite challenges

May 24, 2015

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. (AP) — Indiana charter operators on Lake Michigan are hanging on, despite the declining numbers of fish and high fuel costs.

Carl “Fuzzy” Stopczynski, who operates Fuzzy Bear Charters out of Michigan City, has been chartering boats for 25 years and has fished Lake Michigan for 30 years.

“It’s very expensive to run a boat and not many can make a living at it. Fuel is expensive, and half the cost is fuel. Then there’s the associated upkeep, the insurance and dock fees, so it’s tough to make a living at it anymore,” Stopczynski told The (Munster) Times (http://bit.ly/1ErDY9I ) for a story published Sunday.

John Warren of Cedar Lake has been running fishing charters for only a year, but has seen a decline in fish stocks during his 15 years of fishing the lake.

“It’s not what it was in the heydays,” Warren said. “All the invasive species are decimating the fisheries slowly but surely.”

Warren, who operates King Seeker Charters, said he used to be able to catch his limit within a few hours. Now, a full day of fishing doesn’t guarantee a maximum, partially because the state reduced its salmon stocking a couple of years ago believing the fish would not find enough to eat.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes out there,” Warren said. “It’s not just with the salmon, but the smelt fishing is nonexistent. On a positive note, smallmouth bass fishing is excellent. We still have a fishery out there for other fish, but it’s not as good as it was.”

The fishing season starts as soon as the ice moves in late winter or early spring, and Warren said the fishing has been pretty good, especially for smallmouth bass. However, most people are interested in catching chinook salmon, he said.

“There are still good times,” he said “We’re hoping for a rebound, but it depends on how the government agencies handle everything.”

Brian Breidert, an Indiana Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist in Michigan City, agreed that “lake productivity has declined significantly over time.”

“But we still have viable fishing options and opportunities for trout, salmon, bass, drum, panfish and perch,” Breidert said.

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Information from: The Times, http://www.thetimesonline.com

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