It’s a long way from eastern Lake Erie where I spotted the first Bay Rat I ever saw to northwest Indiana where all we have are muskrats. Actually, northwest Indiana has more than muskrats. For a couple of months each spring, it also has all the coho salmon in Lake Michigan swarming along it’s beaches and breakwaters.

It seemed as though the part of Lake Erie where I was fishing just offshore of Dunkirk, New York was where the majority of Lake Erie’s walleye were swarming when I spotted the Bay Rat. It wasn’t a furtive rodent lurking along the waterfront. The rats were the lures of choice that day for the walleyes we pulled up from Erie’s depths, one after another – Bay Rat lures. More precisely the ones Bay Rat Lures model called Long Shallow – a 4 3/8 inch stickbait.

“Cohos eat stickbaits,” I thought, and in my ever persistent quest to find and own that perfect lure, I clicked up the Bay Rat website at and found they have a dazzling array of both “Long Shallows” and a scaled-down partner called “Short Shallow” which swims through the lake at  3.5 inches “short.”

Decades of experience has taught me when fishing in the earliest spring for NW Indiana’s cohos, it’s impossible to troll a lure too shallow. The fish are at the surface trying to warm up in a near-freezing lake. The fish are usually more inclined to snap at a small lure than a large one and they’ll bite nearly any color or pattern. They’ll bite anything, but a fisherman is seldom wrong pulling hot orange or hot red patterns.

The Short Shallow filled my needs perfectly on each aspect. They stayed in the top layer of the water by just tying direct and trolling the lures 30 to 50 feet behind a side planer. Bay Rat has a color pattern called “Coho Crusher.” What could be better?  It’s a translucent plastic body with an insert of “orange crush” mylar inside – the same orange crush material nearly every spoon maker uses to make the venerable “Double Orange Crush.”

The Coho Crusher caught fish, but it didn’t “crush” them. Actually, the Lady Bug pattern was the crusher on my boat. Hot red with black spots has been a solid pattern since the first salmon were stocked in the Great Lakes.

At this writing the politicians were still arguing about the tariffs on imports from China. Regardless of the outcome of these negotiations, it’s likely to cause higher prices for fishing lures imported from China where many “American” brands are now made.  Bay Rats are made in America with all American components.  Available at retailers, online tackle sellers or direct from the Bay Rat website.




Nearly every company who makes trolling spoons has their own version of “Dolphin” spoons – a silver blade with a chartreuse edge along one border of the blade and either green or blue along the other edge. A scalloped tape in either green/glow or yellow/glow stripes diagonally across the blade to complete the pattern.

The dolphin pattern has been a time-proven and fish-proven pattern for over a quarter of a century and Northern King spoons has their own version. Two things set the NK version apart from the others. First, the NK starts with a brass blank, making it heavier than similar steel blades and delivers a unique wobble as it’s trolled. The blank is silver plated, not just coated with chrome or polished nickel. The silver produces more flash as it trolls through the depths.

Additionally, each dolphin spoon (whether it’s blue dolphin or green dolphin) comes with a choice of either a yellow/glow or green/glow tape highlight tape. The tape is not “pre-applied.” Select which of the two colors packed with each spoon you prefer, peel the backing off the tape strip, stick the tape on the spoon and send it down to let the fish tell you if you chose wisely.

Three sizes are available: 3 5/16″ – 3 3/4″ and 4 1/2″. Northern King (made in Canada) is being stocked at some retailers here in the states or can be ordered online from or direct from the parent company (Len Thompson) at





Ninety-five percent of the time if you are picking out a pair of sunglasses to wear when going fishing, you’ll pick a pair with polarized lenses. I still remember the “magic” of putting on a pair years ago and suddenly the weeds, sticks and even fish hiding under the surface in the calm bay where I was casting my bait came into clear view. Since then, when I fished and when I was wearing sunglasses, they were polarized.

However,with most of my fishing now taking place on the Great Lakes, the ability for polarized lenses to cut the surface glare is probably the least important facet of the glasses I slap on my face on sunny days. My sunglasses have two “most important” facets.

Facet one is eye comfort. If it’s a bright day with lot’s of sun glare coming off the water when I’m fishing, I put on a pair of sunglasses to cut the amount of light entering into my eyes. The second “most important” reason for wearing sunglasses is safety – both near term and long term.

Wearing glasses with protective lenses when fishing to guard against foreign objects potentially striking the wearer isn’t as important as, say, when sharpening mower blades or running a chainsaw. Still, over the years, I can remember being face-struck by Dipsey Divers as well as hooks, lures and sinkers while fishing. In some cases I was lucky the flying tackle missed my eyes, in others it bounced off the sunglasses I was wearing. That’s near term safety.

Both near term and long term safety comes from the harmful affects of ultra violet radiation on human eyes. Photokeratitis, is the medical term for “sunburned eyes.” A person’s eyes can be burned by just a few hours of high intensity exposure to UV-B rays. It’s frightfully painful – like having sand in your eyes, but the pain will pass. The long term damage won’t pass.

Long term exposure to UV-B and UV-A rays can cause macular degeneration, cataracts and other eye problems. Rays directly from the sun are intense and rays reflected off the water can nearly double the exposure. Luckily, most quality sunglasses will block most UV rays – but they need to be worn to work. That leads me back to my first important facet for wearing sunglasses.

When the sun gets bright as the day transitions from dawn to mid-morning, I put on my sunglasses. On a slightly overcast day, it may be a little later – on a cloudy day, I might not put them on at all. A cloudy day is already dreary, no sensee darkening it any more. Right?

Actually, UV sunrays start assaulting unprotected eyes the minute the sun pops up over the horizon and the bombardment lasts to sundown. The intensity varies but it’s UV is there at some level.

Clouds can help or hurt. Google it if you wish – I did for this review. Clouds can diminish UV radiation up to 90 percent, but in some conditions clouds and haze can boost UV-B as much as 40%.

That’s why, when I learned about Julbo REACTIV lens sunglasses, I obtained a pair. The ones I have are the Renegade model, light, stylish, cool looking with a sort of reddish orange mirror finish. Julbo makes dozens of styles, some specialized to specific outdoor sports, even goggles for skiing or other uses. They also make women’s, men’s and youth and baby sizes and styles. Go to to check them all out.

The REACTIV lenses “react” to transition from light to dark as the level of UV radiation striking the lenses increases. Indoors or in a car with zero UV light, they will only be slightly tinted and block only 17% of the light coming through the lense. Outside, with a full dose of UV hitting the lens, 75% of the light will be blocked.

The cool thing for me is they will stabilize between the extremes. So I can put them on just after sunrise and they will only slightly darken what I see. As the sun climbs, so does the UV and the lenses gradually darken up to the max. In most cases it’s unnoticeable. Walk outside with them on and it only takes about 20 seconds to go from minimum to maximum.

So the Julbos are cool looking, comfortable wearing, block 100 percent of the UV rays and the lenses material actually meets OSHA standards for protective eyewear required for industrial workers. Unlike some types of photochromic lenses, the Reactiv lenses are not temperature sensitive. They aren’t cheap (but there are many designer brands which cost more and do less) and they have a lifetime warranty. All their models and styles are available at their website (free shipping and returns) at some retailers and some models can be found at





My favorite manual filet knife is a Dexter brand. It holds an edge, sharpens easily when the edge gets a little dull, has a comfortable grip, but this review isn’t about knives. When I was at ICAST, due to my preference for Dexter Knives, I stopped by their booth to take a look at their extensive product line and learn if they had any new or interesting items to report about to Great Lakes Angler readers.

What caught my eye wasn’t a knife, however. It’s a set of pin bone pullers.

Every salmon, steelhead and lake trout filet which comes from the Great Lakes (or in the seafood department at your store) has a row of pin bones left in the flesh after the meat is cut free of the spine and rib bones. Though it’s possible to filet the filet and remove the pin bones with a knife, doing so wastes some of the best meat on the filet and leaves the filet looking butchered.

Luckily, the pin bones can be removed easily by just pulling – if the cook has something which will get a firm grip on them. I have a small pair of scissor pliers – a tool which operates like a pair of scissors, but has serrated jaws as in a hemostat. I’m sure it’s some sort of medical tool since it came in a box of assorted surgeon’s instruments I found at a yard sale.

I’ve tried other tools, few of which did a very good job. I once had a pair of needle-nose pliers which were okay. I’ve tried hemostats that failed miserably. Why not a tool designed specifically for the job?

So I got a pair (actually two pairs – they come in a two pack) and with more than a healthy dose of skepticism – put them to the task. Surprisingly, they work very well! They grip the bone and hold on as well as my scissor pliers. Better yet, they release the bone easily by just rinsing under a stream of water.

When it comes to the 15 or more pin bones found in every salmon or trout filet you cook the Dexter Tweezers will do the job for you. They are widely available at retail outlets as well as many online sites.





Reviewed by: Capt. Mike Schoonveld

Normally, I’m the sort of person who likes a multi-tasker device better than one with a single purpose. I’ve hammered things with crescent wrenches. I’ve brewed coffee in a skillet. But every once in a while, something comes along which isn’t much good for anything more than what it was designed to do.

I can live with that especially if it does that one thing perfectly and better than anything else. This is the category I put the RTD – anchonym for rod threading device.

During the winter, I respool all my reels loaded with monofilament line and many of the other reels filled with braid, leadcore or copper if they need attention. I may be removing reels to either do maintenance on them or the rod on which they were mounted. During the season, I may do the same, just not all of them the same day. Add to this the number of times a broken line occurs and it’s easier to just wind the line onto the reel and grab one loaded and ready to go rather than try to get it back in the game.

I’d guess I go through the process of pulling (pushing) a line from the reel, through the rod guides and out the tip end about a thousand times per year. Okay, maybe it’s closer to a hundred, but I know there will be a dozen times or more each year when the line slips, the wind blows, the reel grabs and the line being threaded on the rod drops off and quickly de-threads. Start again and do it over and maybe over once more.

Previous to owning an RTD this was all hand work. Pinch the line, push it through a guide, pinch and pull to the next guide until it’s done. Since getting the RTD from Erupt Fishing Products, all I need to do is pinch a few inches of line and thread it through an eye on the tool which will grip the line. Then run the RTD across the top of the rod’s line guides and bingo, the line is in place. Remove the line, tie on a lure and go fishing.

It’s only the size of a large lure so it will fit in a tackle box or tool compartment on your boat. When you need to thread the line on a rod, it’s the perfect tool. Though it’s not good for anything else, I don’t mind. It’s earned a place next to the screwdriver in my tool chest which often doubles as an awl/hook remover/chisel/line spool arbor/nut cracker/can opener/pry bar and fish holder. Available at retailers or online at Amazon or