Lake Michigan Top Ports

Lake Michigan is the third largest of the Great Lakes and the sixth largest lake in the world. Bordered by Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin it is the only one of the Great Lakes that lies completely within the borders of the  United States. There are dozens of tributary creeks, streams and rivers that provide excellent fishing. The Salmon, Trout, Walleye and Smallmouth Bass are world class.

 The ports I’m writing about are only the ones I have fished  and know to be excellent  fisheries. Certainly there are many other good places on this massive lake. 

 

Illinois

Waukegan Harbor (Salmon Capital)
Waukegan, Illinois is the hot spot of Lake Michigan’s western shore. For those of you that live in Chicago and nearby suburban cities, there just isn’t a better place to fish in the mid-west. Waukegan has been named the “Salmon capital.”

May, June and July is the very best time to catch Coho Salmon, Brown Trout, and  Chinook Salmon ( KING SALMON )

September you have more of a mixed catch, Kings, Coho, Lake Trout, and Brown Trout. October and November are the best months to fish the shallows for spawning lake Trout.

Coho Salmon, King Salmon, Stealhead Trout, Brown Trout  and Lake Trout, can be caught in great numbers March through November. Most great lakes trolling fisherman will work their way up the lake from the Indiana Ports in early Spring, up the West shore of Chicago to  Winthrop Harbor and Waukegan in the late Spring and Summer. Water temperature is the determining factor as to what port to fish as the season progresses. In June, July and August when the surface water temperature is high, it’s time for using downriggers to get down to colder water.  That’s when many King’s are caught in the 20-30 pound range. It’s not uncommon to see fisherman trolling 150-250 feet deep in 300 or deeper feet of water.

WINTHROP HARBOR (North Point Marina)

Winthrop harbor is home to North Point Marina, the largest marina on the Great Lakes. With over 1,500 boat slips, plus public beaches recreation facilities and second-to-none charter fishing. North Point Marina is destination to over one million visitors every summer.

After the water starts to warm up in May and June, this is where many salmon trollers go deep with downriggers, Dipsi divers and leadcore fishing line. This is the time and place where many twenty-pound plus kings are taken on a regular basis. Some trophy sized  thirty pound plus kings are also taken every year as well.

Indiana

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife has been stocking salmon and trout along northwest Indiana’s shoreline since the late 1960′s. The area stocked extends from Michigan City to Whiting, Indiana and includes sites along the St. Joseph River, Trail Creek and the East Branch of the Little Calumet River. Brown trout stocking in Indiana waters of Lake Michigan began in 2002 through a cooperative  trade agreement with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IL DNR). Indiana trades Indiana-born skamania steelhead for the Illinois brown trout. Due to hatchery constraints, Indiana last stocked brown trout into Indiana waters of Lake Michigan in the early 1980s. The continuation of the brown trout stocking program is reliant upon future availability of fish from the IL DNR. Overall, trout and salmon have adapted well to the Great Lakes and are now an important part of the overall fish community.

Indiana Online Licensing….. http://www.in.gov/ai/appfiles/dnr-license/index.html

Lake Michigan Indiana Ports & Launches

(SPRING HOT SPOTS)

Calumet Park 95th st. Boat Launch
This launch is actually in Chicago, Il.  I stopped using this boat launch years ago, however  I understand  there is now a pay-to-launch machine at the ramp. Fee is in the $20 range. Nearby is a good sized parking lot for your trailer. Personally, I do not recommend using this launch because of some recent thefts in the parking lot, as there is little or no security. In my opinion,  it would be wiser to use the Hammond launch instead. For those that still want to use it, read below:

South wind is nice here and the area will be calm.

West wind is great if you stay near the rocks.

North wind is good due to the break wall.

Stay away if you have an east wind.

Easy ride to State Line Edison plant with warm water. Hammond’s rocky break wall holds Smallmouth. To the north is the  break wall and the river mouth. Barges leave the river through a 30 foot deep shipping channel. This channel is good for trolling. Perch fishing is very good in the river all winter and into spring. Summer Perch fishing is also good from the launch to the river.

 

Hammond Marina

Hammond Marina is a well-kept, security watched marina. It is next to the Horseshoe Casino. Indiana residents launch for free. It has only 2 lanes for launching, so you’ll sometimes wait in line. It’s a good 5 minute ride in a no-wake zone to get out to the lake.

South: Very well protected for a south wind as long as it’s not a strong wind.

West: As you head towards Illinois, it becomes calmer.

North: Ride is a bit bumpy until you near the break wall. Then, you’ll have protection. Don’t get fooled by the calmness there…..as you’ll have a bumpy ride back.

East: You’d need to head towards and past Amoco before you find protection.

 

Easy access to Hammond’s break wall. It’s very rocky and is great for Smallmouth and Brown Trout. Not far from Edison Plant. The river for Perch fishing is a bit farther west. The break wall is a great place for Salmon trolling. Watch for the deep shipping channel. Amoco is another warm water discharge, but it is to the east. The Shipping Canal is further east and is very protected from weather, but beware of the ride back.

I used this launch many years ago…..From when I used it last, I remember there was a nice big parking area, but that is about all I can say about it.

Hammond Marina is a well-kept, security watched marina. It is next to the Horseshoe Casino. Indiana residents launch for free. It has only 2 lanes for launching, so you’ll sometimes wait in line. It’s a good 5 minute ride in a no-wake zone to get out to the lake. There is easy access to Hammond’s break wall which is rocky and has nice structure  for hungry salmon and trout.

This is one of the super hot spots for Coho, Steelhead and Brown trout  just after ice out! It’s one of the first ports to warm up early with  the warm water discharges at the Edison and Amoco power plants being nearby.    The break wall is a super place to troll with flat lines and planer boards. This port is the one I generally hit just after ice out, and I’ll generally limit out with 2-3 pound Coho, in a short period of time.

Hammond Marina is a well-kept, security watched marina. It is next to the Horseshoe Casino. Indiana residents launch for free. It has only 2 lanes for launching, so you’ll sometimes wait in line. It’s a good 5 minute ride in a no-wake zone to get out to the lake. There is easy access to Hammond’s breakwall which is rocky and has nice structure  for hungry salmon and trout.

This is one of the super hot spots for Coho, Steelhead and Brown trout  just after ice out! It’s one of the first ports to warm up early with  the warm water discharges at the Edison and Amoco power plants being nearby.    The break wall is a super place to troll with flat lines and planer boards. This port is the one I generally hit just after ice out, and I’ll generally limit out with 2-3 pound Coho, in a

 

Pastricks East Chicago Marina

 

Seems to be the best all-around location in the south end. The first 30 boats to launch each morning are free. Then, it’s $15 to launch. Located off Cline Avenue near Inland Steel.

West: West is best. You will be protected by the shoreline and have calm waters.

South: South will push from Buffington to the Inland Wall. Usually fishable.

North: The Inland Wall will protect it’s nearby waters.

East: Blowing straight in. Make other plans.

The Salmon fishing around here is tops. Many anglers set lines as soon as they leave the marina. The Inland Wall holds many fish. Watch for the “First Light”, “Second Light”, and then “the Hole in the Wall”. These are all prime areas. Around the corner to the west is the Shoals. It can get bumpy out there. West of the Shoals is the Shipping Canal which is great spring time fishing. To the east is Buffington Harbor. It’s well protected. Further east, you’ll go past Dean Mitchell, US Steel, and finally Gary Light. These are all great Salmon areas. The 50 foot deep water outside Gary Light holds lots of monster Perch in spring and fall.

Here again, this port warms up early just after ice out!   The Salmon fishing around here is tops. Many anglers set lines as soon as they leave the marina. The Inland Wall holds many fish. Watch for the “First Light”, “Second Light”, and then “the Hole in the Wall”. These are all prime areas. Around the corner to the west is the Shoals. It can get bumpy out there. West of the Shoals is the Shipping Canal which is great spring time fishing. To the east is Buffington Harbor. It’s well protected. Further east, you’ll go past Dean Mitchell, US Steel, and finally Gary Light. These are all great Salmon areas.  This port can be fished all season, with many trophy sized salmon and trout taken every year. This port gets to be kinda busy, but the launches and ramps are in good shape, and well worth the wait….Just outside the ramp is the famous Wall!  This is were flat lines and planer boards are super effective, and you can expect action on most fishable days. In early Spring, a two man limit is often achieved before noon. Expect a mixed bag of 2-3 pound Coho, 7-13 pound Steelhead and some nice sized Brown trout. This port and the Hammond port are  my best shots in the spring, as they are within a half hour drive from my home.  This is perhaps the best place to fish just after ice out on Lake Michigan  when the water warms up…..Limits of Coho and Steelhead are common.

Michigan City

Aerial view, Michigan City Indiana, Washington Park beach, Lake Michigan and East Pier Lighthouse

PICTURED ABOVE: WASHINGTON PARK MARINA LAKE FRONT FACILITIES/BOAT LAUNCH & BEACH

 Washington Park is located on the Northern end of Michigan City, directly on the shore of Lake Michigan. The public boat launch is located at the north side of the marina, close to the beach. Proximity allows fast access to Lake Michigan waters. The ramp here can  hold 3 vehicles, and boats are allowed up to 38′ in length. A parking fee, and a launch fee apply, usually from early Spring thru late Fall. Season passes are available. Please park in designated areas for vehicles with trailers. Restroom facilities.

PARK HOURS: 6am to 10pm.
MC Port Authority: 219-872-1712
Make sure your vessel is properly registered and in compliance with Lake Michigan boating regulations.

This is perhaps my favorite place to fish on Lake Michigan…..Just over a hundred miles from my house  is this super fishery for Skamania Trout. 

At Michigan City, Trail Creek empties into Lake Michigan right at Washington Park. When the steelies first begin appearing at the end of June or early July, trollers often fish for them right in front of the pier head at the mouth of the creek. If the fishing action is slow there, they spread out along the beach to the east and west and pick up cruising steelhead in the shallows.

The best trolling action can take place a little farther offshore of the pier head. Boaters working  off the mouth can expect good action,  right near the surface . Experimentation goes a long way when it comes to finding actively feeding Skamanians…..Most of my fish have been caught in about forty feet of water just in front of the beach. Wind direction is all important here, with most of my luck coming  when there are light North or Northeast winds.

Pier-fishing at Washington Park for shoreline anglers is always popular. Trail Creek flows past the pier on the west side, and many fishermen fish right there in the muddy current. Bobbers of all sizes are used to suspend the baits and keep them in the strike zone.

Although many pier-anglers cast the “old reliable” fluorescent orange spinners and spoons, live-bait fishing is also quite productive. Spawn sacs, night crawlers and small minnows also catch good numbers of steelhead each summer season.

During normal years, Skamania will show up at Michigan City and Portage in early July and stage in front of the creek mouths for a couple of weeks before heading upstream. If the rains wait until the beginning of August, the trolling action will remain hot. If the rains come too early, however, the Skamania may shoot up the stream and the trollers (and pier fishermen) may not even see a fish!

Read more: http://www.gameandfishmag.com/2010/10/04/fishing_salmon-steelhead-fishing_in_0705_02/#ixzz28ReDLWVW

At  Michigan City, Trail Creek empties into Lake Michigan right at Washington Park. When the steelies first begin appearing at the end of June or early July, trollers often fish for them right in front of the pier head at the mouth of the creek. If the fishing action is slow there, they spread out along the beach to the east and west and pick up cruising steelhead in the shallows.

The best trolling action can take place a little farther offshore of the pier head. Boaters working  off the mouth can expect good action,  right near the surface . Experimentation goes a long way when it comes to finding actively feeding Skamanians…..Most of my fish have been caught in about forty feet of water just in front of the beach. Wind direction is all important here, with most of my luck coming  when there are light North or Northeast winds.

During normal years, Skamania will show up at Michigan City and Portage in early July and stage in front of the creek mouths for a couple of weeks before heading upstream. If the rains wait until the beginning of August, the trolling action will remain hot. If the rains come too early, however, the Skamania may shoot up the stream and the trollers (and pier fishermen) may not even see a fish!

Don’t miss my article Skmania Madness:  http://www.greatlakestrollingflies.com/fishing-tips/skamanian-madness-2/

Portage (Burns Ditch)

The mouth of the Little Calumet River, or Burns Waterway in Portage, is another great place to fish for steelhead. Like Trail Creek, the Little Calumet also receives a large steelhead stocking every year, so returning fish seek the creek mouth each July.

The best way to fish the Portage area is by boat. There are a couple of marinas on Burns Waterway where you may launch your craft, and then it is just a short run north to the mouth of the creek. Once you hit the lake, you can troll east or west in the shallow water along the beach, or you can head straight out into the lake and troll the 40- to 60-foot depths. Some anglers prefer to head east toward the rocky breakwall that protects the Port of Indiana. Boats are prohibited from entering the port, but they can still troll along the outer walls.  Normally, the fish show up in Portage around the Fourth of July and stage for a couple of weeks before heading upstream. During very dry years, the fish might stick around for three or four weeks, and then anglers experience fantastic trolling action. It’s not always that easy, though. One of the most popular steelhead lures used by Portage fishermen is a large fluorescent red spoon. It’s not just big, it’s really big. Some trollers run it deep with downriggers, while others let it probe the near-surface waters on a flat line. This type of spoon catches lots of fish every year, too. Other productive lures here include smaller trolling spoons (silver and orange) and fluorescent orange crankbaits and plugs. The most productive lure being a J-9 Rapala fluorescent/orange in a floating model.

Here is what a well known fishing guide had to say about fishing for Lakers on the reef at Portage, Indiana in November:

” Yup!….. Catching Lakers on the reef gets expensive FAST.. You WILL lose a TON of gear if you are fishing right.”

“The key is to stay up on top of the reef and troll down close to 1.5 mph. Run a  smoke and fire dot dodger with a Spin N  Glo, in yellow and white to start.  Try to run everything right off the the top of the reef. You will be bumping bottom,  which is why you lose so much gear. Run dipsys out 20-30 feet, riggers down around 15 feet and  three colors of  core off planer boards close to the boat.

Pull up  lines often and check for nicks in the line  to help save you some $$$.
Run some lures out on boards out to the sides of the reef for bonus fish like Steelheads and Browns.
Watch your gear!  I heard of a guy that hit the reef with his four downriggers  and it ripped off  his trolling board,  taking with it a ton of rods and all four riggers.”

If you have the bucks, I would hire a guide  for at least one trip before you venture out on a trip  of your own. It’s well worth the money just in tackle savings alone…..Good Luck!

I can’t say enough about these Indiana Ports…..In the Spring and Summer, they can not be beat for fantastic Coho, Steelhead, King and Brown Trout fishing

Wisconsin

(Sister Bay Door County Peninsula)

Some day when the fisher of men calls your number, consider yourself  fortunate if you’re granted your last wish to fish just one more time.  And if and when the opportunity presents itself, you just might want to make that last cast in the waters off the Door County Peninsula in northeastern Wisconsin. As more than one Great Lakes Salmon fisherman has commented, the Door County fishery can make you feel as if you have gone to fishing heaven.

So what is so unique about Door County Peninsula anyway?  Three things, mainly: It’s a multidimensional warm water fishery on the Green Bay side, and a tremendous cold water fishery on the Lake Michigan side…..Both sides of the  door county is within a short drive. If the wind from the east is to heavy, drive to the west side and fish there. This in itself  has saved many fishing trips. The waters of both sides of the peninsula have an abundance of hugh Salmon and Trout, Walleye and Perch, Northern Pike and Musky and Smallmouth Bass. These and many other species are available in incredible numbers, with catch rates rivaling anywhere on the Great Lakes.  Without a doubt, the Door County Peninsula is Wisconsin’s, and perhaps the midwest’s  most dynamic fishery. Don’t miss my article about a trip I made to Sister Bay in  Door County: http://www.greatlakestrollingflies.com/articles/close-encounter-of-a-thirty-kind/

Kenosha Harbor

Kenosha is one of the most active  ports of southern Wisconsin.  Although i’ve only fished  this productive port a few times,  it did not disappoint!  A big reason that this port offers hot action April through November is the geography. The city of Kenosha is located only 70 miles north of the southern end of lake Michigan, and the first Spring movement of migrating salmon…..The bottom structure is ideally suited to shelter millions of baitfish that salmon and trout will feed on.  From shore the bottom gently tapers down to 50 feet, rises up to 45 feet, and back down to 60 feet in a series of three small rolling hills. About four miles offshore, in about 65 feet of water, the bottom slants off at a 45-degree angle to reach a depth of 150 feet. This incline is known as the “hill” and consistently provides good structure that draws salmon and trout. There is a nice beach on the Kenosha city shores, not far from the boat ramps. It’s a good spot to drop off  the family to catch a few rays, while you break out the poles for some great fishing. If you get near Kenosha, this is one fishing port you don’t want to pass up.

Michigan

Saint Joseph Harbor

The springtime salmon fishing in St. Joseph, Michigan is second to none. As the waters begin to warm in the spring, baitfish flock to these waters, bringing the predator fish with them. During this time fishing is phenomenal from all of southern Lake Michigan, especially the port of St Joseph. The warm outflow from the St Joseph River and the Cook Power Plant draw large schools of fish from all around Lake Michigan. Large catches of Coho and King salmon are common, as well as great numbers of Lake Trout, Steelhead, & Brown Trout are caught each year. This port is about 120 miles from my home in Illinois, so I don’t fish here all that much. The times I have fished it, I did quite well fishing with downriggers just outside the river mouth. The Summer months are when this port really becomes active, as the Chinooks are plenty and good sized. This is a nice fishing port to bring your family, as there are many places to stay, some good restaurants in town and a good sand beach as well. There is plenty of parking next to the ramps, and a couple of fantastic bait shops close by. It’s just a wonderful place to fish and have a great time with the family.

                                                                               

LUDINGTON HARBORS

Steelhead Trout are rated by Great Lakes trollers as the hardest fighting fish of all the Great lakes, although few trollers are aware of the unmatched action available during the Fall at Ludington Michigan. Some call this area of the eastern coast of Lake Michigan the hottest trolling area of  Lake Michigan.  Limit catches of  Steelhead, Chinook Salmon and Lake Trout are regularly caught and are ready to take your bait and get your heart pounding with excitement.  Steelhead fishing is is fantastic during the months of July and August, and really becomes super hot in September, October and November of every year when the Steelhead spawn.

There are many reasons which contribute to the large congregation of steelies  in the Ludington area. First, the legendary Pere Marquette River flows out of Ludington through Pere Marquette Lake, which draws one of the largest runs of native Steelhead in the State of Michigan. Secondly, the Big and Little Manistee River is the site of the largest plantings of Steelhead ever  made on the Great Lakes.

Ludington  is the place that you want to be in the Fall where Steelhead are found in massive groups.  One battle with a 15 pounder you will be convinced the fishing is fantastic there.  The primary methods of catching Fall Steelheads  are trolling with downriggers, outriggers, planer boards , divers and lead line. Flat line fishing clean  is also super productive this time of year. The Steelies will readily strike lures trolled close to the boat; set lines in the upper 20 feet of water for super results.

Picked this off a Lake Michigan forum called:  www.chitownangler.com

Posted: 09:01am – Dec 9,12
Top
Had a great day of fishing in Bill(cdxdog)s boat.Was pretty pumped about about fishing the Joe and a chance at my first steelhead.We new that it may be tuff with the low water this year.Bill had explained his trolling system to me but I really didn’t grasp it until we were actually doing it.Really pretty amazing the way he controlls the boat and presents the lures.
We had 2 hits by noon.One was a steely for sure but was off by the time I pulled the rod out of the holder.The other hit maybe a smallie not sure.
Time was passing and we were well into the afternoon.Its been a disapointing fall fishing season for me.High temps,low water and a million more excuses :lol: .
I had negative thoughts about a skunk but shrugged them off and we kept grinding because there is no room for such thoughts in successful fishing. :jump
We ventured further downriver to try a few more of Bills spots and got the hit we were waiting for.A good fight ensued,including several runs, jumps and even a death roll.
My first steely was in the boat.

 

 

 

 

building…..more to come