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Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan Map

Sheboygan

Sheboygan offers a great fishing from early ice out right on through October. Early most anglers will head out after Brown Trout. There are two popular spots for early season brown trout the power plant and the stretch from the Pigeon River to the Whistling Straits golf course. The power plant offers a warm water discharge that can congregate early season brown trout and lake trout. Since the entrance of the round goby into Lake Michigan the stretch from the Pigeon River to the golf course has been the more popular spot. This stretch has lots of rock structure and lots of round gobies for the brown trout to feed on. After the alewives flood the shoreline for their spawning process this fishing will die and most anglers will head out after suspended Lake Trout and Rainbow Trout high in the water column. Depending on the weather the King Salmon can already be found in mid to late May. In June Sheboygan offers one of the best Rainbow Trout fisheries on all of Lake Michigan. Anglers will head out to 150-300 feet of water to target these fish. In June anglers can catch King Salmon in with the Rainbow Trout high in the water column. Targeting these Kings deep in the water column is the most consistent pattern for Kings this time of year. Once the water warms up in July and August King Salmon will become the targeted species. They can be found anywhere from 10 feet of water to 200 feet of water depending on the water temp and wind. In fall many anglers will travel to Sheboygan for the Salmon run. You can catch Kings from the piers, in the rivers and in the boat outside and inside the harbor mouth. This is a great time of year for all anglers to enjoy Sheboygan.

Milwaukee

December through April

Brown and Lake Trout will make up the bulk of the catch through the winter and early spring. Focus your efforts on warm water discharges found at MMSD in Milwaukee harbor and the Oak Creek Power Plant. Fish can also be found throughout Milwaukee’s expansive harbor, deep harbor gaps and near shore structures both north and south of town. As near shore waters warm in spring, focus more of your efforts on the near shore structures out to 80′ of water.

May

May is a month of transition. As waters continue to warm, near-shore fish continue to scatter. Browns, coho’s and kings can be taken near-shore by keying on the shallow structure and the harbor as alewives move in to begin spawning. A mix bag of kings, lake trout, coho’s and steelhead can be found offshore throughout May as surface temperatures begin to warm.

June

Near-shore structures holding spawning alewives is the key to success in June. Waters typically remain cool at the beginning of June allowing for good mixed bag action near shore. By mid-June, the lakes thermocline begins to set-up; key in on 40′ to 70′ of water during this period. By the end of June, Kings will make up the bulk of you catch.

July and August

As the water continues warm throughout the summer, salmon and trout location is dependant on wind patterns. Locating either bait or cool water is the key to success. During west wind period, look for king to be in the deep harbor gaps and on the same near-shore structures as you found them in June. Otherwise, search off-shore from 80′ to 150′ water depending on water temperatures. Lake trout and steelhead can also be found suspended off-shore in 200′ + of water. By mid-August, water temperatures become less critical for mature salmon and trout as they begin to spawn. Start looking for them on structure and bait adjacent to harbor and rivers they will enter to spawn. West wind periods can draw this fish in to river mouths and harbors if near-shore waters cool below 65 degrees.

September and October

Mature salmon and trout will be found in harbor and river mouths throughout the fall. Focus your efforts at the mouth of the Milwaukee River and Oak Creek or around the North Gap and McKinley Marina. Immature salmon and trout action continues off-shore throughout these months. Kings, Coho’s and Lake Trout will make up the bulk of your catch. Focus on finding cool water, 50 to 55 degrees, for these fish. As water cools, focus on the same near-shore structures as you fished in the spring. Browns will become more abundant as October progress and water cools.

November

Some of the fastest action of the year can be found near-shore, inside of 100′ of water, as salmon and trout put on the feedbag before winter. Kings, brown and lake trout will make up your bag. As the month progresses, browns will migrate towards their wintering grounds in the various harbors and warm water discharges, lake trout continue to spawn on near-shore structures and kings move off-shore to winter.

Manistee

Manistee is truly one of the great destinations of Lake Michigan and fishing season begins early APRIL THROUGH EARLY MAY. Brown Trout are the main species targeted this time of year. The state record came from the Manistee area and there is the possibility of a fish over 30# taken every year although most of these scrappy Browns range from 2#-8#. From this point we move into LATE MAY THROUGH MID JUNE and this is the time when you don’t know what may tug on your line while the Brown Trout may be slowing down the Steelhead are just starting and Lake Trout season opens. Also during this time King Salmon will start showing up in very good numbers and pound for pound will be the hardest fighting they will be all year. The Memorial day weekend has traditionally been a good producer for large numbers of fish. From this point in the season we move to MID JUNE THROUGH MID JULY and chasing trophy Steelhead in Manistee with offshore action for skyrocketing silver bullets that is unsurpassed. Lake Trout and Kings can also be picked up as temperature breaks set up from 5 to 25 miles offshore. When there is a hard temperature break the action can be non-stop, but putting these acrobats in the boat can be quite a challenge even for the seasoned angler. After the Steelhead peak we move to MID JULY THROUGH MID SEPTEMBER the time of year that Manistee is famous for with more master angler Chinook (King) Salmon taken than any other port in Michigan. These monsters can reach over #30 with the average adult ranging from 13#-17#. These fish fight very hard and generally pull out a bunch of line before you can get them turned around and headed for the net. After tangling with one of these brutes you may want to rest for a while before tackling another. After mid August you can also run into schools of Coho Salmon which put up a great fight despite their smaller size. Good fishing will continue after the adult King Salmon have headed up the river with MID AUGUST THROUGH OCTOBER offering a mixed bag once again of juvenile Kings along with Steelhead and Lake Trout with a few Coho still to be found. Manistee is truly a multi season destination for all of your Great Lakes fishing.

Sturgeon Bay

Lake Michigan fishing out of Sturgeon Bay in Door County Wisconsin begins in early April as the Brown Trout feed on baitfish in the shallows outside the pier heads, around the docks in the marinas and canal and on the ledges and shelves in the Bay of Green Bay. Stony Point south of Sturgeon Bay and Rowley’s Bay north of Sturgeon Bay are hot locations for early spring Brown Trout. Stony Point features a small inlet to Lake Michigan that creates a warm water discharge that hold baitfish for spring browns. Rowley’s Bay features large boulders that provide cover for Browns and helps water warm faster in the. Egg Harbor and Sister Bay are both on the Green Bay side of Door County and are hot spots for early season browns as well. The bays offer shallow water which warm faster and hold baitfish for brown trout.

Brown Trout fishing remains strong throughout April and May in Door County. The hottest fishing of the year comes in June, July, August and September when the Salmon Bonanza begins. Sturgeon Bay is home to one of the most unique structures on Lake Michigan called the “Bank Reef.” The “Bank” is a piece of structure which is four to five miles offshore and several miles long where the bottom drops dramatically in a short distance. Some of the steepest spots on the bank see the depth drop from 80 to 120 feet in a matter of seconds. This long, steep drop-off is a King Salmon magnet. Currents from around the lake deflect off of the bank reef and create upwelling of nutrients that attract baitfish which attract King Salmon. Fishing on the structure can offer limit catches anytime from June through September. Flasher and fly setups dominate the spreads of the local boats in the areas. Green and white Pro-Troll flashers trailed by green and white flies dominate the catches.

Rainbow Trout are also abundant in Sturgeon Bay throughout the summer and the fall. June through October offers great Steelhead fishing further offshore than the bank reef. As boats move further offshore beyond five miles, the bottom continues to get deep fast. Three hundred and even four hundred feet of water are close enough to shore and offer phenomenal steelhead fishing in the top 50 feet of water. Slight changes in water temperature and debris fields on top of the water signal good places to search for steelhead offshore. Orange and red spoons such as the Stinger Steelie Stomper and Jawbreaker are key baits for fishing steelhead in these locations.

Manitowoc/Kewaunee

Land mark reference points:

The Domes: Immediately south of the pier heads.

The High School: Tower just south of the domes.

Red Arrow Park: Immediately south of the High School.

The College: Immediately south of the park and north of Silver Creek Point.

The Hospital: Half way between Manitowoc and Two Rivers.

Little Manitowoc: Just north of the rock containment.

Silver Creek Point: The point south of the college before the Cut in the Clay Banks.

Cut in the Clay Banks: On the north end of the Clay Banks with a definitive green “V” in the clay banks.

Dome House: A house near the middle of the clay banks. Easily seen from the water and a popular land mark.

The Steeple: The Northeim Church Steeple that can be seen sticking above the trees.

Square Woods: South of the steeple and an obvious large square shaped group of trees. This woods has the appearance of being higher than the land on either side.

Cleveland Water Tower: Can be seen when off of the square woods. It is the water tower in the town of Cleveland.

Mid March through mid May

Browns, Lake trout and occasional Rainbow. Fishing the pier heads, containment and harbor area working 25′ of water and shallower. Troll south to the dome house working 4′ to 15′ of water. Zero in on the stretch from Silver Creek to the Calvin Creek. Calvin Creek is more commonly known as the “Cut” in the Clay Banks. When on the water, the “Clay Banks” is an obvious and a common fishing related land reference. Also during this time, working north of the harbor in front of the Little Manitowoc River along the lakes shore to the hospital is another good stretch to fish. Often overlooked by many anglers as south of Manitowoc is more popular and often holds fish more consistently. When working south of Manitowoc, keep in mind of rock hazards that are often just below the surface of the water. These WILL do damage to boats and motors. Keep and eye on the lake surface for any indication of change in water movement that the rocks make. Some of these rocks are located in waters as deep as 15′-20′ of water with most of the hazards inside 15′ of water.

Mid May to the end of May

Taking a southeasterly heading from the pier heads out to 150′ of water and setting in target the top 50′ of the water column working for rainbows and early season kings. Troll out to about 275′ of water and you will find pockets of rainbows usually working the surface. Suspended early season kings will also be found in these waters at this time as well.

Beginning of June through beginning to mid July

Work again from Silver Creek Point south. This time, work further south past the south end of the Clay Banks. There is a land mark known as the “Square Woods” south of the south end of the Clay Banks, or just south of the Northern Church Steeple. Zero in on water depths from 35′ to 120′. The catches will be made up of a mix bag of primarily rainbows and kings with the occasional lake trout, brown trout and coho thrown in. The weather conditions for the year will dictate how long the mixed bags are caught. Rainbows are the first to move out, but the kings will often stay close to this area for the duration of the summer. The Dome House is also a land mark used by many. The lake bottom make up starts to become rockier in this area and often is the start of some great fishing. Keep track of land marks and mark them in the GPS for easy navigation back to fish.

Mid July to Late August

Continue to work that same area south of Manitowoc as June through mid July, but stay in waters usually outside of 60′ with 75′ to 150′ being prime waters. This will bring in primarily kings with some mixed bags from other species. For those that are adventurous, head straight out of the harbor to 150′ and troll out from there working the top 75′ for some dynamite rainbow action and deep water kings. There will be some commercial nets out deep that can be worked around and can produce some fantastic fishing. Don’t hesitate to work out to 300’+ of water either. Large schools of rainbows can be found and water temps will dictate where in the water column they are located. Starting in beginning to mid August staging mature kings can be found by plying the waters from 60′ to 120′. When concentrations are located, action can be fast and furious for these large fish.

Late August through mid September

Working the harbor, pier heads containment area and out to the red and green marker buoys will produce amazing action of river running mature kings and brown trout. The occasional rainbow will also be taken at this time as well. Reading the mud lines from the river water will produce great numbers of kings. Continue to work various depth of water until specific areas that are holding fish are found. Some days the concentrations of active fish are in the harbor or right between the pier heads. Other days the active fish will be outside the pier heads. Take note of where the hits are coming and work those areas hard. For those looking for rainbows and immature 2 and 3 year old kings, concentrate on the 75′ to 125′ water depths. The occasional mature king will also be taken out deep as well.

Mid September through October

Working the 75′ to 175′ depths of water from the hospital to the Square Woods will produce a mixed bag of immature kings, rainbows and lake trout. When schools are found, the action can be fast and furious. Often times, the rainbows will run on the larger side. This time of the season usually finds few boats on the water, so traffic is kept to a bare minimum. This lack of pressure keeps the fish more concentrated and usually with longer active feeding windows.

Grand Haven/Muskegon

Starting in early May, anglers are concentrating their fishing on Kings and Steelhead. With surface temperatures usually 45-48 degrees, the fish can be found in the top 20 feet of the water column, between the shoreline and 150 feet of water. The Grand Haven / Muskegon area has very little structure, so finding subtle temperature breaks are the key.

As June comes in, the water is now warming a bit to 46-52 degrees. At this time, anglers are trying to find surface temperatures around 48 degrees to capitalize on the very aggressive Skamania Steelhead that are staging from the pier heads to 120 feet of water. Salmon through the month of June are somewhat scattered from the shoreline out to 300 feet of water.

July and August are two of the best months for catching large numbers of big salmon. Fish are usually found a short distance from the pier heads in 120 – 250 feet of water. This time of year we are looking for where the warm surface temperatures meet 42 – 48 degree water. This can sometimes mean fishing near or on the bottom even in 250 feet of water.

September is an exciting month for most anglers as the salmon start to make their annual run upstream to spawn. This allows anglers in the smallest of boats to get out and catch some larger salmon, as we are concentrating our efforts in and around the pier heads.

October is my favorite month to fish with large numbers of Steelhead, 2 and3 year old salmon taken in and around large scum lines that set up in 80-120 feet of water. These scum lines are usually very distinct with large pieces of debris and often, gulls are found working the water surface. Bright spoons on planer boards running high in the water column will be the most productive.

Racine

The Port of Racine is blessed with a plethora of diverse structure affording the weekend angler the best opportunities to get on fish without having to depend on up to date fishing information. Fish can be found on the structure depending on the seasonal timing outlined below. While wind and water currents can move concentrations of fish off the Port of Racine, these variables are not as drastic as in other ports around the lake.

Most of Racine’s structure consists of a clay bottom so anglers do not need to be concerned about loosing gear by bouncing rigger or pound balls occasionally off the bottom. However, as with the rest of the lake the bottom is covered with zebra mussels so dragging or consistent bottom-bouncing as done in the past has become difficult as mussels will foul up baits.

Winter (January-March) ice fishing takes place in the Racine Harbor and lower stretches of the Root River. Anglers catch northern pike, rainbow trout (steelhead) and brown trout through the ice. Live bait is the best approach with golden shiners on tip ups and spawn sacs on jigging rods.

Come spring ice-out (March-April) steelhead and brown trout are caught in the Root River and at the mouth of the Root River/Racine Harbor. Anglers can concentrate on brown trout by locating warm water discharges south of Racine off the case plant and north of Racine off the Power Plant. As the water temperatures warm, brown trout will gradually move off the discharges and spread out along the shoreline in waters less than 40 feet. Body baits and small stinger spoons are favorite baits for catching these fish.

As May arrives cohos begin moving northward from the southern basin of Lake Michigan. Following internet report boards to track their migration can help predict their arrival. Since the fish are moving up from the south, early coho action has sport trolling fisherman powering south from Racine Harbor. In May there are usually a near shore and offshore group of cohos. Anglers should try a mixed brown trout/coho salmon spread in early May in waters 25-40 feet of water and by mid to late May one can expect to find a Chinook/coho bite off the third hill in 90-140 feet of water. Typical coho set-ups are orange B&B flashers or 00 dodgers with Rapture coho flies. Kings come off deep riggers with regular sized stinger spoons.

June through August presents a mixed bag of species off Racine’s structure. From south to north, halfway between Kenosha and Racine, Kenosha’s “hill” begins to turn into three hills which eventually dissipate into a large flat and a single hill north of Wind Point. The hills are closer together south of Racine and further apart to the north of the port. The “third hill” is similar to Kenosha’s “hill” as it drops quickly from 90-120 feet of water. Straight east of Racine is the Racine reef or “stone”, which goes from zero to 50 feet of water very quickly. To the north are two buoys east of wind point marking structure known as the “cans”. This structure goes from 25 to 60 feet of water. Browns, cohos and kings are found off all these structures, with browns being found generally less than 60 feet of water. Lake Trout predominantly are found off the third hill in 80-140 feet of water until later in the summer when they are found offshore in 200-350 feet of water. Rainbows are seldom a target off Racine as most of the time they are further offshore than anglers need to travel to find fish. Yet, when the steelhead move onto the Racine structure, fantastic fishing is sure to follow. In June anglers often do best by mixing spoons and flasher/fly combinations into the spread. By July and August most of the action is on protroll flashers tipped with Rapture trolling flies with Silver Horde plugs mixed in.

September brings the fish near the harbor mouth as fish begin to stage for their fall migration. Anglers have the most luck by trolling slow with a variety of Silver Horde Plugs. By October mature fish have moved into the Root River and quality fishing similar to the summer months can be found as young salmon and browns are relating to the structure. November and December can present quality near shore opportunities when the lake is nice or when casting from shore or drift fishing the in the River. Browns and steelhead move into the river systems and are located within the vicinity until the following spring.

Ludington/Pentwater

The Ludington/Pentwater area has an abundance of structure which provides excellent opportunities from April through November. The season starts out in April targeting Brown Trout in the nearshore waters. Body baits fished behind planer boards are the most successful offering in the cold water. As the water warms, lightweight spoons often have their times too. Fishing between the sandbars in the troughs is where the main action is, especially on overcast days or when there is a chop on the water. A sustained south or west wind provides the best fishing conditions along the shoreline. Areas with especially deep troughs or different bottom types hold fish. Also, the many creek and river mouths from Little Point Sable to Big Point Sable are great places to target. Popular areas are just north of the Ludington pierheads near the Lincoln River north to the Sable River at Big Point Sable and also near the Project to the south of the Ludington Harbor.

Depending on the winds and water temps the first part of May can be a continuation of the brown trout fishing opportunities from April along with some bonus lake trout that can be caught in the same areas. It’s not unusual to start seeing the first king salmon of the season caught at this time and by mid to late May it can be excellent fishing for spring kings. Bands of fish often set up in 100-200 feet of water from the Project south past Pentwater to the Juniper Beach area. Good action can also be found along the banks at Big and Little Point Sable. Although kings may be suspended throughout the water column there is often good action found near the surface. Spoons behind short segments of leadcore are good producers.

June is a transition time and can bring tough fishing as the water warms. Depending on how the water sets up and how far you are willing the drive there can still be great fishing found in the offshore areas. Finding temperature breaks and scum lines is the ticket to a mixed bag of steelhead, lake trout and kings. A sharp dropoff known as the Ledge is located 8-12 miles offshore of both the Ludington and Pentwater harbors and often concentrates fish. Fishing near the surface with leadcore and planer boards and covering lots of water is the best bet.

July is the start of the outstanding king fishing this area has to offer. The steep dropping banks along both Big and Little Sable Points hold schools of big kings through July and August and are the most popular areas to target. Fish can be found up on the bank in 50-100 feet of water in the early mornings and then in the 100-200 foot depths off the structure as the day goes on. Flashers/flys and plugs take many big kings from these areas. Currents can often be very strong along the two points which can change water temps in a hurry depending on their direction. Other locations that can hold fish are off the Project in 80-140 feet of water and south of the Pentwater harbor to Juniper Beech in similar depths.

Depending on the water temperatures staging kings can be caught in August and September as they enter the harbors heading towards the rivers. The Ludington Harbor mouth as well as Pere Marquette Lake can have fast action at times. Plugs and flashers/flys are the best baits fished behind downriggers and divers. Kings will often stage in 60-100 feet of water in front of the Project just prior to hitting the pierheads.

Some mature kings can still be caught in September but a strong bite returns in the offshore waters targeted earlier in the year. Spoons are very effective at this time for immature kings and often large numbers of steelhead. Similar results can also be had in October and November depending on weather conditions.

How to Fish for Salmon | How to Catch Salmon | How to Fish for Tuna | How to Catch Tuna | How to Fish for Halibut | How to Catch Halibut

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