The world-class salmon and trout fishing available along the southern edge of Lake Michigan is arguably the most productive fall fishing trip for Hoosier anglers. Less than two hours away from north-central Indiana, it is easy to fall in love with those brawny and abundant fish of our inland ocean.
Ten months out of the year, salmon fishing requires a stout boat, extensive tackle and excellent seamanship skills. However, when the fish make their annual spawning run up the streams emptying into the big lake, even the shore-bound angler stands a good chance of bringing home a trophy king or steelhead.
Starting in late September, large chinook (or king) salmon gather off the mouth of rivers, creeks and harbors. As September turns to October, the more abundant coho salmon arrive, along with steelhead and brown trout. The harbors and streams of Lake Michigan become watery warehouses stacked full of aggressive salmon and trout, ready to be intercepted by adventurous fisherman.
For the pedestrian angler, the plan of attack is to stake out position along a jetty or pier and begin endlessly casting into the lake. This type of fishing doesn’t require finesse so much as dogged determination. Whereas a boat angler might troll effortlessly for a half-hour to find a fish, the fixed angler must cast many, many times to cover the equivalent distance of water.
Regardless of the fishing method, heavy trolling gear or level wind reels are not required. Though a nice salmon might weigh in at 25 pounds, a stout bass fishing rod with a high-capacity reel filled with 12- to 15-pound line will land the majority of fish. If you are concerned about losing a lunker, a light saltwater spinning rod with fresh 15-pound test line will subdue virtually anything in the lake. A long-handled net is also very helpful.
Boat anglers primarily use diving crankbaits and spoons. A popular lure is the Rapala minnow but virtually any rapidly moving, medium-sized, intermediate-diving bait can be productive. Regardless of lure, bright colors are the rule. The “Firetiger” paint scheme is very popular, along with fluorescent orange, green or yellow while blue and silver are also very productive.
Shore anglers often use natural bait suspended just under the surface on a float. The most popular natural bait is a spawn sack while nightcrawlers, single salmon eggs, minnows, shrimp and even crawfish are also popular. The local bait shop is the best source for good local tips and tactics for such fishing.
Popular spots for shore and boat anglers include the Michigan City harbor and jetty, along with Burns Ditch and any of the marinas’s lining the southern edge of the lake.