Lake Michigan Corner

To say the summer and early fall on the southern shores of Lake Michigan was unusual would be an understatement. The Covid-19 pandemic changed the lives of all fishermen throughout the Midwest.

Chicago harbors were closed, lake access was limited, charter boat operations were severely restricted, and we just lived through what we hope was a once-in-a-lifetime year.

Anglers that were able to get out had some decent fishing action for all species, especially salmon, with some extremely large Chinook being caught. Even so, things just didn’t seem right.

 

Up in Wisconsin, things have been fairly slow, with some Chinook being caught in Milwaukee in the harbor and off the pier, mostly on 3/4-ounce Little Cleos (Chartreuse/Fl. Orange) and Williams 2/5-ounce Ridge/Backs (Yellow and Orange).

In Racine, the action has been very slow. Kenosha fishing has also been slow. Fish have been jumping in the harbor but getting them to hit has been another thing.

Down into Illinois, it has been pretty much a deep-water bite with trolling out on Northpoint on the state line best in 160 to 300 feet of water. The best bets have been spoons and dodger/fly combinations run 50 feet down.

Coho, Chinook and steelhead have been caught in 110 to 125 feet of water out of Waukegan with lake trout in 125 to 175 feet. Big Chinook have been staging. Shore anglers have been taking a few northerns in the harbor while casting for Chinook.

In Chicago, as of this writing, the lakefront remains closed. No parking passes have been available.

Fishing

Offshore lake trout have been hitting Spin-N-Glos (Clown), (Metallic Chartreuse Chrome Head) and (Metallic Blue Chrome Tiger) behind 0 dodgers (Pearl), (White) and (Garbage Can), on or near the bottom.

Big coho and Chinook have been hitting magnum extended glow Stinger Spoons (Bloody Nose) and (Blue Dolphin) and Dreamweaver spoons (Monkey Puke), (Hello Darlin’) and (Magic Man), large Eddie Flies behind large Spin Doctors and Dreamweaver DW Plugs. They have been doing best in 85 to 125 feet.

The fish have been hitting the above baits off downriggers, Dipsys, copper and leadcore 8 to 10 colors back. Steelhead have been hitting standard-size Warrior spoons in the top 35 feet of water (Double Orange Crush0, (Steelhead Candy) and (Excaliber).

Smallmouth bass have been hitting Senkos, tubes and large roaches along the break walls in rocky areas.

In Indiana, boaters have been going out to 120 to 170 feet, searching for silver salmon. The perch have moved out to 40 feet of water off Burns Ditch, the Donut and Mount Baldy. Sheepshead have been practically everywhere, and the catfishing has been good on prepared baits and nightcrawlers off the Portage Riverwalk. Most of the Skamania steelhead have moved into Trail Creek and have been hitting brightly colored Hammond Tackle in-line spinners.

In southern Michigan, perch fishing has been decent out of New Buffalo in 30 to 40 feet of water on fathead minnows or baby roaches on Galambos Go-Flies.

In St. Joseph, there have been plenty of sheepshead taken off the pier. They have been increasing all over the lake. Perhaps they are nature’s answer to the zebra mussel problem.

The St. Joseph River has seen some decent steelhead fishing with the ever-present sheepshead also around. A few nice flathead catfish have also been taken.

November outlook

Don’t put away that fishing gear yet! Before you sit down to a belt-busting Thanksgiving dinner, there is plenty of great fishing on tap this month.

Perch fishing should be getting into full swing for both the boat and shore fishermen. Look for schools of these fine-eating fish to move in close to shore this month. They provide many an excellent dinner throughout the winter.

Although I can’t predict what the situation for shore fishing off the Chicago lakefront will be, I’m sure we will find somewhere to fish. As of now, the entire Chicago lakefront is still closed. Fishing off Navy Pier will be restricted to the far southwest end.

Shore fishermen should be able to find places to fish in neighboring Indiana. I’ve had luck in the past off the north rocks of the old Commonwealth Edison State Line power plant, especially after dark.

I used minnows there on a rig consisting of a snap swivel on the bottom with a #6 Eagle Claw hook on a 3-inch snell about a foot up the line with a Galambos Go-Fly (Chartreuse) or (Fl. Orange) about 18 inches up from that. The snap swivel allows me to change the weight of my bell sinker as conditions dictate. Always use the lightest sinker you can and still feel contact with the bottom.

 

If you are lucky enough to have a boat you will be able to fish Calumet Harbor, the Calumet River and the slips, which should really be hot this month.

Use the same basic rig that you use for shore fishing. Drift along with the wind until you get into them. Usually, limit catches will follow in quick order. Work the school until you fill out your limit.

If the weather holds out and you want some real trophy jumbo perch, try the clay flats in about 50 feet of water straight off the Gary Light. Here, you can take some real trophy perch, but keep a close eye on the weather. Conditions can be tricky in November and it is a long run back to the launch ramps.

 

 

 

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