Indiana Dunes Country: The perfect place to fish
By Mike Ryan
My favorite fishing story is about the time I battled to bring in the remaining steelhead trout I needed to win a fishing tournament.
I kept getting a steelhead on the line, only to have the hook break off. Finally, on my sixth try, I hooked one, fought him and finally got him to shore. When I did, I saw that he had five hooks and broken lines in his mouth.
I’d been battling the same fish the entire time!
I’m lucky to live in Indiana Dunes Country, which is one of the best places for fishing anywhere. It offers great fishing in all four seasons, and it’s one of the few places you can fish for steelhead year round. This area is home to Lake Michigan sport fishing, great stream and river fishing, as well as plenty of dock fishing and small lakes.
A lot of times I’ll take my 19-foot Smoker Craft onto the southern shore of Lake Michigan (leaving out of Portage, IN) and, within four hours, get five salmon (each weighing 10 to 25 pounds) as well as my daily limit of 15 perch (nice 8- to 12-inch ones).
There’s nothing better than taking the perch straight home, filleting them, dipping them in Uncle Buck’s Fish Batter from the nearby Bass Pro Shops in Portage (where I work when I’m not too busy fishing), and frying them in oil in a cast iron skillet.
The fishermen I know will also fry trout in a cast iron pan, will smoke salmon and trout (one guy won a contest by brushing his smoked fish with maple syrup), or cook salmon in a foil packet on the grill (just spread a little mayonnaise on it before putting it in foil).
I catch my perch using minnows and doing some slow trolling through Lake Michigan. I get my salmon my trolling with spoons or big-body baits.
There are different marinas to launch from in Portage, or you can hire a charter captain to take you to the hot spots, like the ones I know about. The folks that put together this fishing webpage had local fishermen like me help with the information.
I’ve been fishing in places like British Columbia, Oregon, Arkansas and Minnesota, and I can say that I’m glad to live in Chesterton, IN, right in the heart of Indiana Dunes Country.
When I’m not on the big lake, some of my favorite fishing is along the Little Calumet River and Salt Creek. Friends and I have also hooked some nice walleye at the creek mouths of the famous Kankakee River. You can put your boat in at Dunn’s Bridge County Park in Kouts, IN.
Valparaiso, IN, which is halfway between Lake Michigan and the Kanakeee River, has some nice lakes. I’ll ice fish on Long Lake and get bluegill and bass, or get some walleye and bluegill on Spectacle Lake.
People are always surprised when I tell them my favorite fishing is in the winter along the Little Calumet River in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. You get to share nature with the deer, turkeys and, of course, the fish.
Of course, at the end of the winter, I’m ready to cast for coho salmon in the spring at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk, where you can use your boat or fish from the pier or along the riverwalk. I have the best luck with shrimp, spawn or nightcrawlers under a bobber.
In the summer, I love perch fishing in front of Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk or heading east as far as Indiana Dunes State Park.
And in the fall, there’s nothing better than fishing for steelhead trout Chinook salmon on the Little Calumet or Salt Creek, or at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk.
There’s only one downside to being a fishing fanatic in Indiana Dunes Country, and that is deciding which of the great fishing spots to try on any given day.
If you’re looking to find fishing spots, check the weather, or to see the Indiana Dunes Country Fishing Guide (which I recommend because it covers fishing spots, boat rentals/charter captains, boat launching, bait shops and fishing regulations), click here. The website even has videos, like this one:
Mike Ryan has been fishing the various spots of Indiana Dunes Country (Porter County, IN) since he was a kid. He’s president of the Northwest Indiana Steelheaders.