Salmon, trout, more trout and a few carp.


Not enough people realize this simple truth: the Milwaukee Harbor and the rivers that feed into it have some of the best fishing in the state. Look at the record books. They’re filled with fish like these.

Big Brown Trout

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources stocks brown trout in the state, making the Milwaukee Harbor one of the best places in the world to land these lunkers. And they can be enormous. Local fishing guide Eric Haataja caught a record specimen about five years ago that weighed in at 35 pounds and 38 inches. “It’s one of the best shoreline public fisheries in the world,” he says.

Brown trout tend to prefer cooler weather, but they can still be caught in and around the harbor (including against the harbor walls) during the summer.

Carp It Up

If you just want to have fun and catch some big, splashy fish, hit up the Milwaukee River via shoreline or boat with some corn or store bought goo for bait. From clean waters, carp can be delicious, but taken from murkier depths (aka the lower Milwaukee River), the big bottom feeders’ flesh may be suspect. Rumor has it the warm water effluence from the Valley Power Plant attracts a gang of rather large carp.

Rainbow Trout/Steelheads

While the rainbow spawning season (which ended this spring) is long past, you can still catch migratory steelheads out in Lake Michigan, particularly on the outside of the break walls. Walking out onto the rocks at the end of the McKinley Marina pier (where there’s a deep hole) is one way to do this.

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Like steelheads, coho salmon can be caught from the shore and are a safe bet for a clean meal. The big salmon run hits the Milwaukee River starting in September. But allow us to curb your enthusiasm: salmon populations are way down because of some food chain issues, including an alewife shortage.

Smallmouth Bass

While you can catch them in Lake Michigan, these attractive little guys are a great excuse to explore one of the area’s many smaller, inland lakes.


Of course, any number of other species could wind up on your hook: yellow perch (if you’re lucky), northern pike, various types of pan fish and crappies. Lake Michigan and its adjoining rivers are pretty diverse.

If you’re more interested in the view

Visit Doctor’s Park in Fox Point or Sheridan Park in Cudahy, both of which have beautiful beaches with weather-worn piers to cast from. You might catch something, or you might not.