Milwaukee sunrise over Lake Michigan

Here’s What to Fish For in Lake Michigan by Season

Five fish you can catch, and when to go after them

Milwaukee Harbor has a world-renowned reputation for producing trophy fish. In 2011, Eric Haataja of West Allis reeled in a 38-inch brown trout, nearly a foot longer than the previous catch-and-release record, which had also been caught in our harbor.

Haataja’s boat launched out of McKinley Marina, the same marina that Jason Woda uses for his fishing charter: Reel Sensation. “We sell fun. It’s all in the personality of it,” says Woda, a South Sider who, in the tradition of all good sailors, claims to have “probably drank in every bar around here.”

Like most charters, Reel Sensation is all-inclusive. For around $100 per person (with a minimum of six), you get the boat, its captain, bait, fishing rods, all of it – just don’t forget your windbreaker and a cooler to store your haul.

[alert type=white ]

Read the full story

The Official Milwaukee Guide to Getting on the Water: Sail, Swim, Fish & More

Spring-early summer

Coho salmon
To catch more fish, seek out coho early in the spring. A few years ago, Woda caught 30 in under an hour.


Rainbow trout
Catches of this trout – not to be confused with steelhead, its saltwater cousin – can make great photo ops.

Late summer

Chinook salmon
“That’s the big one. Strong, hard-fighting,” says charter Capt. Jim Hirt. For a trophy catch, try late in the season.


Brown trout
Most fishing charters sail too deep for these beauties. But Reel Sensation specializes in them in early spring.

Year round

Lake trout
No matter the month, you might land a lake trout or three. Hirt suggests poaching them for a high-flavor dinner.

“Make Waves” appeared in the July 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Buy a copy at

Be the first to get every new issue. Subscribe.