Lake Michigan’s South Shore Region is one of the premier fishing areas in all the Great Lakes. That’s why thousands of visitors from across the region, from across the country and even from around the world visit each year to go fishing. Many visit Northwest Indiana just to go fishing. Others come for a variety of reasons, but take the time (or make the time) to go fishing along with visiting the beaches, casinos or any of the other area attractions.

Schellfish Charter fishingPhoto: Successful anglers often pose their catches for end-of-trip photos once they get them to the fish cleaning station.

Many of the visitors to Indiana’s South Shore, are avid anglers, but their visit doesn’t include enough time or provide the opportunity to actually wet a line. Are they shut out? No way!  There are several activities casual or even avid anglers will enjoy, even if they can’t fish.

Anyone who has ever been to a Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shops know these stores are more than just a big store filled with fishing, hunting and outdoor gear. Each one is unique destination, featuring fish and wildlife exhibits and outdoor memorabilia. The manager at Cabela’s local store in Hammond, IN told me their average visitor spends almost two hours inside. I’m sure the Bass Pro Shop store in Portage is almost the same.

Mounted deer at Cabela's HammondPhoto: The Hammond Cabela’s store features live fish and mounted wildlife as well as plenty of outdoor gear for sale.

Both of these stores sell boats and have the latest models on display. Both stores feature the latest in outdoor gear as well. Whether a visitor buys something or just comes to see the exhibits and browse, all are welcome. When you go to the Bass Pro Shops at Portage, consider a snack or meal at the Islamorada Fish Company Restaurant located inside the store.  Both Bass Pro and Cabela’s are easy to find and access just off of I-94. Both offer free overnight parking for visitors with self-contained campers or RVs.

There are dozens of reasons to go fishing – being with friends, experiencing the Great Lakes, just getting away and others, but most of the anglers on Lake Michigan keep what they catch, knowing there’s no better-tasting fish than fresh salmon, trout or perch pulled from the big lake’s chilly waters. Want to see what’s biting on Lake Michigan even if you don’t have the opportunity to fish on this trip? Check out the fish cleaning facilities at three of the most popular marinas along the South Shore.  

The Hammond Marina (adjacent to the Horseshoe Casino), the East Chicago Marina, (adjacent to the Ameristar Casino) and the Michigan City Marina at Washington Park (not far from the Blue Chip Casino) all have modern fish cleaning facilities and most of the anglers accessing Lake Michigan from these facilities stop by these stations to fillet their catches before heading home. Often, anglers pause to take photos of their catch just outside the fish cleaning stations, especially when they’ve caught trophy-sized king salmon or lunker lake trout.

East Chicago and Michigan City both have active charter fishing fleets and in Indiana, charters always include complimentary fish cleaning as a part of their fees. Most charters start their trips around dawn and finish their trips in late morning or early afternoon. That’s the best time to see fish being cut up and to meet and greet the anglers and charter captains. The restaurant, upstairs at the Indiana Harbor Yacht Club, located at the East Chicago Marina, is open to the public for lunch and is a popular stop for a meal or quick refreshment before heading back home or on to your next adventure.

You may not be able to squeeze in a fishing trip on every trip to Indiana’s South Shore, but once you’ve seen the fish that are being caught, a trip to the fish cleaning station at any of these marinas will be the inspiration to make a return trip expressly to catch some fish of your own. Any of the Coast Guard Licensed and DNR-inspected captains in Indiana's North Coast Charter Association will help you plan your trip and catch some fish.

Capt. Mike Schoonveld, Brother Nature Charters

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