Indiana residents kept a secret for many years. Hoosiers knew their Lake Michigan beaches ranked among the top beaches in the world, but other than local residents going to beaches along their city’s lakefront or visitors mostly from another part of Indiana traveling to the Indiana Dunes State Park, few outsiders knew of them.
That changed when the National Park Service made a large swath of Indiana’s lakefront a National Park in 2019. Both the Dunes State Park and the Indiana Dunes National Park have been gaining in popularity ever since.
Last year, visitation to the parks and beaches grew by fourteen percent as the word spreads about the beaches and unique features available.
Fishermen and women call the area Indiana’s North Coast with more of an emphasis on the waters of Lake Michigan and the fish that live in those waters. And wow are there fish!
When salmon were first stocked into Lake Michigan more than 50 years ago it was an experiment. No one knew for sure if they would survive and if the survivors would prosper. The answer was obtained first along Indiana’s North Coast when anglers started catching these, “strange-looking trout.” They weren’t trout, they were the coho salmon stocked in northern Michigan a couple of years earlier.
The cohos were healthy and they were abundant. It was later learned that almost all of the salmon then stocked by the Michigan DNR, now stocked by each of the Lake Michigan states, migrate to Indiana’s North Coastal waters each winter and many of them stay within reach of Indiana’s ports all summer long.
Cohos were just the first species of salmon stocked in the lake. Their success brought chinook salmon, aka king salmon which are much larger, as well as steelhead trout and brown trout. Lake Michigan’s native predator species, the lake trout, are abundant all season long.
Though there are shoreline areas where salmon can be caught, most of the fish are caught from boats. There are numerous launch facilities located along Indiana’s North Coast - from Hammond, near the Illinois border, at East Chicago, Portage and Michigan City.
For those visiting from farther away, there are charter fishing opportunities with experienced, licensed captains available at marinas along the North Coast. The easiest way to start looking for a captain to host you or your family while visiting the North Coast, is to check out Indiana’s North Coast Charter Association at www.charterfish.org.
This group represents some of the most experienced and successful professional skippers on Lake Michigan. It’s a tight-knit group. If one captain has found some active schools, expect him to contact other captains in the area so that all can get in on the fun.
The captains do accept major credit cards and if available, they are happy to schedule last-minute appointments. However, most are booked up several days in advance for weekday trips, weeks or longer in advance for weekend dates. So plan now and call to reserve your date as soon as possible.
Come to Indiana for the sand, but leave with some beautiful salmon fillets.