Port Basics is a new Educated Angler series focused on
providing basic port information (from a fishing perspective) that a
first-time visitor will find useful in navigating their way around a
Port Basics: Ludington
Ludington is the number one
Salmon and Steelhead port on Lake Michigan in terms of number of fish
caught. With a thriving fishery all spring and summer, Ludington is a
very popular fishing destination. August and September fishing in
Ludington is something you have to experience to believe. Mature Kings
stage near shore for their spawning push up the Pere Marquette River.
These fish are big, hungry, and feisty, and there are lots of them.
Their favorite food is plugs, but they will also bite attractors with
flies and the occasional spoon.
|Unlike some other ports, the
channel out to Lake Michigan is quite wide, and the distance to the
lake from all the ramps and marinas is fairly short. Late in the
summer, watch out for trollers in Pere Marquette Lake and the
channel…especially after dark (sometimes with little or no running
In general, the Ludington fishery has a mostly sandy
bottom with some areas of clay. There are very few rocks. There is a
lot of bottom structure and depth variation which is a prime factor in
making this such a productive fishery.
Launch Ramps for Trailer Boats:
A. Ludington City Ramp
– on the downtown waterfront next to Stearns Park (the public beach),
and next to the North Pier breakwater. This is a very busy ramp
facility with a large number of ramps and finger docks. Trucks with
trailers line up for blocks to launch here in August.
B. Peter Copeyon Park – Hidden away on the south side of
town, this excellent ramp on Pere Marquette Lake has a steep ramp and
lots of parking. Give this lesser-known ramp a try when the City Ramp
Marinas for Transient Slips:
C. Ludington Municipal Marina – Gas Dock, Fish Cleaning Station, a very nice facility
D. Harbor View Marina – Gas Dock, Fish Cleaning Station, very upscale marina with pool, hot tub and clubhouse.
E. Thompson’s Marina – Gas Dock, Fish Cleaning Station, good basic facilitiesF. Ray’s Auto Marine – A real basic fisherman’s marina – camping next to your boat
Best Places to Fish:
1. Big Sable Point -
Also known as the Point, the Lighthouse, and the Stick, this is by far
the most popular place to fish in Ludington. The Point is about 6
miles north of the pier heads and easily identified by the black and
white-striped Big Sable Lighthouse. Water depths around the Point go
from 30-200 feet in no time and the extensive drop-offs and structure
always hold some fish. You just have to figure out what part of the
water column they are in on a given day and whether they are north or
south of the Point. Most people troll north and south here, working a
particular depth line.
2. The Bathhouse – Also
known as the Bank, this area in front of the changing-room building for
the State Park beach is always a popular area for trolling. Located
just about a mile south of the Point, it is a good spot in the early
morning and evening.
3. Lincoln River – About a mile
north of the pier heads, the area where the Lincoln River dumps into
Lake Michigan is a good place to look for Brown Trout. It is also a
great area during summer evenings to experience the amazing Ludington
night bite. Position yourself in 50-65 FOW, wait until the sun just
touches the water and watch all your rods fire at once! A real fire
|4. The Project - Also known as the Pump
Storage Facility and the Hydro plant. The area out in front of this
giant hydroelectric facility, a couple of miles south of the pier
heads, is a very popular place to fish. In the spring and fall, work
the waters in close to shore in 30-60 FOW. In the summertime, work out
deeper in the 70-130 FOW range. Lots of structure and drop-offs hold
fish all year long. If you are fishing really shallow, watch out for
the containment nets that keep fish from being sucked into the water
5. Straight Out – Just like it sounds,
straight out of the pier heads in 130-300 FOW is often very
productive. A good steelhead fishery can almost always be found offshore and the kings are
usually out there somewhere too.
Most fishermen in Ludington use channels 68.
69, 72 and 73 for general fishing conversation. Of course you should
always monitor channels 9 and 16 too, but make sure you keep the
fishing chatter off those two channels.
The Numbers – What do they mean?
Ludington, as in many other ports, the various fishing areas are
described by their GPS (Latitude/Longitude) numbers. Ludington boats
use the “middle” number of the N (latitude) and W (longitude) to
describe their positions on the radio.
- The pier heads - at about 43º57’00N are described as “the 57’s”.
- The Point - at about 44º03’50N is the “3 and 1/2’s”
- The Project - at about 43º55’00N is the “54’s” or “55’s”
- The Bathhouse is in the “02’s” at about 44º02’00N
“Number Change” (also known as the “Double 0’s” is the 44th Parallel,
where latitudes change from 43º to 44º - this is about 3 miles north of
the Ludington pier head.
You also will hear boats on the
radio talk about being at the “31 Line”, meaning their middle W number
is 31 (86º31’00). This is about 4 nautical miles west of the pier
heads which are at 27W (86º27’00). Or you might hear someone say they
out at the “40 Line” meaning they are way out deep in 300+ FOW, near
the commercial shipping lanes at 86º40’00W…about 13 nautical miles west
of the pier heads.
Ludington has commercial
fishing nets set by fishermen from the Little River Band of Ottawa
Indians (LRBOI). All of their nets are trap nets and usually run from
90 FOW to 130 FOW. They generally run East and West (at a right angle
to the shoreline). Most of the nets are well marked with flags and
buoys, but it always pays to be careful around them.
Learn what all the trap net markings mean at: http://www.miseagrant.umich.edu/nets/trapnets.html
fish too close or you will be donating some tackle, cannonballs or a
temp probe to the nets. Always keep a pair of heavy leather gloves
and strong wire cutters on board in case you have to cut a downrigger
cable in a hurry. It’s better to lose some gear than to have your boat
swamp. Net locations do change, so it is important to check for
current information before heading out on the lake. Up-to-date net
information can be found at: http://www.ludingtoncharterboats.org/fishingreports.shtml
The S.S. Badger
is home to the only coal-fired steamship on the Great Lakes, the S.S.
Badger car ferry. The Badger runs from Ludington to Manitowoc, WI and
back. In the spring and fall, the Badger makes 1 round trip per day.
In the summer, the Badger makes 2 round trips per day. Watch out for
the Badger coming and going…it takes up a lot of room in the channel,
and it definitely wins the tonnage war!
best place to find your favorite spoons, plugs, spinnies, flies,
fishing licenses and other big-lake fishing necessities in Ludington is
Captain Chuck’s. Captain Chuck’s is located on US-10 about a mile east
of downtown. With a full assortment of tackle, rods, reels, nets, and
more, every trip to Ludington will probably include a stop at Captain
Poncho’s Pond - a full-featured RV park on US10 east of downtown. 226 campsites
Kibby Creek - a full-featured RV park/campground south of Ludington on old US31. 103 campsites.
Cartier Park - a popular campground on the Lincoln River just north of downtown. 196 campsites
Ludington State Park - make your reservations early since this is one of Michigan’s most popular State Parks. 355 campsites
Most are on US10 (which becomes Main St.) between US31 (the expressway) and downtown Ludington
Holiday Inn Express - on US10 on the way into downtown from US31
Best Western - on US10 on the way into downtown from US31
Viking Arms - on US10 on the way into downtown from US31
Four Seasons - on US10 on the way into downtown from US31
Shoreline Inn - right next to the downtown launch ramp and City beach
Pier House - right next to the downtown launch ramp and City beach
Charter Boat Docks
Abrahamson’s Marina – Home to many of the large, big-name charter boats like Dreamweaver, Finweaver, Hunter, etc.
Ludington Municipal Marina - Many popular charter boats call the Municipal Marina home like Equalizer, Summer Breeze, etc.
Thompson’s Marina – down the waterfront from Abrahamson’s with boats like Kickin’ Back
Ray’s Auto Marine – across the street from Abrahamson’s with boats like Polecat, Raptor, Kingfisher
Tamarack Marina – across from Ray’s
Grand – Great Mexican and fried foods, homemade soups, good beer
selection…and very affordable too! Don’t let the ramshackle exterior
fool you…great food and service in a comfortable setting.
The Sportsmans Bar – Good bar food. Sports on TV. Beer. What more do you need?
Sunshine Café - Excellent breakfasts…try the omelets!
Kuntry Kubbard - Good family-style restaurant with a large menu. Good breakfast buffet.
Scotty’s – Upscale steak and seafood restaurant. Try the perch!
House of Flavors – 50’s Diner atmosphere, good sandwiches, and lots of delicious ice cream!
Jamesport Brewing Co. – Upscale brewpub with very good food.
that you have all the info to get you started fishing in Ludington,
head on over for some of the best salmon and steelhead fishing you will