Port Basics: Ludington
Written by Tom Greenberg   
Tuesday, 03 February 2009 22:36

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 new port.

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 lights).  


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.

 

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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 is jammed.

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 facilities

F. Ray’s Auto Marine – A real basic fisherman’s marina – camping next to your boat

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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 drill!!

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 intakes.

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. 

Radio Channels
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?

In 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
  • The “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.

The Nets
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

Don’t 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
Ludington 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!

Tackle Store
The 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 Chuck’s.

Campgrounds
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

Hotels
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

Restaurants
The 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.

Now 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 ever experience!
 
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