Think you have what it takes to do battle with a king - salmon, that is, aka chinook - the biggest, baddest fish in Lake Michigan? How about a cinderblock-sized brown trout? Or a steelhead, one of those slab-sided silver bullets with fins? Head to Ludington and find out.
Go for a half or full day. Charter fishing is a safe, no-hassle, no-brainer adventure - fun without a major time commitment. Just pay at the dock and hop onboard with one of the 60 captains (800-927-3470, ludingtoncharterboats.org) that operate here.
Captain Ed Stowe (231-425-8962, stowawaycharters.com), one of Ludington's most experienced charter boat captains, has you covered with rods, fishing tackle, angling know-how, and an ultra-seaworthy, 27-foot boat spacious enough for a party of six. The captain recommends bringing a camera, lots of film and a cooler for your catch.
But before you walk down to the Ludington Municipal Marina to meet up with your boat, pack your suntan lotion, a sweatshirt and a windbreaker; it can get chilly out on the big water, even at summer's height. Pere Marquette Sport Center (214 W. Ludington Ave., 231-843-8676) - a rustic tackle shop three blocks from the harbor and right on the town's central street - has the extras and the fishing licenses you need. (Tip: Save money with a one-day fishing license.)
You will need some fightin' fuel - food and drinks - if you plan to spend a couple of hours playing tug-of-war with 20- to 30-pound fishes. So for a dawn run on the big water, grab a coffee or a shot of espresso and a scone at The Bookmark (201 S. Rath Ave., 231-843-2537). After your boat chugs back to harbor, head to the Sportman's Irish Pub (111 W. Ludington Ave., 231-843-2138) for award-winning thin-crust pizzas.
Mid-June to July on Lake Michigan is a fine time for lake trout and chinook salmon, found from 10 to 25 miles offshore. End of July the fish are right offshore. August through September, it's all about the mighty chinook.
Bob Butz writes from Lake Ann. bobbutz.com
Note: This article was first published in June 2006, and was updated for the web February 2008.