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"FISH ON": Charter Fishing in Charlevoix, Michigan

As we stepped onto the deck of the charter boat, I could tell it was going to be a great afternoon. Small ripples lapped against the boat’s hull and a distant boat horn echoed in the harbor. We set out from the pier and within 30 minutes, lines were in the water. Cries of “Fish On!!!” were being yelled soon-after by more than one person as the fish started hitting the deck. Charlevoix, Michigan is a fantastic boating town, so a charter fishing trip while you’re here on vacation is a great way to spend a morning, afternoon, or evening. Whether you’re an expert or have never fished at all, Here are some tips for maximizing your time on the water.

Types of fish- Lake Michigan abounds with fish just offshore of Charlevoix. Chinook and Coho salmon, Steelhead, Walleye, Cisco, Bass, Perch, and Lake Trout are all found in the area. All of the Charlevoix-based charter fishing boats use deepwater sport fishing equipment, which is a mix of trolling lines and downriggers to put the lures at the right spot for the fish. Once you pass under the bridge and head out onto Lake Michigan, you’re only 30 minutes from lines in the water and reeling up fish! 

When to go- According to Russ Ward, a local charter boat captain, the best time for charter fishing offshore in Lake Michigan is June-September if targeting Trout and salmon, or September-December for Perch and Walleye. If you’re planning a vacation, be sure to book your trip in advance so that you don't miss out. 

What to bring- The charter boat will provide all of the rods & reels, bait, and safety equipment you’ll need for the trip. You should plan to be gone for around 4 hours on average, so plan accordingly. Wear loose-fitting clothes, similar to what you would if you were going on a long walk. As you move offshore, the air temperature drops, so bring a jacket or sweater just in case. All ages are welcome onboard charter fishing excursions. Toddlers love the thrill of seeing a huge fish on the deck just as much as the adults! If you plan to bring alcoholic beverages, check with your charter boat captain first; rules vary boat-to-boat. Also, be sure to bring any medications you may need as the charter boat will be far away from the harbor for most of the excursion. Here is our list of charter fishing must-haves:

  • Water
  • Food or Snacks
  • Camera
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Jacket or sweatshirt
  • Hat
  • Medicine you may need to take within next 4-8 hours

Where to get a license- To legally fishing in Michigan, even on a charter boat, you’ll need a fishing license. A one-day or a full-season fishing license can be purchased here. Additional information on can be found at the Michigan Charter Boat Association’s website.

-Russ Ward is a fourth-generation charter boat captain with Ward Brothers Boats, Inc., a Charlevoix-based sport fishing company.

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