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Top Fishing Charters in St. Joseph

Fishing in St. Joseph

Nestled in the southwest corner of Michigan, St Joseph is home to some of the finest lake and river fishing charters in the state. Here, the waters of Lake Michigan join the Paw Paw and St Joseph rivers, the most productive fishing systems you can find for Salmon, Trout, Steelhead, Walleye, and Bass.

Known For

Anglers flock to St Joseph for the Trout and Salmon fishing. Chinook and Coho Salmon, Lakers, and Brown Trout spend their summers in Lake Michigan before heading up the St Joseph and Paw Paw rivers in fall.

But St Joseph River—also called “the St Joe”—has another claim to fame: Skamania. The Department of Natural Resources introduced this summer run Steelhead to local streams during the 1990s. Aggressive and agile, this fish puts up a good fight and keeps fly fishermen on their toes.

The DNR eventually scaled back the project, leaving Skamania in only a handful of rivers these days--which makes them all the more appealing to avid anglers. Turns out there’s no better place to catch a Skamania than here in the St Joe.

Where to Fish in St Joseph

Lake Michigan
If you’re in St Joe, it’s hard to resist casting a line or two in Lake Michigan. You’ll see local anglers heading out in April, when the water is teeming with Chinook and Coho Salmon, Steelhead, and Brown Trout.

The start of the season is perfect if you’re looking to hook into multiple species. Lake Trout, Perch, and Skamania (summer run Steelhead) all make their entrance by mid summer. If you’re up for a challenge, try your luck at landing all the Salmon and Trout species in addition to Steelhead—Michigan’s version of the Great Lakes grand slam.

The season for fishing on this part of Lake Michigan wraps up at the start of fall, but not before going out with a big bang. July, August, and September are packed with Chinook and Coho Salmon, Lakers and Brown Trout, Skamania, and Perch. You might not catch as many fish as you did in spring, but these will be of the finest quality.

St Joseph River
When you can’t get out on the lake, spend your time on St Joseph River fishing for Salmon, Steelhead, Brown Trout, Walleye, Catfish, Bass, Panfish, and Skamania. This 63-mile stretch of winding river is one of the most productive systems in the state, but one of the least crowded.

January and February are all about Walleye and winter Steelhead. By March, Brown Trout are on the scene, followed by Crappie and eventually, Skamania in June.

Midsummer to fall can be the most exciting time on the St Joe, with your pick of Skamania, Catfish, Bass, and Walleye through September. In autumn, you’ll see Salmon and Steelhead passing through, followed by Trout.

Come December, river fishing is all about Steelhead, Walleye, and Brown Trout.

Some St Joseph fishing guides are ready to take you out on the river anytime, while others fish these waters from October to March, in between seasons on the lake.

Public access to the St Joe is readily available, too, with plenty of boat ramps, side roads, and pull offs from major routes. No boat? No problem, you can even find a few spots shallow enough to wade in, especially near tributaries.

Other St Joe Fishing Spots
Sometimes, all you need for great fishing is a rod, a reel, and a little spare time. If you’re looking for a chance to test the waters before heading out on a charter, you’ll find plenty of spots around here.

Just before the St Joe empties into Lake Michigan it meets the Paw Paw River. With shallower waters, this stream is far more suitable for wade fishing. Here you can catch Smallmouth Bass in summer, as well as Steelhead, Salmon, and Trout in spring and fall.

A series of parks and piers around town also provide easy access to the St Joe and the shores of Lake Michigan. At the mouth of the river you’ll fine Tiscornia Park to the north and Silver Beach Park to the south. These parks provide easy access to the breakwaters on either side of the rivermouth, as well as fishing piers that allow you to cast lines in either the river or the lake. 

Check out Riverview Park further up the St Joe for more fishing access, or follow the John and Dede Howard Family Recreation Trail for a chance to fish this river as well as Lake Michigan.

How much will it cost?

St Joseph charter fishing includes private trips and shared trips. Bear in mind that prices can vary depending on the size of your group, especially if you book a private charter.

If you’re fishing Lake Michigan, you’ll have your choice of half day (5 hours) and full day trips (7 hours). For a half day, expect to pay $500-$550 for a private charter, or about $110 per person for a shared trip.

Full day private charters on the lake cost $600-$750, depending on how many people are included. Shared trips are $130 per person.

Fishing charters on St Joseph River last 6-7 hours for $300-$350, or $90 per person.

Types of Fishing

Trolling the Lake
Trolling is the primary method used to catch Salmon and Trout in Lake Michigan. Spoons and crankbaits are both effective. This technique can also catch Steelhead when fishing in the right depths. You can also target Lake Trout by baitcasting, or catch Brown Trout with a light action spinning rod.

Spinning and Fly Fishing for Skamania
You can catch Skamania Steelhead in the rivers by spinning, floating, or fly fishing.

If you plan on spin fishing, an 8-10’ rod with 6-12 lb test line and a spool capable of holding at least 150 feet of line will get the job done.
Fly fishermen can rely on a typical setup, using flies in a range of shapes, sizes, and colors. Skamania take well to any bait resembling their regular diet, including minnows, larvae, leeches, fish eggs, and mayfly nymphs.

Need to Know

Anglers age 17 and above need to bring a Michigan fishing license. You can buy a single day license online for $10 (price subject to change). Non-residents should also purchase a Michigan DNR Sportscard ($1, price subject to change).

Many of the fish caught in St Joseph are good table fare and available for taking, but size limits, bag limits, and seasonal closures may apply to certain species. Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass fishing is typically catch and release. You can learn more about local regulations online through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. 

St. Joseph Fishing Seasons

If you’re eager to wet your line at the start of the year, test the waters of St Joe River for Walleye and Steelhead.

You probably won’t be out on Lake Michigan anytime soon, but you can still try your luck fishing the river. The average temperature at this time of year is 28°F, so be sure to bundle up!

It’s getting busier here in the river, with Brown Trout entering the scene sometime in March. Walleye and Steelhead are still biting, and soon you’ll be able to head out on the lake.

Praise be, spring is here! Fish Lake Michigan for Salmon (Chinook and Coho), Steelhead, and Brown Trout. The average temperature is up to 48°F.

Come May, the lake will be teeming with Salmon, Brown Trout, and now Lake Trout too. You won’t find Steelhead in the river at this time, but you can still fish for Walleye and Crappie. 

Big Chinook Salmon and deep water Steelhead are popular in the lake at this time. Keep an eye out for Skamania, too! They’ll be making their way from Lake Michigan into the rivers.

By July, you’ll be able to fish for almost anything in the lake, including King and Coho Salmon, Trout, Skamania, and Perch. In the river you’ll catch Walleye, Skamania, Catfish, and Bass.

August is one of the hottest months of the year, with an average temperature of 70°F. The fishing is still hot, too, with your choice of Skamania, Salmon, Lake Trout, and Perch in Lake Michigan.

The start of fall is your last chance to get out on the lake for what’s left of the Chinook and Coho Salmon. These fish are now heading toward the rivers, where you’ll also find Skamania and Brown Trout. 

If you missed your chance to get out on the lake, fear not—just head to St Joe River for Salmon, Trout, Steelhead, Skamania, or Walleye.

The weather is growing colder, with an average temperature of 40°F. But don’t let that stop you! There’s still great fishing to be had in the river for Walleye, Steelhead, Skamania, and Brown Trout.

Even in the dead of winter, St Joe river lives up to its reputation. Add a little fishing to your holiday plans and come catch Steelhead, Walleye, or Brown Trout. 

St. Joseph Fishing Calendar

What People Are Saying About St. Joseph

"Full Day Lake Trout and King Salmon"

Jim Mcewen fished with Fish Napper Charters, LLC on August 9, 2017

Yes I would recommend St Joseph area. We were very impressed with this location, good fishing with beautiful surrounding area to spend some time.

"Fish Stalker"

Apollo Casco fished with Fish Stalker Charters on July 29, 2017

Check the weather before booking, and check if the water is going to be calm or wavy, call the captain for this info.

"Half day fishing trip"

Mark Cobb fished with Fish Stalker Charters on June 27, 2017

Book with fish stalker charters talk to the captain and follow his advice he knows what he is doing.
St. Joseph
4.2
Based on 6578 reviews by FishingBooker anglers

Top Targeted Species in St. Joseph

Rainbow Trout (Steelhead)

Lake Trout

Walleye

Perch (Yellow)