20 Fishing Charters
Top Lake Superior Destinations
Top Fishing Charters in Lake Superior
Fishing in Lake Superior
Lake Superior lives up to its name in more ways than one. This is the largest freshwater lake on the planet, and it is the deepest, coldest, and purest of all the Great Lakes. Needless to say, its waters produce a quality of fishing that some might say is, well, superior. The key to fishing here is finding the bite: most of the lake appears empty, but once you find the fish, there will be loads of them.
Lake Superior fishing charters run out of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Ontario. For hardy anglers in all these places, the cold, deep waters of the lake offer year-round angling opportunity. With a little help from a local guide, you can make the most of this fishery no matter the season.
A Year on Lake Superior
Ice-off marks the start of Lake Superior’s open water fishing season, usually in mid-to-late April. By May, you can expect most charter boats around the lake to be up and running just in time for Chinook (King) and Coho Salmon fishing.
Depending on where you fish, you’ll also find good numbers of Walleye, Muskellunge, and Northern Pike at this time of year. In Wisconsin, roughly 100,000 Walleye make their way to the St. Louis River to spawn in spring. Follow them and catch some Yellow Perch and Pike while you’re at it!
Early Summer marks the height of Lake Superior Salmon fishing. You can expect good numbers of King and Coho Salmon through June, depending on where you fish. Anglers in Minnesota don’t see as much Salmon as others, but the local Trout fishing makes up for it. You’ll find high numbers of Lake and Brown Trout throughout the lake from July through fall.
Anglers in Wisconsin have access to a diverse little fishery in Chequamegon Bay. As the weather grows warmer, so does the water in this sheltered bay. Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, and Perch settle in for the summer and make for some great fighting action. Smallmouth here average 14-18 inches, with some reaching 20 inches. It’s common to catch 30 of these fish per day in summer months.
September is your last chance to experience the best of Lake Superior’s Salmon season. At this time of year, the key is knowing where to look. In Wisconsin, King and Chinook tend to concentrate off the mouths of local rivers like the Brule, Sioux, and Onion Rivers.
In Ontario, many anglers target Salmon in Goulais, Batchawana, and Michipicoten Bays. Michipicoten Bay is the best place to catch fall Chinook on this side of the lake, where you can find fish weighing up to 30 lbs. Farther west, Salmon and Lake Trout linger offshore near reefs in Marathon, Terrace Bay, Rossport, and Thunder Bay.
By the end of September, many charter boats shut down for the season. In some locations like Chequamegon Bay, you can still catch Salmon and Trout well into November.
Come December, much of the lake is covered in thick ice. But that’s not enough to scare away local anglers! Many continue fishing Lake Superior all through winter, using an entirely different approach: ice fishing.
Determined anglers pack ice augers, huts, heaters, and the rest of their gear onto vehicles and haul them off to the fishing grounds. Main target species in winter include Splake, Walleye, Pike, and Perch. In some places, anglers also catch Steelhead, Trout, Whitefish, and even the odd Salmon while ice fishing. In Wisconsin, locals go “bobbing” (ice fishing) for Trout in late January.
Notable ice fishing destinations include Duluth, MN, Chequamegon Bay, WI, and the Nipigon-Red Rock Area in Northwest Ontario.
Lake Superior Fishing Styles
Trolling is the method of choice for many anglers on Lake Superior. Trolling with downriggers is the best way to target Salmon and Trout, often with a spread of spoons, crankbaits, or treble-rigged Smelt with flashers.
Some anglers recommend stickbaits for Lake trout, trolled at 1 to 1.2 mph. Brightly colored, large baits are especially effective. When targeting this fish on shallow reefs, try using a heavy jig.
You can also catch a variety of species in Lake Superior by casting from shore, either with spoons or plugs. Flies and spawn sacks work well when fishing for Steelhead in the rivers running into the lake.
Lake Superior ice fishing is a major attraction for those who don’t shy away from the cold. Techniques, bait selection, and fishing depth can all vary depending on where you drop your line. It’s common to fish water 20-50 feet deep when targeting Splake, whereas Lake Trout are usually found in 70-170 feet of water in late January. In particularly rich fishing grounds like Chequamegon Bay, you can catch up to 10 different species while fishing from the same hole.
Conditions on the ice can be treacherous, so fishing with a local guide is recommended.
Need to Know
Lake Superior fishing charters and guides usually supply tackle, bait, and everything else you need for a successful day on the water. However, you must bring your own fishing license. Be sure to buy a license that is valid for whichever state you are fishing in. Some states also require additional tags and permits.
In Wisconsin and Minnesota, anglers age 16 and older must have a state fishing license. Anyone age 18 and above fishing in MN also needs a Trout stamp (unless fishing with a one day license).
In Michigan, a state license is required for anglers age 17 and older.
Ontario requires anglers age 18 and older to carry an ON fishing license as well as an Outdoors Card, unless fishing with a one day license.
Not all species are legal to fish for year-round. Closures vary by state and can change from year to year, so be sure to read more about local regulations before your trip.
Lake Superior Fishing Seasons
At the start of the year, most of the angling on Lake Superior involves ice fishing for Splake and Brown Trout. Toward the end of the month, anglers in WI start “bobbing” for Lakers.
You’ll find anglers bobbing for Lake Trout near the Apostle Islands and other islands on Lake Superior. Fishing for Herring and Whitefish can also be productive at this time of year.
The ice is starting to melt, and anglers fishing in shallow water can target Salmon, Trout, Herring, and Whitefish. Perch and Walleye fishing are heating up off the coast of WI.
In most years, the ice will be gone by the end of April. This signals the start of the season for many charter boats in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Ontario.
In May you can expect lots of trolling for Chinook and Coho Salmon. Anglers in WI can enjoy excellent shore fishing for Walleye, Pike, and Bass.
Lake Superior’s Salmon season continues, but Trout are still swimming too deep to be caught in most places. For more variety, cast your line in Chequamegon Bay for Bass, Perch, and much more.
Trout are moving closer to the lake’s surface to feed, which means you can expect to catch much more of these fish in July. Fishing for Pike and Walleye is still excellent.
In August, downriggers are essential when trolling for Trout and Salmon in the deep waters of Lake Superior. Some anglers are trolling along the south shore for Walleye, as well.
Water temperatures are starting to cool, which sends many Salmon and Trout to the river mouths. Many Lake Superior charter boats will shut down at the end of the month.
Steelhead fishing in the rivers on Lake Superior’s northern shore starts heating up in October. Ask a local guide to take you through some of ON’s most secluded shoreline and make the most of it!
In Wisconsin, some anglers are jigging for Splake before the ice sets in. Salmon are scarce, but you can have success fishing for most species if you know where to look.
It’s the start of ice fishing season on Lake Superior. Anglers are setting up camp and dropping lines below the ice to catch Brown Trout, Perch, Walleye, and more.