Not ready to break out the augur just yet? Now's the time to cash in on shore fishing opportunities on the Great Lakes.
by Craig Ritchie
December can be a tough month to predict. Sometimes the weather is cold and snowy, other times fall holds on and those cool November rains persist almost until Christmas. While that variable outlook can impact early ice fishing, it has no bearing on fishing the open waters of the Great Lakes, and that's probably why I spend at least some time in December fishing the big water - not from a boat, but right off the beach.
There are a few things I really like about December beach fishing. First, it's easy. There's no boat to tow, no icy launch ramps to manage, and no hassles of any kind. All you need are some long johns and a pair of waders, a rod you can cast long distances with, and a pocket-sized box of lures. You wade out as deep as you feel comfortable and fan cast, before taking a few steps along the beach and repeating, again and again. Where simplicity goes, it doesn't get any better than this.
I also like the solitude. In most spots you're unlikely to see anyone else, so there's no bumping elbows, no people casting over your line, no competition for the best spots. It's quiet, and that's a big part of the appeal.
What's more, I like the fact this time of year brings big fish in close to shore, within easy casting distance. Most of the fish you catch will be rainbow and brown trout wandering up and down along the coast, but you're also likely to find the odd salmon, occasional walleye, and even the odd pike. Icy water brings lake trout right up onto the beach, rather than miles offshore like usual. Obviously seasons vary by area, but you're fishing the Great Lakes so there's no telling what the next bite could bring.
Where To Fish
While it's true that you'll find at least some fish on just about any Great Lakes beach at this time of year, some spots will attract more fish than others. Fishing near the mouths of tributary rivers is always a good idea, especially if the nearby streams are stocked with trout and salmon. Plenty of fish will wander the shorelines instead of heading upriver, so you're almost sure to find some action. Watch prevailing winds and try to fish on the downwind side of the river mouth.
Power generating plants are also prime spots to focus on when fishing off the beach. Power plants cool their turbines by pumping in lake water, which is then pumped back out several degrees warmer. That creates a warm water plume in the lake, which attracts all sorts of fish, from trout to walleye to carp and sheepshead. Warmer water down wind of the power plant will normally attract the most fish, so get as close to the facility as security will allow and get ready for plenty of action.
I like to stay as mobile as possible on the beach, so I limit my lure selection toa few proven favorites. Heavy spoons like the Acme Little Cleo, Blue Fox Pixee or Luhr Jensen Krocodile are ideal being easy to cast and compact to carry. Inline spinners like the Mepps or Blue Fox don't cast as far, but their thumping vibration can be just the ticket when fish need a little more enticement. A handful of hair jigs always find a spot into my kit, and I usually include a couple of small suspending minnowbaits like the Rapala Husky Jerk. Add a pair of needle nose pliers for unhooking fish and that's all you'll ever need.
Regardless of what the weather does, I always make a point of spending a couple of days casting off the beach at this time of year. It's easy, it's simple, there's no waiting or safe ice or for runoff to subside, there's no overcrowding and most importantly it's just plain fun. Talk about a perfect recipe for getting into the holidays.
About the author:
Over a near 40-year career as a full-time outdoor writer, Craig Ritchie has fished all over the globe for a variety of freshwater and saltwater species. The author of The Complete Guide To Getting Started In Fishing, he has written thousands of articles for magazines, websites and newspapers worldwide, appeared as a guest on several television fishing programs and won numerous awards for his writing and photography. He lives in the Great Lakes region where great fishing is as close as his own back yard.
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