HOME
LAKES
REPORTS
FORUMS
TRAVEL
DEALS
SEARCH
MORE

It's A Shore Thing

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.

Shore fishing provides the chance to catch deep water lake trout without need of a boat.
Shore fishing provides the chance to catch deep water lake trout without need of a boat.
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 use lake water to cool the machinery, pumping it back out much warmer than the rest of the lake. James Mouryas of Toronto knows fish always concentrate in the plant's warm water plume.
Power generating plants use lake water to cool the machinery, pumping it back out much warmer than the rest of the lake. James Mouryas of Toronto knows fish always concentrate in the plant's warm water plume.
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.

Gearing Up

My standard beach outfit is a 8'6" or 9', medium action spinning rod with a moderately fast tip. With a 4000 Series spinning reel and basic 8-pound mono, I can cast spoons like a ¾ ounce Little Cleo or Pixie an awfully long way. The longer rod helps keep the line up off the waves, yet the whole outfit is light enough to fish with comfortably on even the coldest days.
A basic lure kit for beach fishing would include a selection of (from top, left to right) Husky Jerks, Blue Fox Vibrax and Mepps spinners, Little Cleo and Pixee spoons, and simple hair jigs.
A basic lure kit for beach fishing would include a selection of (from top, left to right) Rapala Husky Jerk, Blue Fox Vibrax and Mepps spinners, Acme Little Cleo and Blue Fox Pixee spoons, and simple hair jigs.
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.
Most of the fish you'll catch off Great Lakes beaches at this time of year will be rainbow trout, but any species that swims in the Great Lakes is possible.
Most of the fish you'll catch off Great Lakes beaches at this time of year will be rainbow trout, but any species that swims in the Great Lakes is possible.
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.

Gear Used

Author Craig Ritchie
Craig Ritchie
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.

More Great Reads:


HUMMINBIRD - APEX Series Sonar
APEX Series Sonar
Welcome to the top. The APEX™ Series provides the clearest sonar imaging on the sharpest display the water has ever seen on any GPS chartplotter. PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: HUMMINBIRD - APEX Series Sonar Advertisement

ST. CROIX RODS - SEVIIN GX Spinning Reel
SEVIIN GX Spinning Reel
The GX Series is more than just a pretty face. Sure, it's sleek style is going to standout on your boat deck, but SEVIIN'S built-from-scratch, angler-centric design gives you a reel built to go toe-to-toe with whatever species you target. PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: ST. CROIX RODS - SEVIIN GX Spinning Reel

MINN KOTA - UPGRADED Ulterra and Terrova
UPGRADED Ulterra and Terrova
The Ulterra® and Terrova® are newly upgraded to keep you at the top of your game and always in the thick of it. More maneuvers. More capabilities. PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: MINN KOTA - UPGRADED Ulterra and Terrova Advertisement

Copyright © 2001-2024 Lake-Link Inc. All rights reserved.
No portion of this website can be used or distributed without prior written consent of Lake-Link, Inc.
This website may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission.
Lake-Link Home
fish seduced by
MENU
MORE TO EXPLORE