Washington Island is located in the northeast corner of Wisconsin on Lake Michigan. The island can be accessed by plane, boat or ferry and offers anglers sport fishing opportunities for salmon, steelhead, bass, walleye, trout and other popular game fish. The sandy beaches and rocky points on the island attract many visitors each year, and sport fishing charters and boat rentals are available for anglers. The island has lodging and accommodations for fisherman and visitors, but reservations should be made well in advance because of the limited space and popularity of the destination.
The Lake Michigan waters that surround Washington Island are home to coho, Chinook and Atlantic salmon. The Chinook salmon are the most popular and are considered the hardest fighting, but the Atlantic salmon are treasured as a rare catch, and the fish typically are large. The Coho also are strong fighters, but the average size is smaller than the Chinook and Atlantic salmon. Chinook more than 10 pounds are common, and fish in the 20- to 40-pound range are landed each year. The Wisconsin state record Chinook was landed in Door County in 1994 and weighed more than 44 pounds. All of the salmon have a high culinary value, and anglers who keep salmon should consider cooking some immediately for the fresh taste.
Seasons and Regulations
All salmon fisherman in Door County are required to carry a current fishing license. In addition to the license, salmon fishermen must purchase a Great Lakes Trout and Salmon Stamp. The salmon season on the Lake Michigan waters surrounding Washington Island is open year-round, but anglers will find the summer months the most productive. Salmon fishing really begins to be productive in July and will continue through October. The shoreline of the lake will freeze in the winter, and ice fishing is productive for perch and walleye but not salmon. July and August are especially productive as the salmon feed heavily to gain energy for the annual spawning runs in Wisconsin rivers and streams. The limit for salmon is five fish, but the regulations should be checked regularly for updates and changes.
Salmon fishing in Lake Michigan is most effective from a boat. The shoreline of Washington Island immediately drops into deep water where anglers will find salmon holding in June, July and August. Trolling through the deep water with a downrigger and flashers behind a pink, red or black spoon is productive. By September, the Salmon will be moving toward the inlet areas before the spawning run. The canal area around Sturgeon Bay is productive by casting spoons and plugs. Salmon anglers might also catch brown trout and pike when searching for the large Chinooks in the canal area. In October, the salmon fishing around Washington Island begins to slow as the fish move into the mainland rivers. By the end of October Washington Island is better for targeting pike, walleye and perch.
Numerous fishing charters operate out of Washington Island. Hiring a charter boat is recommended if you do not have a boat or heavy duty trolling tackle. The charter captains can teach beginning salmon fishermen the proper techniques and offer advice that will be valuable on future fishing trips.