Great Lakes Grand Slam

July is prime time for scoring the piscatorial equivalent of a grand slam home run: catching five species -- lake trout, chinooks, cohos, browns and steelhead -- on the same day.

Rick Morley, Rich Shannon and Matt Gnatkowski with three-fifths of a Great Lakes grand slam.
Photo by Mike Gnatkowski.

Without question, one of the most exciting plays in baseball is the grand slam home run. The bases are loaded, there's no room for more runners, the game is on the line, and the pressure is on. When the batter connects and the ball sails over the fence, the crowd goes nuts and it's complete euphoria.

The Great Lakes version of the grand slam isn't met with as much fanfare. There are fewer spectators in attendance, but it's no less exciting for the participants. Like baseball, it takes a certain amount of skill to hit a Great Lakes grand slam and much more luck.

The Lake Michigan version of the slam consists of catching five species of salmonids -- brown trout, steelhead, coho salmon, chinook salmon and lake trout in a single outing.

One of the most exciting things about fishing in the Great Lakes is you never know exactly what you're going to catch. Certain trolling tactics, baits and techniques may target one species against another, but you really never know what is waiting at the end of the line. That's what makes it fun. But there are certain times of year and certain ports where your chances of pulling a slam increase.

Here are some locations, tactics and techniques to enhance your odds of catching a Lake Michigan grand slam.

"The catch at Ludington has been about 90 percent chinook salmon the last few years," veteran charter skipper Bill Warner said. "We still get a variety of fish though at certain times of the year. It's not uncommon to catch three species. Quite often, we'll catch kings, steelhead and lake trout in the same trip. To get the other two species though, you have to be a little lucky."

Warner said two of the best times to catch a grand slam at Ludington is in late spring, from late May through early June, and then again in early to mid-July.

"The spring kings usually show up around the middle of May just as the water is starting to warm up," Warner said. "The key is to find the warmest water you can. That's where you're going to find the baitfish that are around and the trout and salmon won't be far." (Continued)

Lake trout are often mixed with kings and an occasional steelhead will be found patrolling the surface in the 100-foot depths. Brown trout can still be caught in the shallows and occasionally in deeper water. The odd coho salmon can be found in late May and June on its northward migration.

Warner said spoons typically catch the widest variety of species.

"Spoons seem to appeal to just about everything," Warner said. "I think spoons do a better job of imitating the baitfish that the salmonids are feeding on. When everything is eating alewives, you can't miss by using spoons."

Warner said his favorite brands at Ludington are locally made Dreamweavers, Yeck's and Pro Kings. There are a variety of colors, but they all usually have a strip of glow tape on them.

July presents a good chance of catching a smorgasbord of trout and salmon at Ludington.

"The water has warmed up then and the fish's metabolism is in high gear," Warner said. "There are usually more cohos around then, the chinooks are schooling and lake trout are available. Probably your best bet to catch a variety of species is to head deep out to 300 to 500 feet of water. You're likely to catch just about anything there."

Day in and day out, the toughest component of the grand slam to box is the elusive brown trout. "I don't know how many times last year we had four species, but we just couldn't seem to catch a brown."

To try your hand at catching a Ludington grand slam, contact Warner at (810) 730-3818, or e-mail him at For information on lodging and other amenities at Ludington, contact the Ludington Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 542-4600.

"Your chances for getting a grand slam at Grand Haven is generally best in July," charter captain Willis Kerridge claimed. Kerridge admitted that accomplishing such a feat is rare.

"The hardest thing to catch in Grand Haven, like most places, is a brown trout. If you catch a brown lately, it definitely is an accident." Kerridge said that cohos show up at the port in July, so catching one of those is not too difficult. Kings, lake trout and steelhead are a given.

July usually finds the best fishing offshore at Grand Haven. That may mean fishing as far as 20 miles from port. And the fish can be found anywhere from top to bottom.

"Generally, when you're fishing offshore, it means covering a lot of water and a wide range of water from the surface down to 100 or 120 feet," Kerridge said. "Spoons are best for catching a variety, especially when you fish them on lead core."

Kerridge said he runs multiple rigs featuring three to five colors of lead core because, regardless of the water temperature, there seems to be fish cruising the 15- to 25-foot depths that the shorter lead cores cover. Kerridge favors spoons like the Dreamweaver Dolphins for catching multiple species, plus orange spoons.

"Orange is good for a variety of species," he said. "Steelhead and cohos especially like orange."

Kerridge said one of his hottest catchall baits last year was a super-slim Dreamweaver in gold and orange. He said if he needed a lake trout to complete the slam, he would stick a dodger or flasher down deep. The same combination is good for kings too.

For more information about Grand Haven's version of the slam, contact Kerridge at (616) 292-4113 or e-mail at For details on lodging and other amenities, call the Grand Haven-Spring Lake Visitors Bureau at (800) 303-4092, or

"July has got to be the best time to catch a variety," claimed Chuck Huenink, who fishes on his 10-meter Trojan Contender out of the port of Sheboygan. "Cohos are still around then. Probably a sweet spot during the month would be the second week."

Huenink said the mid-July period is a smorgasbor

d of salmonids all within easy reach of the port.

"Brownies would be the hardest to find in July." Huenink said. "Browns tend to frequent the shallow structure that is abundant near the port. Another spot to find a brown would be in what we call "The Gap" or between the pierheads or near the power plant."

Lake trout are a given during the summer months.

"You can always find lake trout here," Huenink said. "You'll find them suspended over deep water and on bottom in 90 feet of water. Quite often, you find them near the two wrecks we have here."

Rotators or flashers with an e-chip are the ticket for those targeting lake trout, Huenink said, and the blades are good for kings too. Both can be caught on flasher/fly combos fished on braided wire.

"Steelies like orange, cohos too," he said. "Bright green and silver can be a good color combination for rainbows and cohos too. It's pretty hard to beat a small, red dodger with a P-Nut fly in blue or green in the spring."

Which direction you head out of Sheboygan is a tossup. "It depends on the time of year," Huenink said. "Usually, we'll head south early in the season and north later."

To try your hand at a Wisconsin grand slam, contact Huenink at (920) 980-7807.

"We catch a real variety of fish anytime after about the first of May," said Jason Woda, who charters his 33-foot Wellcraft Trophy Hunter from the port of Milwaukee. "Probably the peak time though for a variety is toward the end of June. There are a bunch of cohos still around then. Kings show up around mid-June and lake trout, browns and steelhead are all available."

Woda said a size 00 red dodger with a P-nut fly is irresistible to cohos and will catch an occasional steelhead mixed in with the salmon. Browns from this port prefer a little different presentation.

"They seem to prefer spoons," Woda said. "Stuff like Dreamweaver's Super Slim in mixed vegetable, green dolphin and carmel dolphin are good."

To book a trip with Woda, contact him at (414) 384-8096 or online at For information on lodging and amenities in the Milwaukee area, contact the Greater Milwaukee Convention & Visitors Bureau by calling (800) 554-1448.

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