Great Lakes provide awesome action for walleye, salmon and steelhead. Lots of fish and in some cases the biggest fish of the year are caught in November!

It’s not too late to enjoy amazing trolling action on the Great Lakes. Weeks and even months after most anglers “dry dock” their boats the waters of the Great Lakes provide awesome action for walleye, salmon and steelhead. Lots of fish and in some cases the biggest fish of the year are caught in November! The only prerequisite is to abandon tradition and go fishing in the fall.

Lake Erie

The water of the Central Basin near the town of Huron, Ohio is hands down the place to be if big walleye trip your trigger. For more than two decades I’ve made an annual trip to Huron Ohio, fishing out of Cranberry Creek Marina for the purpose of trolling crankbaits and targeting monster walleye.

This fall bite is very straight forward. A select group of lures get the job done and topping that list is the locally famous Reef Runner 800 series. Other excellent crankbaits for fall walleye trolling include the Rapala TailDancer TDD11, Storm 1/2 ounce Deep ThunderStick and the Bomber 26A.

At Huron Ohio the action is for suspended walleye that are typically found 10-25 feet below the surface over 35-40 feet of water. Because in November the water temperatures are cool to downright cold, slow trolling presentations are a must. A good average trolling speed is 1.5 mph.

To get the maximum benefit from trolling crankbaits in open water, I recommend using the OR12 Side Planer Board by Off Shore Tackle. This, the most popular in-line board on the market is the board of choice among countless walleye enthusiasts. Ohio law allows two lines per person on Lake Erie, so plan accordingly to cover the most water and also to experiment with lure color and running depth.


The nearly forgotten port of Oscoda on Lake Huron is a real sleeper these days for late season salmon, steelhead and bonus walleye. The salmon are going to be smaller immature fish averaging five to eight pounds in size. Steelhead can run as large as 12 pounds and the average walleye comes in at about three to four pounds.

What’s exceptional is that it is common to catch all three species at the same time and on the same lures! Medium sized trolling spoons like the Wolverine Mini Streak are deadly right up until ice locks in the harbors.

The best approach is to mix up lures using downriggers and diving planers to target the deeper depths and Jet Divers or Mini-Disks to target fish closer to the surface. Use in-line boards in combination with the Jets or disks to gain more lure coverage. Another option is to use 3-5 colors of lead core line to get spoons down and planer boards to get this presentation out away from the boat.

Gold Coast

The ports of Ludington, Manistee and Frankfort are red hot during October and November. Amazingly only a handful of anglers target the late season king and coho salmon and the bonus steelhead found along this stretch of coastline.

Like Oscoda, the kings and coho tend to be immature fish in the two or three year old class. What these fish lack in size, they make up for in numbers. Steelhead on the other hand range from eight to 12 pounds with the occasional fish up to 15 pounds being landed.

Even better the action is close to shore along the 30-50 foot contour meaning that even small boat anglers can get in on the action. Downriggers, diving planers and lead core lines are the most popular ways anglers fish is with standard sized spoons, Silver Horde plugs, Worden’s Mag Lips and Flatfish body baits.

Slower trolling speeds in or around 2.0 mph tend to produce the best action. Some bonus post-spawn brown and lake trout are also caught at this time of year.

Saginaw Bay

The waters of Saginaw Bay in June are so crowded long lines occur at all the popular access sites. By November the only trailers in the parking lot belong to the occasional duck hunter!

Amazingly the fall walleye fishery in Saginaw Bay has never caught on with the masses who obviously fish these waters often in June, July and August. The fishing is similar to that found on Lake Erie except the average size of the fish taken is smaller. Crankbaits are the lure of choice and most anglers favor diving minnow baits including the Reef Runner 800 series and the Deep Little Ripper, Rapala Deep Husky Jerk, Storm Deep Jr. ThunderStick and the Yo-Zuri Deep Crystal Minnow.

Board trolling is the most logical way to fish lots of crankbaits while covering the maximum amount of water. The best fishing tends to take place in 10-22 feet of water along the west shore near Linwood Beach Marina and north to Eagle Bay Marina at Standish.

Trolling speeds need to be on the slow size ranging from 1.5 to about 2.0 mph for best results.

Summing It Up

The Great Lakes ports of Ludington, Manistee, Frankfort, Oscoda, Bay City and Huron Ohio produce great fishing opportunities deep into the fall. Those who venture out can expect world class fishing opportunities.

What anglers won’t be expecting are the almost empty parking lots at public access sites!

Weather is always an issue in November, so play it safe and stay off the water when the wind blows. Those bluebird days with light to moderate winds are prime time for getting in a last fishing trip or two before the year comes to a close.

If You Go

Some great contacts for fall fishing include…,, Riley’s Tackle in Manistee at 231-723-3354 and Wellman’s Party and Bait in Oscoda at 989-739-2869.