This is the 10th year Captain Todd Brill, owner of Gold Coast Fishing Co. located at Eagle Pointe Harbor Marina in St. Joseph, has made fishing and boating fun for all ages. From reeling in king salmon to relaxing on a sunset cruise, Captain Todd shares his tips:
Gold Coast Fishing Co. offers charter fishing trips year-round while some other area captains are only seasonal. Call, email or book online at least two weeks in advance. For summer trips, it’s best to make reservations now. Weekend slots fill faster than weekdays. With Gold Coast you can choose between 5- or 7- hour trips ranging from $500 to $700 on Lake Michigan and $250 to $400 on the St. Joseph River. You will need to make a deposit; most captains take major credit cards.
Who to invite
The U.S. Coast Guard limits each boat to six passengers. Gold Coast accepts toddlers to adults. If you have a larger group (up to 25) in town for a wedding or special event, contact me and I can usually work with other area captains to accommodate everyone.
What the charter fishing company supplies
One of the best reasons for using a charter fishing company is that you get all the thrills and adventure without having to invest in a boat and a lot of equipment. It’s a good way to “test the waters” before buying your own equipment. Our area captains know the waters, where the fish are biting and the state fishing regulations.
When you fish with Gold Coast you get a U.S. licensed captain, a state, DNR-inspected and certified boat, electronics, fishing gear, safety gear and a cooler on the boat with ice for your catch. I also will clean and bag your fish (except for perch) and can help you find a professional car service to transport you to and from the dock.
What to bring
- Everyone over 17 years old will need a valid one-day or annual Michigan ALL-SPECIES fishing license. Licenses can be purchased online or at area bait and tackle shops.
- Dress in layers for the weather. When you are on the open water it can be much cooler. It may be 80 degrees on the Lake Michigan beach and 40 degrees out on the Big Lake.
- Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, food and drinks (a cooler if needed), a camera or video camera and a cooler with ice to bring your catch home.
Catch and Cook Restaurants
Want a local chef to prepare your catch? Check with the captain for restaurants that participate in the area.
Avoid sea or motion sickness
If you are susceptible to motion sickness, don’t wait to get on the boat to take your over-the-counter motion sickness medication. Take it the night before and then again in the morning.
Area fishing tournaments
- May 11 & 12, Michigan Steelheaders Schu’s Summer Challenge, professional and amateur divisions, St. Joseph
- May 17-19, South Haven Steelheaders Pro Am, South Haven
- May 25, June 29, Aug. 24, Trifecta Challenge, Church Tackle and Tackle Haven, Benton Harbor
- Early December (TBD), Michigan Steelheaders Winter Challenge, open to the general public, St. Joseph River
Sunset and river cruises
You don’t have to fish to enjoy the water. At Gold Coast, I also offer river trips that let you relax and see the beauty of the St. Joseph River all year-round. I also offer seasonal sunset cruises on Lake Michigan. They are breathtaking.
“I have had the opportunity to fish all over the country and still feel that Southwest Michigan has one of the greatest fisheries around!” says Captain Brill. From reeling in feisty bluegill to mighty king salmon you will find thrills on the water all year-round. Here are some of the best times to fish for specific species:
- Year-Round: panfish – inland lakes
- October-March: king salmon, coho salmon and lake trout – the St. Joseph River, Galien River, Black River and Dowagiac River
- November-March: steelhead and brown trout – area rivers and streams
- April: coho salmon – Lake Michigan
- April-May: brown and lake trout– area rivers
- May: king salmon– Lake Michigan
- May-September: small-mouth bass, walleye and catfish – area rivers
- June: steelhead and lake trout– Lake Michigan
- July: yellow perch – Lake Michigan
Free Fishing Weekends
June 8 & 9, 2019 and Feb. 15 & 16, 2020
Whether you are an avid angler or eager to try this premiere Michigan outdoor activity, you won’t need a fishing license on these two weekends. Residents and out-of-state visitors can enjoy reeling in all-species of fish on Lake Michigan and Southwest Michigan’s inland lakes and waterways. All fishing regulations, however, still apply.
From Lake Michigan harbors or inland lake and river boat ramps to walking out on public piers or wading into streams and creeks, it is easy accessing great fishing grounds in Southwest Michigan. Here are some popular locations:
Southwest Michigan Public Harbors
- New Buffalo Marina
- St. Joseph Marina Basin
- South Haven Municipal Marina
Southwest Michigan Boat Ramps
- DNR St. Joseph River Ramp, 700-1098 Riverview Dr., Benton Harbor
- Benton River Township Park, 601 Zollar Dr., Benton Harbor
- Carronde Park, 2600 Riverbend Dr., Benton Harbor
- Paw Paw River, 601 Graham Ave., Benton Harbor
- DNR Jasper Dairy Road, 2599-2251 Jasper Dairy Rd., Berrien Springs
- Shamrock Park, 9385 Old 31, Berrien Springs
- Buchanan River Access, 1206 Red Bud Trail, Buchanan
- Mead Road Launch, Buchanan
- Miami Marina Boat Launch, 4351 E River Rd., Buchanan
- Paw Paw Lake - East and West, Coloma
- Bond Street Boat Launch, French Paper Mill Dam, Niles
- Marmont Street Launch, Niles
- City Boat Launch, 282 Anchor Court, Marina Island, St. Joseph
- Riverview Park, 2927 Niles Rd., St Joseph
- Public Access Sites
- DNR Dowagiac River, M-139
Van Buren County
- Clear Lake
- Eagle Lake
- Black River Park, E. Wells St., South Haven
- South Haven Boat Launch, 298 Black River St., South Haven