If ever there was an ideal time to go fishing in The Bend, fall might be it.
Cooler temperatures, spawning runs for prominent species and beautiful outdoor settings converge to make autumn a wonderful season to head out on the St. Joseph River, its tributaries and inland lakes.
“It’s just all-around good fishing,” says Ben McDonald, owner of On Point Guide Service. “It’s literally good for everything right now.”
Are you ready to explore everything The Bend has to offer fishing enthusiasts in the fall? Here's what you need to know.
Salmon Run in the St. Joseph River
Headliners during fall include King and Coho salmon. Entering the St. Joseph River from Lake Michigan, their spawning run takes them upriver as far as the Twin Branch Dam in Mishawaka. They’re often caught in South Bend and Mishawaka’s Central Park.
Salmon will also work their way into tributaries like the Dowagiac River, which connects to the St. Joseph just north of Niles, Mich., about 20 minutes from downtown South Bend.
King salmon can run anywhere from 10 to 30 pounds. Their size, the limited-time spawning run — from about mid-September through October — and their feistiness on the hook tend to make salmon a big attraction for visitors and locals alike.
“They fight like you wouldn’t believe,” McDonald says. “It’s like hauling in a truck.”
More Fishing and Local Favorites on the St. Joseph River
Other fish species are also moving during fall.
Steelhead make their way into the river in late fall and stay all winter. The main push to catch them is in the spring during the spawning season. Walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill and catfish are among the other fish bountiful in the river.
Anglers are often spotted along the river bank fishing South Bend hotspots like Leeper Park in search of steelhead and other varieties.
Indiana DNR regularly stocks rainbow trout in Pinhook Lagoon, adjacent to the river at Pinhook Park in South Bend, in the spring and fall. Channel catfish are also stocked there.
Louie Stout, a longtime outdoors writer in the area and member of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, considers the St. Joseph River the “crown jewel” of fishing in the area. In part, it's because the river system appeals to just about anyone.
“There’s so much diversity there when it comes to fishing,” Stout says.
Inland Lake Fishing Near South Bend
There are also more places to fish than just the river.
Worster Lake at Potato Creek State Park (pictured below) might be one of the best places to fish in Northern Indiana for largemouth bass, Stout says. Other species in the lake include hybrid striped bass (wipers), rainbow trout, channel and bullhead catfish, bluegill and crappie, among others.
Stout also lists Pleasant Lake and Riddles Lake, both in Lakeville, as quality spots for bluegill and crappie. These lakes are connected via a channel. There is public access on Pleasant Lake.
“The waters have a lot of fish and good variety,” Stout says. “I think (that) would be the biggest thing."
Fishing Licenses & Resources
Fishing around The Bend requires proper licensing before you head out. Get the know-before-you-go details at our fishing information hub, including where to get licenses in either Indiana or Michigan. You can also find a list of the top boat launches and other resources.