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Port Milwaukee Temporarily Expands Public Access Hours for Residents to Enjoy Local Smelting Tradition

MILWAUKEE – Port Milwaukee is temporarily expanding public access hours for the area under the Hoan Bridge to accommodate requests from residents who are wishing to participate in this year’s traditional smelting season.

Effective March 15 through April 15, 2023, the gates under the Hoan Bridge on Jones Island will remain open for public access throughout the evening and into the early morning.  However, due to upcoming construction work beginning under the Hoan Bridge later this year, 2023 will be the last smelting season for the foreseeable future where the area under the Hoan Bridge will be accessible to the public.

Alternative publicly-accessible fishing sites are available at the Port, including near the Lake Express Ferry Terminal and the Russell Avenue Fishing Pier near the U.S. Coast Guard Station. Residents and individuals planning to fish on and/or near Jones Island are reminded about existing public access guidance, as well as Port Milwaukee’s Public Access Map, available HERE.

“Port Milwaukee remains committed to maintaining a high degree of safety, vigilance and compliance with security requirements for its commercial operations, while also providing residents with as much public access to the waterfront as possible under local, state, and federal law,” said Jackie Q. Carter, Director of Port Milwaukee. “We hope that members of the public can safely enjoy this year’s smelt run.”

“I appreciate the flexibility demonstrated by Port staff and the Board of Harbor Commissioners in accommodating the 2023 smelt run, while keeping residents and families safe during the annual fishing season,” said Milwaukee Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic. “Smelting is a south side fishing tradition that has long been part of the fabric of Bay View and other near South Side neighborhoods. I am excited that folks who wish to participate in this year’s smelt run may do so.”

Port Milwaukee security will monitor the area under the Hoan Bridge to ensure all safety and security measures are followed by members of the public. Members of the public are also reminded that all tents, waste, and other fishing-related equipment must be removed from under the Hoan Bridge on a nightly basis.

As construction work is slated to begin under the Hoan Bridge later this year, Spring 2023 will be the last smelting season for the foreseeable future where the area under the Hoan Bridge will be accessible to the public. Members of the public should be prepared for this future change and identify other locations to take advantage of the smelt run.

This restricted access is due to the relocation of a large Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) along South Lincoln Memorial Drive and the construction of the new Dredged Material Management Facility (DMMF), associated with the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern (AOC) cleanup project. Following completion of the DMMF, dredging and filling operations associated with the AOC cleanup will commence and are anticipated to take several years.

For these reasons, public access to the area under the Hoan Bridge will be restricted starting in May 2023 into the foreseeable future. Signage will be posted in the surrounding area to inform and remind members of the public about this restricted access.

“Please know that the safety of residents, visitors, and waterfront enthusiasts is the most important factor in this decision,” said Port Director Carter. “As this work moves forward, Port staff will monitor the construction progress and reevaluate public access on a rolling basis.”

Port Milwaukee is an economic entity of City government governed by the seven-member Board of Harbor Commissioners, a panel appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Common Council. It administers operations on the 467 acres that make up the Port. It promotes shipping and commerce throughout the region by providing access to domestic and international ships, rail, and over-the-road transportation. Learn more at

A group of long-standing partners formed the Waterway Restoration Partnership to work together on this once-in-a-generation opportunity to clean up the Milwaukee Estuary AOC. To find out more about the Waterway Restoration Partnership, learn about other Milwaukee Estuary AOC projects, and see a full list of partners, please visit