Fishing in Michigan

Michigan’s name comes from the Ojibwe word mishigamaa, which means “large water” or “large lake.” No wonder it’s a great place to fish!
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About Michigan

Michigan is an angler’s paradise, boasting the longest freshwater coastline of any state or country in the world. It is bordered by four Great Lakes: Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior. It also has tens of thousands of inland lakes and several magnificent rivers, including the Grand River, the Au Sable, and the Pere Marquette. The eleventh-largest state by area, Michigan consists of two peninsulas, known as Lower and Upper. The Lower Peninsula is mitten-shaped, and is separated from the more wooded and rural Upper Peninsula (“the U.P.”) by the Straits of Mackinac, a channel connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Be sure to check with the Michigan DNR before fishing to ensure you have the proper fishing license and to check season dates, since some species and waterways are closed to fishing for parts of the year.

Fishing Types

The abundance of large and small lakes around the state makes Michigan an ideal place to fish from a boat. In the Great Lakes, anglers can experience both nearshore and offshore fishing, with many charter captains offering both options. Of course, if you prefer shore fishing or wading a scenic river in search of trout, there are plenty of great destinations to explore. And when the lakes freeze over, ice fishermen congregate on Michigan’s lakes to fill their creels with walleyes, perch, panfish, northern pike, and trout.

Targeted Fish Species

Michigan’s waters are filled with a wide variety of fish species, including bass, muskellunge, panfish, northern pike, salmon, lake sturgeon, trout, walleyes, yellow perch, carp, and catfish. Walleyes, which make delicious table fare, are one of the most popular species in Michigan. They are found in the Great Lakes and inland lakes and reservoirs. The Lake Erie/Detroit River/Lake St. Clair region is one of the best places in the country to fish for walleye, drawing crowds of anglers in spring and early summer. Both largemouth and smallmouth bass can be found statewide, although smallmouths tend to predominate in the more northerly regions. The toothy northern pike can be found in weedy shallows of both the Great Lakes and inland lakes, as well as in rivers around submerged timber. Anglers in Michigan can also catch a wide variety of trout. Rainbow, brook, and brown trout are common in many rivers, and steelhead can be found migrating up many Great Lakes tributaries. Lake trout are found in inland lakes and in the bays of the Great Lakes. Several types of salmon thrive in Michigan lakes and rivers, including Atlantic salmon and three types of Pacific salmon—pink, chinook, and coho. If you want to catch one of Michigan’s most interesting fish, try for lake sturgeon. These huge fish can grow to 7 feet long and weight 200 pounds. Be aware, however, that lake sturgeon are listed as a threatened species in Michigan and fishing for them is closely regulated.

Fishing Techniques

It’s no surprise that Ernest Hemingway’s famous fly-fishing protagonist, Nick Adams, plied the waters of Michigan with his fly rod. The Au Sable and Pere Marquette are two famous fly fishing destinations, but fly anglers can try their luck almost anywhere in the state. Trolling is a go-to technique for many species in the big lakes, but spinning, casting, and bait-fishing also work just about anywhere.