The Ultimate Guide to Michigan Fishing

Fishing in Michigan is not just about the Great Lakes. With 11,000 inland lakes and around 3,000 miles of water trails, the diverse waterscape offers an incredible range of sport fishing activities.

Check out this fact. In 2022, the number of fishing licenses purchased in the state was more than 1 million! And the numbers keep rising.

Without much ado, let’s delve deeper into the world of Michigan fishing and discover more.

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The Best Places to Fish in Michigan

With so many options, it is hard to point out one fishing spot over the other in Michigan. However, the sheer variety and density of fish make some spots stand out from the others.

Grand Haven

Since Grand Haven provides access to Lake Michigan and the Grand River, it offers something for every type of angler. The main catches are salmon, trout, bass, walleye, and catfish. Some popular spots are the Grand Haven State Park Pier and the various deltas of the Grand River.


Many anglers consider the Big Manistee River as one of the best salmon and steelhead rivers in the country. The last 25-30 miles of the river below the Tippy Dam is where the main action happens.

You will also find steelhead and brown trout in the Pere Marquette River system. Besides, ice fishing is popular on the frozen lakes of inland Manistee.

Lake Michigan

First off, Lake Michigan is huge. So, you can’t expect to cover all the fishing hotspots. The popular fish species that are targeted here are salmon, bass, trout, walleye, and perch. You can head to St. Joe or Ludington and hit the lake on a boat with a local fishing guide. Beyond that, there are miles of shoreline to explore on foot.

Bay City

The location of Bay City makes it the perfect access point for the Saginaw River, Saginaw Bay, and Lake Huron. It is an excellent angling destination for walleye, perch, trout, bass, and northern pike. Summer is the peak season with the pro-level bass tournament attracting anglers from across the country.

Lake Erie

Lake Erie is often termed the walleye capital of the world. One of the top destinations for walleye fishing is around the town of Monroe.

However, the entire coastline of the lake in Michigan, especially the section around Sterling State Park, is great for fishing. As the water warms up in summer, bass fishing in Lake Erie picks up with post-spawn smallmouths moving to deeper waters.

Lake Superior

With more than 80 fish species found in its waters, Lake Superior is the never-never land for anglers. The main targets are trout, salmon, bass, walleye, and northern pike.

While charter fishing is a great way to explore the lake, the shorelines of the lake are easily accessible too. One of my favorite shore fishing spots is the area where Pendills Creek feeds into the lake.

lake huron

Lake Huron

With numerous islands and a beautiful coastline, Lake Huron has some of the best fishing spots in Michigan. 

Apart from Atlantic salmon, walleye, and steelhead, the southern portion of the lake is known for its catch of coho salmon. Again, the lake is massive and it’s best to take guidance from a local angler to pick the best spots.

Traverse City

The largest city in North Michigan is most known among anglers for trout fishing. But thanks to the deep waters of the Grand Traverse Bay, salmon, and bass are also found in large numbers. 

While you can hire a boat or cast a line from a pier, one of the best ways to explore the area is by fishing with kayaks. This will give you the chance to explore the inland lakes around the city.


The Rifle and Au Gres rivers in Arenac County are excellent for fishing trout salmon, and smelt. You can also head north for the calm waters of the Rifle River for fly fishing. Beyond that, you will find walleye, yellow perch, bluegill, and carp in the Au Gres River system.


Beyond the incredible walleye actions of Lake Erie, Monroe is also an excellent choice for bass hunters. Areas like Sandy Creek, Belleville Lake, and Silver Creek are great for largemouth. For shore fishing, some of the best spots are the Bolles Harbor, Luna Pier, Swan Creek, and Sterling State Park.

Fish Species You’ll Find In Michigan

With so many fish species -153 to be exact- in the state, anglers are spoilt for choice. Here’s a quick look at some of the popular fish in Michigan.


There are four types of salmon belonging to the Pacific and Atlantic varieties found in Michigan. These are the Chinook salmon, Coho salmon, Pink salmon, and the Atlantic Salmon. 

In cooler and deeper waters, the chinook salmon is found. A few monsters can weigh above 20 pounds—no wonder they are often called “kings” of the salmon group. Size-wise, coho are smaller, but they are the most common salmon species you will find in Michigan.

Pink salmon is the smallest species and is commonly found in the tributaries of Lake Huron. But even with the small size, they are great fighters. Lastly, Atlantic salmons weigh between 2-6 pounds and can impress you with their acrobatic abilities.


Walleye anglers can find trophy specimens in the Great Lakes and also in the St. Clair River, and the Detroit River. They can be caught year-round and are a delight for the taste buds. While walleyes are greedy feeders, reeling them up can get quite challenging.

For some tips check out the video below about jigging for Michigan walleyes:

Northern Pike

There is no shortage of pike fanatics in Michigan who look for trophy fish in the shallows around the Great Lakes. However, the overabundance of this predatory species has reduced its size to 18 or 19 inches in most cases. The Department of Natural Resources is taking steps to tackle this issue.


Numerous cold, translucent streams in Michigan hold a large number of brown and rainbow trout. You can also find the brook trout in some streams- a ready-biter that fly fishermen love to catch. 

Beyond that, lake trout are found in the deeper sections of the Great Lakes and also in th inland lakes. The traditional trout season is between April and September. However, some trout streams are open all year round.


Even though the musky may not be the most popular fish in Michigan, it is being recognized by many anglers. In some of the lakes, this toothy predator can grow as large as 50 inches and is perfect for a man versus fish battle. There are spots in Lake Hudson and Lake St. Clair where you can catch five or more muskies in a day.


Michigan is also the Shangri-la for bass addicts. Both largemouth and smallmouth are found in larger numbers across the state. Actually, the majority of the top bass fishing lakes in the US are in Michigan.

Early spring bass fishing is popular as this is the pre-spawn period. During May and early June, white bass is also found in the Great Lakes.


Other varieties of fish in Michigan include crappie, sunfish, yellow perch, whitefish, sturgeon, and common carp. While these species are not A-listers, they give you a ton of opportunities in every season.

sturgeon in the water

The Best Time to Fish in Michigan

While summer is the peak season, fishing is a year-round activity in Michigan. As fish patterns vary with the season, the best time depends on the fish type you want to reel in.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the Michigan fishing seasons.


The waterbodies in every corner of Michigan offer a ton of summer fishing action. Peak fishing season commences with the start of June and lasts till August. With optimal water temperatures, the salmon and trout action is excellent around the Great Lakes in June. 

My favorite season for fishing in Michigan is July as the fish adjusts themselves to the summer. This is a great time to attract bass and bluegill with surface lures. Also, walleyes can be found in shallow waters in the evenings.

Bass action continues as the temperatures rise in August. At the same time, the northern pike becomes another attraction in the rivers. Plus, this is the period when king salmon heads upriver for spawning. 


King salmon activity continues till the middle of September and by then it’s the time for the migratory run of the chinook salmon. Anglers head for the Muskegon, Manistee, and Pere Marquette rivers to make the most of the rising fish density.

Walleye will still be biting in fall and by the end of September, the perch season will start. In October the steelhead wil start showing up. 

By the end of the month, it’s time to get ready for musky hunts. By mid-November, the salmon numbers will dry up but there will be plenty of smallmouth bass and whitefish in the waters.


Winter fishing in Michigan depends a lot on the weather conditions. Since the big rivers do not freeze up, steelhead and trout fishing continue in them. As the temperature drops further in January, fish settle into winter mode where they feed less. 

Unlike the Great Lakes, many smaller lakes in Michigan freeze completely. This is a great time for ice fishing enthusiasts to reel up perch, lake trout, northern pike, whitefish, and the occasional salmon.


Expect the fish density to start rising from mid-March. By the end of the month, the steelhead spring run will start in the rivers. The steelhead season continues in April and you will also find walleyes in the rivers in this period. 

The fishing excitement on the Great Lakes is back by May, and the hunt for salmon and trout begins. I have seen anglers stumbling upon trophy walleye on the western basins of Lake Erie in this period. Some of these lunkers can easily hit the 12-pound mark.

Best Techniques for Michigan Fishing

Fly Fishing

With uncountable options, Michigan has been voted the best fly fishing state multiple times. No matter your skill level with the fly rod, you will find something to catch.

The lower sections of the Au Sable River are packed with trout and are one of the best spots for newbies to learn fly fishing. On the other hand, the Dowagiac River is great for more experienced anglers to catch steelhead and brown trout. Those with moderate skills can head to the Pere Marquette River for rainbow and brown trout.

Charter Fishing

Charter fishing is one of the best ways to explore the fishing potential of the Great Lakes in Michigan. For out-of-town enthusiasts taking the support of fishing guides through a charter fishing trip is a good idea. 

Two years back, I traveled with a group of friends and arranged for a charted trip on Lake Michigan from Ludington to look for salmon. Honestly, the lake was a goldmine. We carried our gear, but the charter service can provide all the fishing equipment you may need.

For bass fishing, do not hire a charter when bass spawn. The pre-spawn period in spring is the best time for charter bass fishing in Michigan.

Ice Fishing

Below the frozen lakes of Michigan, fish like Northern pike, lake trout, and yellow perch remain active even during the peak of winter. That makes the state a hotspot for ice fishing with numerous destinations to pick from. Some of the popular destinations are Hamlin Lake, Lake Cadillac, and Cass Lake.

I’d suggest planning an ice fishing trip with fellow anglers instead of heading out alone. Make sure to test the ice thickness, especially in rivers,  For ice fishing in Lake Michigan or Lake Superior, pick areas around the ports and harbors where the ice is thicker.

Kayak Fishing

What makes kayaks special for me is the feeling of closeness to the water that they offer. In Michigan, kayaks are a versatile choice. You can use them on the Great Lakes, the inland water bodies, and also on the rivers. Quite simply, the opportunities are endless.

These kayaks are specially designed for fishing with rod holders, depth finders, and safety equipment. Based on your preference you can pick sit-in or sit-on-top kayaks. While I prefer using a traditional paddle, you can also choose a pedal drive or an electric motor.

Shore Fishing

No matter where you head in Michigan, there are scenic shorelines, harbors, piers, river mouths, and city parks for shore fishing. Some popular spots are Holland State Park, the Grand Haven South Pier, Ludington Pier, and the Detroit River bank. 

Beyond that, there is the vast shoreline of the Great Lakes with hundreds of piers. Make sure to change your technique depending on the season.


Wading is an exciting part of flyfishing in Michigan but you need to do it safely. For beginners, the Comins Flats on the Au Sable River near Mentor Township is an easy wading spot. There are multiple fantastic wading spots in the Manistee River system too.

One of my favorite fly fishing destinations for steelhead and trout in Michigan is the White River around Newaygo. This quaint river is mostly narrow and has shallow gravel beds that make it perfect for wading.

Michigan Fishing: FAQs

What are the best months to fish in Michigan?

Fishing in Michigan is a year-round activity. However, if you looking to explore the opportunities in the Great Lakes, the summer months between June and September are the best time.

How many fish can you catch per day in Michigan?

The daily fishing limits vary depending on the fish species. You can check the Michigan fishing regulations for more details.

What is the hardest fish to catch in Michigan?

That depends on the type of angler you are. For some, muskies are the most elusive species, whereas others consider brown trouts as the toughest fighters.

What size fish can you keep when Michigan fishing?

The minimum size of fish you can keep depends on the species. Also, there can be special regulations on some waterbodies. Check the state fishing regulations for the exact limits.

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Final Thoughts

Whether you prefer to fish in solitude or make it a fun trip for the family, a Michigan fishing holiday is a journey to angling paradise. And the limitless fishing possibilities are enhanced by the natural beauty all around.

Before planning a fishing trip get hold of a current Michigan fishing license. Beyond that, stay up to date with the fishing regulations and the weather.

Bottom line: if you love fishing, don’t miss the experience of fishing in Michigan. 

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