Michigan is legendary not only for our beautiful lakes and rivers that provide boundless boating and watersports fun, but for the countless opportunities to enjoy world-class fishing. Whether you love trout, bass, pike, salmon, walleye, or any other fresh water game fish, you’ll find a spot where your favorites are hitting every summer. Although there are more than 11,000 inland lakes in our state, we’ve pulled out the most popular fishing destinations avid sports men and women seek out year after year.
Lake Michigan: First on our list has to be the namesake Great Lake that bears our state’s name. Lake Michigan, the second largest of the Great Lakes by volume, has grown in popularity since a commercial fishery began back in 1840. It’s broad, beautiful blue waters offer an aesthetic experience of gorgeous scenery and nature second to none. Among the many game fish that make this Great Lake their home are salmon, trout, largemouth bass, walleye, pike, whitefish, yellow perch, smelt, and more. There are scores of easy access points all up and down the west coast of Michigan.
Lake Erie: As the shallowest of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie’s warm waters during the peak of summer are home to large populations of walleye. There are numerous offshore angling spots and you’ll also find that both lake trout and steelheads abound here as well. There are many ledges and rocky drop-offs that are populated with smallmouth bass, and the varying water depth also attracts panfish. Because warm water encourages fish to seek out deeper, cooler waters, you should take full advantage of the deep trenches on the lake’s western side.
The Manistee River: Also know as the ‘Big Manistee’, the Manistee River is located in Manistee County and runs right through the Manistee National Forest. This river is wide and smooth and eventually runs into Lake Michigan. The Manistee is home to brook and rainbow trout upstream, while downstream you’ll find brown trout populations.There are also runs of steelhead and salmon. The salmon peak in August, but you’ll still have great opportunities to catch Coho and Chinook salmon in September.
Maple River: The Maple River is a lesser-known but exceptional large stream in Northern Michigan. It’s watershed is over 100,000 acres of northern Emmet and northwestern Cheboygan counties. This glacier-formed river has 168 miles of surface water and the West Branch’s unique geologic formation contributes to keeping the waters cold, the perfect environment for wild trout that reach trophy size, a true delight for those who love fly fishing.
Saginaw Bay: If walleyes are your game fish of choice, then Saginaw Bay is the place for you. The bay has 1,143 square miles of surface water and anglers are allowed 3 lines simultaneously and using side-planing devices will keep your lines away from fish-scaring boats. Nightcrawlers work very well with these walleye, especially when offered on a lead weight or bladed harness. You’re sure to be successful because even though the bay is so large, the walleye are so plentiful that the biggest challenge for fishing biologists is getting anglers to catch more.
Crystal Lake: One of Michigan’s bluest lakes and clearest bodies of water is Crystal Lake, so named precisely because of its clear, blue waters. With 20 miles of shoreline, it’s not one of the largest lakes in Michigan, but it is one of the deepest. There are numerous places to fish both from the bank and by boat. The DNR has a public boat launch in the southeast corner of the lake. The lake boasts a variety of game fish, including smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, lake trout, bluegill, rock bass, yellow perch, coho salmon, and northern pike.
Lake Leelanau: If you’re looking for one of the most beautiful lakes to fish in Michigan, Lake Leelanau is a prime choice. This small lake is located at the top of the Leelanau Peninsula, the pinky finger of the Michigan mitten. The town is small and quaint, nestled in an idyllic setting with numerous restaurants, parks, campgrounds, and fishing spots. For families, it’s a great setting for swimming, water skiing, wakeboarding, and tubing. For those who love to fish, there is an abundance of game fish in this beautiful lake, including walleye, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, white suckers, northern pike, and rock bass.
Burt Lake: Another Michigan lake that’s bursting with fish is Burt Lake in Cheboygan, Michigan, covering just over 17,000 surface acres with a maximum depth of 73 feet. Among the many species of game fish you’ll find are largemouth and smallmouth bass in abundance, along with rainbow and brown trout, walleye, northern pike, muskie, steelhead, rock bass, bluegill, and crappie. There are boat rentals available, but canoes and kayaks also work very well.
Lake St. Clair: Situated between Michigan and Canada is the beautiful Lake St. Clair. Much smaller and shallower than the Great Lakes, Lake St. Clair is 430 square miles in surface area with an average depth of 11 feet, However, this wonderful freshwater lake, which is part of the Lake Erie basin, boasts one of the largest sport fisheries in the world. Nearly one third of entire Great Lakes annual sports fishing catch is landed from the waters of Lake St. Clair. Largemouth bass are abundant, as are muskies, many of which can easily surpass 30 lbs.