With so many choices, here’s where and when to go
If you’re an avid angler there probably is no better place you could reside than Michigan. Known as the Great Lakes State, Michigan not only has lakes, but plenty of rivers, streams, ponds, and reservoirs. And most of them are teaming with a variety of fish. If variety is the angling spice of life then you’d think you’d died and gone to heaven in Michigan.
With so many choices it’s difficult trying to decide exactly what to fish for. Following is calendar that will help you make those tough decisions.
Little Bay De Noc, Walleyes
January usually finds plenty of safe ice on Little Bay De Noc and the winter walleye bite in full swing.
“Most of the winter walleye fishing is centered on the reefs in 15 to 25 feet of water,” said Little Bay De Noc regular Ron Hanna. “The fish generally start shallow early in the morning and then move deeper as the day goes on.” Anglers head out from Escanaba, Gladstone, Kipling and Rapid River. Access can be gained off US-2 near Bay Shore Resort, at Rapid River, Gladstone, and Escanaba and at Hunter’s Point National Forest.
Swedish Pimple and Do Jiggers are the lures of choice for winter ‘eyes on Little Bay. Tip the lures with a minnow head. Most use a ripping motion to attract attention and then allow the lure to flutter downward. Walleyes inhale the lure on the fall. Expect to catch plenty of walleyes in the 4- to 6- pound range, although special regulations on Little Bay De Noc allow only one walleye over 23 inches per day.
For more information on lodging, bait tackle and guides contact Bay Shore Resort, Bait & Tackle at (906) 428-9687 or online at www.bay-shore-resort.com.
Cisco Lakes Chain, Potpourri
Cisco Chain of Lakes offers ice-fishing variety. Walleyes will average 2 pounds. Look in 6 to 8 feet of water on first ice. The ‘eyes like minnows on tip-ups and Swedish Pimples. Perch up to 13 inches are common. Look near the center of the lake in mid-winter. Cisco Lakes has some good-sized sunfish, bluegills and crappies too.
Rice Lake, Northerns
You won’t catch too many gators on Houghton County’s Rice Lake, but you’ll find no lack of action. The lake has no size limit on pike. There is an abundance of hammer handles, but 28- to 36-inch northerns are becoming increasingly common.
Muskegon Lake, Pike
Muskegon Lake is a great place to catch some eatin-sized pike, but you also stand a good chance of catching a monster. Pike in the 27- to 30-inch range are very common and 15- to 20-pound are caught every winter. Regular-sized suckers and golden shiners will take the average sized pike, but for the gators try jumbo herring. Slammer tip-ups are the tools of choice.
Prime locations are off the South Branch of the Muskegon River, off Fisherman’s Landing, Heritage Landing, Second Street and Hartshorn Marina.
For information on bait shops and accommodations contact the Muskegon County Convention & Visitors Bureau at (231) 722-3751 or online at www.muskegon.org.
Burt Lake, Perch
Burt Lake has a reputation for producing good catches of winter walleyes, but the perch might be more impressive. Perch up to 15 inches are common and the average yellow belly is over 10 inches. Walleyes are an added bonus and will generally run from 15 to 19 inches. Large shiner minnows are good medicine for both.
Try off Maple Bay, Resort Road and off Burt Lake State Park. For more information contact the Onaway Chamber of Commerce at (989) 733-2874.
Manistee Lake, Crappies
Kalkaska County’s Manistee Lake harbors dandy crappies and perch. Try off the north of the public access on the east side. A drop off there from 10 to 16 feet attracts big specks right before dark. Use a lively minnow or jig for crappies up to 14 inches.
Lake Missaukee, Panfish
Panfish populations are booming on Lake Missaukee. Tons of trash fish were removed from the lake and the panfish have responded. Missaukee is shallow, but there are plenty of 15 to 20 feet deep flats near the center of the lake that concentrates winter perch. Use wigglers, minnows and wax worms for perch that will average 8 to 10 inches.
Sunfish and ‘gills can be found off Green Road in 5 to 15 feet of water. Use a flasher to locate fish. Keep moving and drill plenty of holes. Limits of hand-sized panfish are common.
For information on Lake Missaukee contact Lake City Sport Shop at (231) 839-4875.
Lake Independence, Perch
Want jumbo perch? Try Lake Independence near Marquette. Perch from 10- to 12-inches are common and 14 or 15 inchers aren’t unheard of. The jumbos are taken on tip-ups or slip bobbers suspending walleye-sized minnows or Swedish Pimples and Rapalas.
Thornapple Lake, Crappies
Thornapple Lake has ideal crappie habitat–stumps, lay downs and structure. Predators keep small crappies in check. Look for shallow, south-facing bays that warm quickly. Try jigs and minnows for specks that will average 10 inches.
Detroit River, Walleyes
Thousands of walleyes move into the Detroit River to spawn in April. Early April is prime time for the big spawners. ‘Eyes over 10 pounds are common. 2 to 5 pound males are abundant later in the month. Most anglers use 3/8- to ¾- ounce lead head jigs baited with a minnow and a trolling motor to slip the current. Plastics work if the fish are aggressive.
Launch at Elizabeth Park or Erie Metro Park near Trenton. The fishing though can be good all the way to Wyandotte.
For more information contact www.trentonmichigan.com or (800) DETROIT.
Little Manistee River, Steelhead
It’s a tradition among many steelheaders to open the season on this famous Michigan stream. Anglers descend on the “Little River” on the April 1 opener. On April Fool’s Day expect snow, sunshine, high water, monsoons. The only constant is plenty of big rainbows. Anglers camp on favorite holes until the bewitching hour. Spinners, spawn and flies take the majority of the fish. Try near Six-Mile, Nine-Mile, Fox and Dewitt bridges.
Paw Paw River, Steelhead
The Paw Paw River is a sleeper for steelhead. The better steelhead action takes place from 5950th Street all the way to Watervliet. Anglers take fish on spawn and hardware. The Paw Paw River benefits from plants in the St. Joe River. Hot fishing continues from mid March through April.
St. Joe, Chinooks
Spring kings, drawn by St. Joe River water, concentrate off the pier heads at St. Joe during May. Trollers use spoons and crankbaits off ‘riggers, divers and lead core to fool salmon. Cover the entire water column. A trick is to troll the color line where the river dumps into the lake. The salmon patrol the dirty water. The salmon average 6 to 12 pounds, but 15 to 18 pound brutes are common. Cohos, brown trout and steelheads add to the mix.
For information contact the Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council at (269) 925-6301 or online at www.swmichigan.org.
Saginaw Bay, Walleye
Post-spawn walleyes fan out in the shallows of the Saginaw Bay to recuperate. A night bite takes place in 4 to 10 feet of water. Anglers pull stick baits behind lighted, in-line planer boards. Expect ‘eyes in the 4- to 6- pound class.
Contact Frank’s Great Outdoors at (989) 697-5341 or online at www.franksgreatoutdoors.com.
Deer Lake, Crappies
Slab crappies in Charlevoix County’s Deer Lake go on a feeding binge in May. Look around the weeds line and stumps that fill the lake. Crappies up to 14 inches are common.
Lake Erie, Walleyes
2006 was a banner year on Lake Erie and 2007 promises to be even better. Walleyes disperse into the 12 to 15 foot depths in June. Spoons trailed behind mini divers are hot. Try Michigan Stingers and Fishlanders in gaudy colors. Crankbaits still produce. Try lures like Hot-N-Tots, Wiggle Warts and Wiggle O’s.
Most walleyes are 16 to 18 inches. Expect many fish to be 2 to 4 pounders this year. Access is available at Luna Pier, La Plaisance Bay, Brest Bay, Monroe, and Sterling State Park.
Contact the Monroe County Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-252-3011 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Smoky Lake, Smallmouths
Iron County’s Smoky Lake produces great smallmouth action. Finesse fishing with light line, tubes and crankbaits is good for bass up to four pounds. Try the east side point and depressions and humps in the middle of the lake.
For information contact the Iron County Tourism Council at (906) 265-3822 or online at www.tryiron.org.
Yellow Dog River, Trout
June is a great time to sample the Yellow Dog River’s trout potpourri. The river traverses the Escanaba River State Forest and CFA lands near Marquette. Eatin-sized brookies are plentiful. Expect more browns and rainbows near the confluence with Lake Independence.
Wind, current and warming temperatures create thermal barriers and scum lines off Manistee in July. The breaks collect terrestrial insects and hungry steelheads. In-line planers and divers trailing orange spoons are a proven combination. Fish the top 10 feet of the water column. Lake trout and Chinooks suspend below them. Troll fast, cover water and watch for birds and working water. The steelheads average 6 to 8 pounds, but ‘bows pushing 15 pounds are available.
For information contact the Manistee Area Visitors & Convention Bureau at (888) 584-9860.
Lake Fenton, Largemouths
Lake Fenton is a great place for largemouth. The irregular shoreline, bays and coves offer perfect bass habitat. Try Crane’s Cove and near the narrows on the south end. Weedless rigs work in the weeds where the bass hide during the summer.
Rush Lake, Largemouths
Rush Lake teems with big bass. The lake is located within the Mackinaw State Forest. Rush Lake has an abundance of vegetation that bass relate to. Expect bucketmouths in excess of five pounds.
Pre-spawn kings begin to stage off Ludington in mid-July. Salmon shadow the “The Shelf” three to seven miles north of the port. Look for salmon in 30 feet of water early and then move deeper. Plugs, Spin Doctors and flies, and super magnum-sized spoons are best. Glow, green and chartreuse are proven colors.
Fishing pressure is intense. Plan on being on the water early. Expect salmon between 5 and 15 pounds, but kings over 20 pounds are common.
For more information contact the Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 542-4600 or online at www.ludingtoncvb.com.
Muskegon Lake, Kings
Pre-spawn kings stack up in Muskegon Lake beginning in August. Water temperature dictates their arrival. Try south of the harbor in 50 to 60 feet of water. Later, kings school just inside the channel, all the way to the Yacht Club. Key is to fish plugs within a few feet of bottom.
Black River Harbor, Lake Trout
Black River Harbor offers consistent action for native lake trout during August. The trout school up in the 80 to 120 foot depths between Sucker Creek Reef and Maple Creek Reef. Most will be 3 to 10 pounds, but 25 pounders are common.
South Lake Leelanau, Walleyes
South Lake Leelanau walleyes turn on from about mid-September until the weeds begin to die. Locate scattered weeds in 4 to 12 feet of water. Cast stick baits over openings in the weeds. The walleyes will run from 15 to 19 inches, but 8 or 9 pounders are available. Try Perrin’s Bay, off Robinson Point, and near the outlets of Weisler and Cedar creeks.
For information contact the Leelanau County Chamber of Commerce at (231) 271-9895.
Loon Lake, Panfish
Loon Lake sees a lot of fishing pressure in the summer, but few anglers in the fall. Bluegills and crappies move shallow in September. Try the weed edges adjacent to deep water. Jigs or teardrops will catch ‘gills and crappies to 12 inches.
Contact KD Outdoors at (248) 666-7799.
Lake Millecoquins, Bass and Pike
Maybe THE top lake in the eastern U.P. for largemouths and northerns, both go on a feeding binge as the weeds begin to recede. Lake
Millecoquin has few spots over 12 feet. Fish can be found anywhere. Use Johnson Silver Minnows and pork rind or spinnerbaits. The inlet and outlet of the river is a hotspot.
Contact the Northern Lake Michigan Management Unit at (906) 786-2351 for more details.
Lac Vieux Desert, Muskies
Lac Vieux muskies turn on as fall sets in. Muskies patrol the weed edges off Duck, Near and Draper islands. Anglers toss jerk baits and bucktail spinners. Soaking a sucker under a bobber works too. The lake contains both northern and tiger muskies.
Contact the Western Upper Peninsula Convention & Visitors Bureau at (906) 4850.
Skegemog Lake, Smallmouths
Most anglers think of Skegemog’s muskies and jumbo perch, but the lake produces some great fall bassin’. The best fishing is from about mid-October through November. Try the stump fields off the mouth of the Torch River. Spinnerbaits are hard to beat. The bass will push 6 pounds.
For details contact Jack’s Sport Shop at (231) 258-8892.
White Lake, Walleyes
White Lake walleyes put on the feedbag in October. Gizzard shad, alewives, and native baitfish become vulnerable as the weeds die. Walleyes pig out on the baitfish. Anchor and cast body baits along the weed edges or you can stealth troll the 10- to 20- foot contours. The fishing remains hot right up until ice up.
Pere Marquette River, Steelhead
Rains and cool weather trigger steelhead runs in the P.M. River. Steelheads stage in P.M. Lake where trollers and anglers fishing with spawn do well. Anglers catch steelheads on spawn, plugs and spinners in the river. Near Custer and Scottville can be very good. The river is wadable upstream of Walhalla.
For information contact Baldwin Bait & Tackle at (231) 745-3529.
Saginaw Bay, Perch
Marinas, ditches and rivers that feed Saginaw Bay stack up with perch in the fall. Look for north and east winds that raise water levels in the channels. Use minnows or tiny jigs for perch that will average 8 inches.
Menominee move shallow in November off the Frankfort break walls. Try using worms and salmon eggs. Menominee are light biters. They also are great fighters and good eating. Use an egg sinker and a No. 10 Aberdeen hook. Chum with a handful of eggs.
Hamlin Lake, Bluegills
Hamlin Lake has safe ice by Christmas. First ice produces hot bluegill action. Try off Wilson Park in 5 to 10 feet of water. In December panfish will eat anything. Wax worms, spikes and mousies all work. Chartreuse, green and orange teardrops are hot. Keep hole hopping until you find a productive area.
Contact Gnat’s Charters at (231) 845-8400 or online at www.gnatscharters.com.
Brevoort Lake, Potpourri
Variety describes Brevoort Lake on first ice. The lake is known for producing walleyes, pike, and panfish. Boedne Bay is good for panfish and pike. Structure and weeds right off the public access is prime. Try the central portion of the lake for walleyes. Use tip-ups or slip bobbers during the day and actively jig in the evening. The walleyes are usually good sized.
Thousand Island Lake, Walleye
Thousand Island Lake has plenty walleye structure. Try the 5 to 25 foot depths off Boy Scout Island. Keep moving and punch lots of holes. Tip-ups baited with shiner minnows work as do jiggin’ spoons.
Regardless of the season there’s certainly no shortage of angling opportunities in Michigan.