Trolling along on a big lake, casting a line off a dock or pier, spending an afternoon knee-deep in a stream with a rod in hand… fishing tends to conjure up memories of quiet days and exhilarating catches for recreational anglers – and dreams of such for neophytes.
There are fishing guides who can recommend the best spots, and fishing charters that will take you on a tour and teach you a thing or two. Or, perhaps you’re a born and raised angler who needs to find a new spot at which to try your skill (and some luck). There are hundreds of places to fish in Michigan, and we humbly provide you with just a few suggestions for your consideration. Remember to purchase your fishing license from the Michigan DNR beforehand (you can buy one online).
Those who enjoy fly-fishing can’t beat the Boardman River in Grand Traverse County that meanders 160 miles before emptying into Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City. The river has cedar lined banks and is well-known for its brown trout, rainbow trout, and perch. Above Brown Bridge Dam seems to be a hopping spot. It’s considered one of the top 10 trout streams in Michigan.
Some of the best salmon runs are in this region of the state, namely the Pere Marquette River (Ludington) and the Big Manistee River (Manistee), which has exceptional salmon migrations from late August through early November. You can also head out onto the big lake, Lake Michigan, for Coho salmon.
The Au Sable River has a reputation for being a great stream to enjoy a day of fly-fishing. Comins Flats in Mentor Township has public access and is an ideal spot to wade in and spend some time trying to catch a trout. The Au Sable has some of the most picturesque scenery of any river in the northeast region of the state.
Cheboygan is a small Michigan town that sits on the shore of Lake Huron. It’s also very close to the Inland Waterway, a connected chain of lakes and rivers that stretches 38 miles. Anglers can hook a rainbow trout, brook trout, salmon, bass, walleye, and sunfish in the Cheboygan River. You can also choose to fish from the Cheboygan Lock & Dam Park, a favorite spot for locals. There are three fishing piers at Major City Park on the east side of the river.
Where to begin? In this abundant wilderness, it’s difficult not to find a place at which to have a great catch. One of the most well-known, or at least one of the most romanticized thanks to a short story penned by none other than by Ernest Hemingway, is the Two-Hearted River in Luce County. The Two-Hearted is 100 miles long, finally emptying into Lake Superior. You’ll need a boat to fish one of its branches, or at least have your waders ready. Spring is the best time to fish here because of the insect hatches. Steel-head make their way through March-May.
On the shores of Lake Superior is Grand Marais (not to be confused with the town of the same name in the state of Minnesota), which is located within the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The break wall pier gives you the chance to snag a whitefish if you’re there in the spring and early summer. Even if you don’t have a good catch, the view of the lake will more than make up for it. If river fishing is more your preference, drive west to Munising, also within the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, to the Anna River. Apart from several waterfalls in the river’s watershed, the Anna River is only seven miles long but the pier offers diverse fishing including whitefish, steel head, Coho salmon, burbot, and yellow perch.
Late spring is prime time to catch a Michigan bluegill, when the fish spawn in shallow waters near sand and gravel. In the summertime, move to clear, mid-depth water or near drop-offs or fallen trees. Some of the best lakes in the southwest region include Austin Lake in Kalamazoo County near Portage. The lake is relatively shallow, 11 feet at most, and muddy, but you’ll find plenty of crappie, large-mouth bass, pike, and perch to catch from your fishing boat.
The piers in St. Joseph are very popular and for good reason. You can park at either Silver Beach County Park or Tiscornia Park. You can easily cast a line into Lake Michigan and find yourself reeling in a perch, rainbow trout, brown trout, Chinook salmon, whitefish, or catfish for dinner. Plus, the view is spectacular.
Your rod and reel will come in handy near the state’s capitol city, Lansing. If you’re in the area in the late summer or fall, the Grand River section between Lansing and the Fitzgerald Dam is best known for catching trout with a fly rod. This same river offers small-mouth bass and catfish during the summer months as well.
Not far away is the Huron River, one of the best streams for small-mouth bass fishing and a National Water Trail. Again, a fly-fishing rod is the way to go if you have a small paddleboat. For shore fishing, head to Dexter-Huron Metropark, which is just shy of eight miles north of maize-and-blue Ann Arbor. The Huron River travels through this area, offering plenty of openings from the bank from which to cast a line.
Lake Fenton in Genesee County is a popular destination for boaters in the summer, but don’t let that deter you from casting a line in. With coves and bays and islands and contours, there are plenty of honey-holes. Two recommended spots: off of Case Island, Crane Cove, and Log Cabin Point. Wintertime is also a fantastic time to catch bluegill and other panfish – and, you don’t need to compete with any boaters.
Detroit has quite a history, from Motown to Automobile City, USA. One of the gems of this metropolitan area is Belle Isle Park, located in the Detroit River. Thus, it’s a perfect spot for fishermen to do some shore fishing in the hopes of catching walleye, small-mouth bass, panfish, carp, and freshwater drum.