According to the 2021 North American Camper Report, when asked about what they like to do while camping, 52% of campers responded that they like to go fishing – the most popular recreational activity. Hiking/backpacking came in second, followed by biking and canoeing/kayaking.

And with the number of households in the United States who go camping growing exponentially – and 54% of those households containing minor children – fishing is the perfect outdoor activity to take up.


Why is fishing so popular?

Honestly, it would be surprising if fishing were not the most popular outdoor activity for campers, since Michigan has a lot of fresh water on which to fish! Whether you’re looking to catch panfish for dinner or want to catch a big ol’ salmon, Michigan lakes and streams are home to a diverse lot of fish.

Fishing is a fairly easy pastime to pack for, as well. You can fish from banks and bridges, no need to bring or rent a watercraft if you don’t want to. All you need are poles or rods (depending on if you’re fly fishing or not), a tackle box that holds some basic gear (more notes on that below), lures or worms, and – especially for kids – life jackets. Everything is lightweight and doesn’t take up a lot of room, which is ideal for traveling and camping RVers.

A lot of folks find the experience simply relaxing, as well as exhilarating. The sparkle in a child’s eye as they hook a fish on the line and reel it in is second to none.


What gear do I need to bring fishing?

We’ve already mentioned fishing poles, life jackets, and a tackle box. We will focus on what you should be putting into your tackle box so that you can be ready for whatever is called for. Inside your tackle box, you should pack:

  • extra fishing line
  • lures or flies
  • bobbers
  • leaders
  • sinkers
  • different sizes of hooks
  • needle nose pliers
  • stringer, if you plan to catch a lot of fish
  • sharp knife
  • ruler/scale (there are weight limits to certain types of fish)
  • a small flashlight

Many of these items can be picked up in pre-assembled kits at a sporting goods store. You should also bring along a first-aid kit, insect repellent, sunscreen, and a hand net for scooping fish out of the water before they have a chance to jump off the line. Savvy anglers like to wash their hands with unscented soap before handling bait.


What kind of fish can I catch in Michigan?

You can find many different kinds of fish in Michigan, including: Atlantic, Chinook, and Coho salmon; small- and largemouth bass; brook trout; brown trout; catfish; carp; crappie; sturgeon; lake trout; Muskie; Northern pike; rainbow trout; smelt; steelhead trout; sunfish; walleye; whitefish; and perch. For some recipe ideas following your fishing excursion, check out this article.


Do I need a fishing license?

Apart from a couple free fishing weekends conducted annually in Michigan (February 19 & 20 and June 11 & 12) when all fishing license fees are waived, you will need a fishing license. According to the Michigan DNR, “you must purchase a fishing license if you are 17 years of age or older to fish. If you are under 17, you may fish without a license, but you are required to observe all fishing rules and regulations. Any adult actively assisting a minor who does not have a license must have a fishing license.” You can choose a daily license or an annual license. A daily license costs $10 regardless of state of residence, and you get to pick the date/time the license starts. An annual license, which is valid from March 1 of a given year until March 31 of the following year, is $26 for a resident and $76 for a nonresident. There is a senior level license for Michigan residents only for $11, and active-duty military members can also utilize the resident license rate. You can order your license online, or pick one up at a sporting good store, gas station, or Michigan DNR office.


Where can I go fishing?

Locals can provide you with input as to where it’s best to fish, so make sure to ask the campground owner or manager for advice. The Michigan DNR also has a Fish Stocking Database, which can be filtered by county, water body, species, and more, so that you can home in on your location as well as what type of fish you’re looking to score. The Michigan DNR also has regional management units that cover regional watersheds. You can find a lot of good information on the website. If you’re looking for trout, don’t forgo researching Michigan’s Trout Trails, which includes detailed photos and descriptions of each location – some lesser known but all of them biologist-verified.