Downstate Lunker Largemouths

Lower Peninsula waters have always offered good bass fishing. Here are 10 lakes you should try in 2008. (May 2008)

As a child growing up in Lansing, one of my favorite memories was walking to the old fishing hole to catch whatever happened to be biting.

The gravel pit wasn't the most productive spot and had suffered years of neglect, but it was a great place for a city kid to dip a worm or two. It didn't take long to graduate to area ponds and lakes to try my hand at bass fishing and I've been chasing them ever since.

That old fishing hole and I have both come a long way since those days. The pit is now the crown jewel of Hawk Island Park off Cavanaugh Road and is quite a little bass fishery in its own right.

Michigan has more excellent bass waters than most of us will ever know, not only offering up good numbers of bass but an occasional trophy-class fish as well.

Here's a look at some lakes that anglers should check out in 2008.

LAKE ANN
"Lake Ann is one of the better largemouth lakes in my area and can produce some quality-sized bass," fisheries biologist Todd Kalish said. "The best spots on Lake Ann for nice bass include the sunken island in the northern part of the lake and the northwest and southern bays."Bass typically begin spawning when water temperatures reach 60 to 65 degrees.After the spawn is over, largemouths slowly return to deeper water where they spend the summer. Weather conditions dictate how far along the bass will be in their springtime ritual and tell bass anglers where to concentrate their efforts.

Spawners frequent the shallow waters in the backside areas of the bays. By the season opener, most spawning is over and the post-spawn bass put on the feedbag.

Bass that are staging on their way out of the bays into deeper water can be found at 10 to 15 feet. Crankbaits and spinnerbaits are good options to tag one of these hungry lunkers.

Lake Ann covers 527 acres. A ramp is located off Reynolds Road on the west side of the lake.

For more information, contact the Central Lake Michigan Management Unit at (231) 922-5280.

SIX-MILE LAKE
Early summer can mean good bassing on Six-Mile, according to Kalish. The bass are in the northern bay and numerous little bays on the western shoreline where the water is warming and spawning activities have peaked. Small Rapalas and soft-plastic baits should provide a few hookups this time of the year.

The 407-acre lake also offers some good smallmouth fishing, but the fish are spread out and difficult to find. Try tube jigs and small in-line spinners along the shoreline or at the river inlet.

Long and narrow is the best way to describe Six-Mile and its sister lakes that make up the Chain O' Lakes situated near Ellsworth in Antrim and Charlevoix counties. In a nutshell, Benway, Hanley, Ellsworth, Wilson, St. Clair and Six-Mile lakes cover about 900 acres of water combined.

The average depth is about 15 feet with a seemingly endless shoreline running north and south.

Boaters can access the lake from the Echo Township ramp on the south end or the ramp near Miles Road on the eastern side.

Contact the Central Lake Michigan Management Unit at (231) 922-5280 for more information.

LAKE BELLAIRE
Lake Bellaire covers 1,775 acres southwest of the town of Bellaire in Antrim County.

Smallmouth bass can be huge in this two-species bass lake. Tuning in the sonar is a good idea to help eliminate nonproductive smallmouth water. You may not get many strikes, but when one hits, chances are it will be a good one.

Check hard-bottom areas along points and dropoffs with deep-diving crankbaits and jigs for post-spawn smallmouth bass.

Kalish recommends targeting Bellaire's largemouth bass in the late spring and early summer in the northern bay and the Intermediate River inlet. These areas offer habitat to the liking of the bucketmouths and tend to concentrate them into pockets of the lake. They're also found in the submerged vegetation that borders the shoreline after summer arrives.

Access to the east side of the lake is off M-88 and Fisherman's Paradise Road and Steiner Road on the west side.

The Central Lake Michigan Management Unit at (231) 922-5280 will provide more information.

KENT LAKE
"Kent Lake has good spring bass fishing for both largemouths and smallmouths," fisheries biologist Jim Francis said.

"We did an early spring survey in 2006 on Kent Lake and found a lot of big largemouths. The smallmouths didn't show up in the survey because we were on the lake so early, but the smallmouth bass are just as impressive as the largemouths on this lake."Francis noted the largemouths averaged more than 15 inches, but numerous 19-inch fish were found and one topped 20. A whopping 73 percent of these bass were legal-sized and fish up to 3 pounds are common for both species.

Kent Lake receives heavy fishing pressure because of its close proximity to the urban Detroit area. Add the fact that these lunkers have seen about everything that can be thrown at them and Kent Lake can be a challenge. The best-bet spots in the spring are in the backs of the bays.

Several handicapped-accessible fishing piers are available. Boats can launch for a fee and there's a 10-mph speed limit on the water.

The 1,000-acre lake is located in Oakland and Livingston counties.

To reach Kent Lake, exit Interstate 96 at Kensington Road and go south. Continue through the Grand River Avenue intersection and turn left into the park. Stop at the tollgate to purchase a park pass.

For more information, you may contact the park at (800) 477-3178 or call the Lake Erie Management Unit at (734) 953-0241.

DEVIL'S LAKE
Another of Francis' top bass choices is 1,330-acre Devil's Lake in Lenawee County.

"Lenawee is a decent fishery and does hold some bigger bass," Francis said.

A fisheries survey a few years ago showed that nearly half of the largemouths sampled were legal-sized and several were in the 16- to 17-inch range

. Smallmouths ran a bit behind with slightly more than a third being legal, but a few were found in the 20- to 21-inch range.

Devil's Lake is well known for lunker northern pike and often overlooked for bass. Any largemouth big enough to no longer look like lunch to a hungry pike is well worth the time and effort needed to catch it.

If the fish are done spawning, they'll scatter out into the main lake along the weed lines on the dropoffs in the northern part of the lake or into the weedbeds in about 6 to 10 feet of water in the southern half of the lake.

Spinnerbaits and plastic worms are ideal late spring and early summer baits. Weedless spoons sometimes produce in the thick vegetation.

Devil's Lake is located east of Addison in Lenawee County and may be accessed from U.S. Hwy. 223 or Devil's Lake Highway.

For more information, contact the Livonia DNR office at (734) 432-1267 or the Minnow Bucket Bait and Tackle near Jackson at (517) 764-1909.

FLETCHER FLOODWATERS
"The best largemouth bass lake in this part of Michigan is Fletcher Floodwaters," fisheries biologist Tim Cwalinski said. "Bass in the 5- to 6-pound range are taken in the stumpfields and on the south side of the lake near the mouth of the old river. Largemouths and smallmouths will smack a spoon, a Rapala minnow or a big buzzbait. The bass fishing has been coming on strong for several years."

Spring fishing can also mean hot action along the shallow northern shoreline. Anglers frequently catch bass by slowly moving along the shallow weeds and casting toward the shoreline. Bass in the 3- to 4-pound range aren't even eye-openers on this lake.

Anglers wanting to fish the stumps will find plenty of them in the lake's northwest corner.

The 9,000-acre lake is covered with scattered weedbeds and stumpfields that wreak havoc on watercraft. One look at the dents in the aluminum boats rented at Jack's Landing will make you think twice about launching your own.

Fletcher Pond is an impoundment of the Thunder Bay River in Alpena and Monmorency counties. The average depth is only 6 feet with the old creek channel reaching 9 feet in some places.

A public launch is located on the north side of the lake near Jack's Landing Road.

Lodging, a restaurant and bait and tackle are all available at Jack's Landing near Hillman on Tennis Road. Jack's also provides a private launch for small watercraft for a fee.

For more information, contact the Northern Lake Huron Management Unit at (989) 732-3541 or Jack's Landing at (989) 742-4370.

LAKE WINYAH
Also known as Seven Mile Impoundment, this lake covers more than 1,500 acres near Alpena.

"Lake Winyah has a very diverse fishery that is overlooked by many anglers," Cwalinski said. "There's a fair number of bass in here with fish ranging to 20 inches."

What makes this shallow lake such a good one for largemouth bass is the habitat. Points, weed lines and plenty of bays and coves allow bass to warm up early in the spring and spawn successfully.

Depths range to about 30 feet near the dam on the eastern end of the lake where the water feeds the Four Mile Pond. Generally, depths don't go down much farther than 10 to 12 feet, and much of the lake is even shallower yet.

Typical spring buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, plastic worms and minnow baits are the mainstay on Lake Winyah. Bass will be shallow this time of the year and can be tempted with the normal largemouth baits. Deep-diving crankbaits and heavy jigs aren't necessary.

A ramp is available on the north arm off Long Rapids Road near the intersection of Long Rapids and Deitz roads in Alpena County.

For more information, contact the Northern Lake Huron Management Unit at (989) 732-3541 or the West Point Shore Cabins at (989) 354-8438.

TOMAHAWK CREEK FLOODING
"Tomahawk is basically a miniature Fletcher Floodwaters," Cwalinski said. "There are a lot of tournaments coming onto the lake as anglers recognize the kind of bass fishery that's been sitting here underutilized.

"There are high densities of largemouth bass, but they tend to grow slower than in Fletchers. The habitat is good with a lot of flooded timber and vegetation and it's a serene setting that anglers enjoy."

How this lake has gotten away without being noticed is a mystery. Bucketmouths as long as 21 inches showed up in the last fisheries survey along with many smaller fish ranging from 10 to 14 inches.

The lake is a flooding that backs up fertile, shallow water with great largemouth bass producing potential. Typical largemouth baits work well, especially plastic worms and soft-plastic minnow-imitating baits that are fished in the weedbeds and outside spawning areas along the shoreline.

Two boat ramps serve the lake and two campgrounds provide a great place for a fishing vacation.

Tomahawk Flooding lies on the border of Presque Isle and Montmorency counties.

For more information, contact the Northern Lake Huron Management Unit at (989) 732-3541 or the Whitmire Trading Post near Atlanta at (989) 785-3531.

SPRING LAKE
"The best bass waters in my area tend to be the larger rivers and lakes," fisheries biologist Amy Harrington said. "Although most inland lakes can provide a decent bass fishery and an occasional large bass, the bigger lakes are the ones that usually have higher populations of big bass. This would be in part due to the fact that there's more room and abundant forage. Where there's lots of food available, fish will grow into bigger fish. This is particularly true of the lakes that have a connection with Lake Michigan."

Spring Lake, a bayou of the Grand River near its confluence with Lake Michigan, looks more like a lake than a river. Only a lazy current can be found at the inlet near the main branch of the river. What does move, however, are the bass, some which top 5 pounds, although most are in the 2- to 3-pound range.

A Rapala floating minnow or Mepps in-line spinner accounted for about 10 largemouths caught during a day I spent on the lake.

Adventurous anglers can move out of Spring Lake and move up- or downstream to try other backwater bayous. Largemouths abound in this section of the river.

A ramp is located on Lloyd's Bayou on Spring Lake.

Contact the DNR at (616) 784-1808 for additional information.

HAWK ISLAND LAKE
Hawk Island Lake in Lansing is heavily stocked with largemouths. In the spring, look for them around points, dropoff areas and submerged vegetation. Perch and bluegills are also stocked providing all the forage a self-respecting bass will ever need.

The lake is shallow as far as old gravel pits go with an average depth of only 10 feet. Deeper water is found on the northeast side between the island and the boardwalk. Dropoffs of 15 to 18 feet are found just off the fishing docks located on the west side, with the deepest spot being 28 feet.

All state DNR regulations apply, and a catch-and-release restriction is in place for largemouths.

The county park, located on Cavanaugh Road between Pennsylvania and Aurelius avenues, is great for a family fishing outing. It's beautifully landscaped, has picnic and restroom facilities and covers more than 100 acres.

A small entrance fee is charged for admission and rowboats and paddleboats may be rented at the park. For more information, contact the Ingham County Parks Dept. at (517) 676-2233.

To find downloadable maps of many Michigan lakes, visit the MDNR's Web site at www.michigan.gov/dnr .

For trip-planning assistance, contact Michigan's Economic and Travel site at www.travel.michigan.org .

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