Our Close-To-Home Bassin'

Our Close-To-Home Bassin'

If you live around Detroit, Lansing or one of Michigan's other big cities, you could be surprised at the number of largemouths swimming nearby. (July 2007)

Photo by Ron Sinfelt.

You don't need to travel far to try some of Michigan's best largemouth bass fishing if you live near one of our state's big cities. There is excellent bassin' just a short drive from Detroit, Lansing and other metro areas.

Here is a look at waters not far from our big cities that have large numbers of largemouths, and there is a good chance you can catch a lunker or two.

LAKE OAKLAND

"Oakland is a very good largemouth lake," said Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Jim Francis. "Largemouths in the 3- to 4-pound range are fairly common, with 6-pounders available."

Lake Oakland covers 255 acres just north of Pontiac and south of I-75 in Oakland County. For a lake so close to Detroit, the bass fishing can be incredible.

"Lake Oakland is a good bass lake in July," said Ken Meeley, a tournament angler and owner of KD Outdoors bait shop. "The lake has both good numbers and sizes. You can catch 30 or 40 keeper-sized bass on some days, or a few 5- and 6-pounders in a day's time."

Oakland's bass tend to be deep thinkers.

"If July is hot, look for the largemouths to either suspend off the ledges or down in the deeper holes on the lake bottom," Meeley said. "A thermocline doesn't usually develop, so the bass can take advantage of the cooler deep water."

The state-owned boat ramp is off Dill Road on the south side of the lake. There is a small launch fee. For more fishing information, call the Lake Erie Management Unit at (248) 359-9040, or KD Outdoors at (248) 666-7799. For tourism information, call the Metropolitan Detroit Visitor's Bureau at 1-800-DETROIT.

KENT LAKE

Southeastern Michigan anglers have one of our state's best bass lakes right out their back door. Year after year, Kent Lake in Oakland and Livingston counties pumps out largemouths in spite of the heavy pressure from tournaments and weekend warriors.

"Kent is a good lake for largemouth bass, and it stays that way from year to year," DNR fisheries management biologist Jeff Braunscheidel said. "It gets weedy in the summertime, but if you look for spots that aren't weed-choked, you can pick up bass with spinnerbaits and crankbaits. If you stick to these areas, the fishing is good."

A 23-inch largemouth bass was registered in the catch-and-release Master Angler Awards in 2005 from this 1,200-acre lake loaded with ideal bass habitat. A Jitterbug fooled this trophy-class fish.

Kent is ideal for smaller boats because of the 10-mph speed limit. It lies within the Kensington Metropark, so a park pass is required. Kensington is open between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. A ramp is available on the north side of the lake, which is located on the north side of I-96 between the Milford and Brighton exits.

For more fishing information, call the Lake Erie Management Unit at (248) 359-9040 or Kensington Metropark at 1-800-477-3178. For area info, call the Livingston County Visitor's Bureau at (517) 548-1795.

WAMPLERS LAKE

Wamplers is often overlooked as a largemouth lake, but it has a decent bass population, according to the DNR's Francis. Wamplers Lake is on the Jackson-Lenawee County line in Walter J. Hayes State Park, so it isn't far from home for Jackson- and Ann Arbor-area anglers.

"The average largemouth bass we see coming in to be mounted from the Coldwater Chain averages between 20 and 23 inches," said Pat Heinamin of Heinamin's Taxidermy. "Coldwater is the largest lake and the best bass lake in the chain, and there are some nice largemouths in there."

"When we survey, we're looking primarily at panfish, but we do get enough of a look at the predators to take an educated guess about their populations," Francis said. "There are bigger bass in Wamplers than the surveys show, and it has the reputation of being a good bass lake."

Largemouths here will retreat to the shade of the outside weedlines that are bordered by deeper water. Wamplers is 780 acres of relatively clear water, so keep that in mind when selecting a lure.

Access is within the state park, and a park sticker is required. The boat ramp is north of the entrance off Wamplers Lake Road. Call the Lake Erie Management Unit at (248) 359-9040 for additional fishing information. Lodging and camping info can be obtained by calling Walter J. Hayes State Park at (517) 467-7401, or the Jackson County Tourist Bureau at 1-800-245-5282.

DEVILS LAKE

Devils Lake in northwestern Lenawee County is one of Michigan's most overlooked waters when it comes to largemouth bass fishing.

You don't need to travel far to try some of Michigan's best largemouth bass fishing if you live near one of our state's big cities. There is excellent bassin' just a short drive from Detroit, Lansing and other metro areas.

Here is a look at waters not far from our big cities that have large numbers of largemouths, and there is a good chance you can catch a lunker or two.

LAKE OAKLAND

"Oakland is a very good largemouth lake," said Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Jim Francis. "Largemouths in the 3- to 4-pound range are fairly common, with 6-pounders available."

Lake Oakland covers 255 acres just north of Pontiac and south of I-75 in Oakland County. For a lake so close to Detroit, the bass fishing can be incredible.

"Lake Oakland is a good bass lake in July," said Ken Meeley, a tournament angler and owner of KD Outdoors bait shop. "The lake has both good numbers and sizes. You can catch 30 or 40 keeper-sized bass on some days, or a few 5- and 6-pounders in a day's time."

Oakland's bass tend to be deep thinkers.

"If July is hot, look for the largemouths to either suspend off the ledges or down in the deeper holes on the lake bottom," Meeley said. "A thermocline doesn't usually develop, so the bass can take advantage of the cooler deep water."

The state-owned boat ramp is off Dill Road on the south side of the lake. There is a small launch fee. For more fishing information, call the Lake Erie Management Unit at (248) 359-9040, or KD Outdoors at (248) 666-7799. For tourism information, call the Metropoli

tan Detroit Visitor's Bureau at 1-800-DETROIT.

KENT LAKE

Southeastern Michigan anglers have one of our state's best bass lakes right out their back door. Year after year, Kent Lake in Oakland and Livingston counties pumps out largemouths in spite of the heavy pressure from tournaments and weekend warriors.

"Kent is a good lake for largemouth bass, and it stays that way from year to year," DNR fisheries management biologist Jeff Braunscheidel said. "It gets weedy in the summertime, but if you look for spots that aren't weed-choked, you can pick up bass with spinnerbaits and crankbaits. If you stick to these areas, the fishing is good."

A 23-inch largemouth bass was registered in the catch-and-release Master Angler Awards in 2005 from this 1,200-acre lake loaded with ideal bass habitat. A Jitterbug fooled this trophy-class fish.

Kent is ideal for smaller boats because of the 10-mph speed limit. It lies within the Kensington Metropark, so a park pass is required. Kensington is open between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. A ramp is available on the north side of the lake, which is located on the north side of I-96 between the Milford and Brighton exits.

For more fishing information, call the Lake Erie Management Unit at (248) 359-9040 or Kensington Metropark at 1-800-477-3178. For area info, call the Livingston County Visitor's Bureau at (517) 548-1795.

WAMPLERS LAKE

Wamplers is often overlooked as a largemouth lake, but it has a decent bass population, according to the DNR's Francis. Wamplers Lake is on the Jackson-Lenawee County line in Walter J. Hayes State Park, so it isn't far from home for Jackson- and Ann Arbor-area anglers.

"The average largemouth bass we see coming in to be mounted from the Coldwater Chain averages between 20 and 23 inches," said Pat Heinamin of Heinamin's Taxidermy. "Coldwater is the largest lake and the best bass lake in the chain, and there are some nice largemouths in there."

"When we survey, we're looking primarily at panfish, but we do get enough of a look at the predators to take an educated guess about their populations," Francis said. "There are bigger bass in Wamplers than the surveys show, and it has the reputation of being a good bass lake."

Largemouths here will retreat to the shade of the outside weedlines that are bordered by deeper water. Wamplers is 780 acres of relatively clear water, so keep that in mind when selecting a lure.

Access is within the state park, and a park sticker is required. The boat ramp is north of the entrance off Wamplers Lake Road. Call the Lake Erie Management Unit at (248) 359-9040 for additional fishing information. Lodging and camping info can be obtained by calling Walter J. Hayes State Park at (517) 467-7401, or the Jackson County Tourist Bureau at 1-800-245-5282.

DEVILS LAKE

Devils Lake in northwestern Lenawee County is one of Michigan's most overlooked waters when it comes to largemouth bass fishing.

"A lot of folks don't think of Devils Lake as a bass lake, but it has a good population of largemouths in it," said the DNR's Braunscheidel. "It's a deep lake, but it also has a lot of shallow areas with vegetation that isn't as thick as the weeds in a lot of other lakes. The bottom has a lot of contour changes ranging from shallow bars to deep water. It's a good bass lake."

Dick Million of the Clearwater Motel & Resort couldn't agree more. He said many big fish come out of Devils every year, with the eastern half generally being the best to target largemouths. Look for shoreline weeds dropping off into deep water.

Devils Lake covers 1,330 acres south of Jackson by Manitou Beach. A boat ramp is near the dam off Devils Lake Highway and off U.S. Highway 223.

For more fishing information, call the Lake Erie Management Unit at (248) 359-9040. For lodging info, call the Clearwater Motel & Resort at (517) 547-7472, or the Lenawee County Visitor's Bureau at 1-800-536-2933.

PORTAGE LAKES

"Both Big and Little Portage lakes have good largemouth populations," Braunscheidel said. "With the lakes being interconnected, you can go from one to the other and pick your habitat. You can fish shallow, weedy water, or you can go to clearer, deeper sections."

The Portage Lakes are part of the Waterloo State Recreation Area in Washtenaw and Livingston counties, and they cover about 750 acres. Boating access is on Big Portage Lake off McGregor Road near the Huron River. A channel connects Big and Little Portage lakes.

Portage anglers will find good numbers of largemouths but few trophy fish. However, there are some nice-sized bass swimming here along with the sub-legal fish. The northern end of the lake is the most productive and tends to be quieter because it doesn't get used much by water-skiers. Outside weed edges and tapering points are bass magnets on hot summer days, especially where the largemouths have moved deeper to escape boating traffic.

Call the Lake Erie Management Unit at (248) 359-9040 or the Waterloo Recreation Area at (734) 475-8307 for more fishing information. For lodging info, call the Livingston County Visitor's Bureau at (517) 548-1795.

COLDWATER CHAIN

The Coldwater Chain of lakes are in southeastern Branch County, which makes them a short jaunt away for many southern Michigan anglers.

"The average largemouth bass we see coming in to be mounted from the Coldwater Chain averages between 20 and 23 inches," said Pat Heinamin of Heinamin's Taxidermy. "Coldwater is the largest lake and the best bass lake in the chain, and there are some nice largemouths in there."

Coldwater Lake consists of 1,610 acres, followed by Marble Lake with 780, Long Lake with 123, Bartholomew with 80 and Wright with 30 acres. The even smaller lakes on the chain are Archer, Middle and First. Some of the waters are clear and deep -- especially Coldwater -- while the smaller lakes are more fertile and pond-like. Fallen trees, docks, weedbeds and other structures are easy to find. Also, check the outside edges of submerged vegetation and dropoffs in the larger lakes.

"Coldwater is an excellent lake for both largemouth and smallmouth bass, and anglers can expect to see a lot of fish in the 14- to 17-inch range," said Jay Wesley, the DNR's Southern Lake Michigan Unit manager.

Growth rates are good for bass, according to Wesley, and the only complaint from anglers is that the northern pike population is also high. Make that a consideration when you work the weedbeds, because a light wire leader could prevent pike bite-offs and lost lures.

"The best way to fish Coldwater is to put in at the public access and then go all the way around the lake while bouncing your bait off the docks," Heinamin said. "A lot of guys think I'm crazy, but I consistently outfish other anglers with a purple Beetle Spin. Another top bait is

the Bitsy Bug with a green Uncle Josh Pork Trailer right out of the jar."

"Fletcher is on fire right now for largemouth bass," DNR biologist Tim Cwalinski said. "The largemouth bass in Fletcher are probably the best-kept secret in the state. The last few years, we've experienced a huge surge in the bass population, and it's nothing to see 18- to 20-inch bass in there."

Boat access sites are off Maxon Road on the west side of Coldwater Lake, on the south side of the channel connecting Marble and Middle lakes off Bennett Road, and on the east side of Marble Lake off Wildwood Road. Anglers with larger boats should use the Coldwater Lake access.

For additional information, call the Southern Lake Michigan Management Unit at (269) 685-6851, or Heinamin's Taxidermy at (517) 278-9026. The Branch County Tourism Bureau can be reached at 1-800-968-9333.

FLETCHER POND

Located west of Alpena in the northeastern corner of the Lower Peninsula on the Alpena-Montmorency County line, this nearly 9,000-acre "pond" is one of Michigan's hottest bass fisheries going.

"Fletcher is on fire right now for largemouth bass," DNR biologist Tim Cwalinski said. "The largemouth bass in Fletcher are probably the best-kept secret in the state. The last few years, we've experienced a huge surge in the bass population, and it's nothing to see 18- to 20-inch bass in there."

According to Cwalinski, the DNR surveyed the bass population in 2005 and confirmed the upswing.

"You can just take off on that lake and explore, it's so large," Cwalinski said. "You can pull up into some of the back bays and fish places where no one has been for a while. The whole lake is only 6 or 7 feet deep, and fertile with a lot of zooplankton, vegetation and panfish. The habitat is ideal, and it's no wonder the bass have taken off."

By summer, the largemouths will be scattered in the weedbeds and in the stumpfields covering much of Fletcher. Anglers wanting to fish the wood will find plenty of it in the northwestern part of the floodwater.

Hawk Island Lake is part of the county park system within the city limits of Lansing. The lake was once an abandoned gravel pit that has since been rejuvenated to create a swimming area and urban fishery. Since 2000, thousands of largemouth bass have been stocked into this lake, and the results have been satisfying.

"The bass are up in the stumpfields in the north end,in the old river mouth and on the side of the lake," said Clark Campbell, manager of Brown's North Shore Resort. "The weeds are also good spots to take bass up in the 5- to 6-pound range."

In 2005, Tim Graber received a Master Angler Award for catching and releasing a 23-inch Fletcher largemouth on a two-bladed spinner. Andrew Smolen caught a 22-inch bucketmouth the same year on a topwater lure.

Dave Robinson, general manager of Jack's Landing, is very impressed with Fletcher's bassin'.

"We had an 8-pound largemouth brought into the resort in 2006 that was caught out on the lake," Robinson said. "Five-pounders are becoming more common, and we see a fair number of them."

The public launch is located on the north side of Fletcher off Jack's Landing Road. For more information, call the Northern Lake Huron Management Office at (989) 732-3541, Jack's Landing at (989) 742-4370 or the Alpena Visitor's Bureau at 1-800-425-7362.

LAKE LANSING

"Bass numbers are high, with a lot of sub-legal and 14- to 16-inch fish to keep anglers busy," said Jay Wesley from the DNR about Lake Lansing, which is actually east of East Lansing off I-69. "Most anglers are looking for largemouths in Lake Lansing, and they find them along the northern and southern shorelines."

Lake Lansing also gets the "thumbs up" from Bob Couvreur of Dick's Sporting Goods.

"I've found Lake Lansing to be a very good bass lake, one of the few in the central part of the Lower Peninsula," Couvreur said. "There's a lot of good weed growth in the shallows."

Couvreur tells anglers to pack their Rapalas and spinnerbaits along with soft plastics for the hotter weather. Start fishing in the shady spots along weed edges and under docks, then work your way out into deeper water. Structure to key on includes the slightly deeper channel that lies about 100 feet offshore and runs around this entire shallow lake, which averages from 6 to 8 feet deep. Two holes are found on the northern and southern ends where bass can escape the busy boating traffic during the daytime. The sandbar on the eastern side of the lake and the bar in the northeastern corner near the boat club are often overlooked by largemouth anglers.

For more fishing information, call the Southern Lake Michigan Management Unit at (269) 685-6851 and Dick's Sporting Goods at (517) 702-1300. For lodging info, call the Greater Lansing Visitor's Bureau at 1-888-2LANSING.

HAWK ISLAND LAKE

Hawk Island Lake is part of the county park system within the city limits of Lansing. The lake was once an abandoned gravel pit that has since been rejuvenated to create a swimming area and urban fishery. Since 2000, thousands of largemouth bass have been stocked into this lake, and the results have been satisfying. Many local anglers spend the evening catching plenty of smaller bass, but occasionally a 5- or 6-pounder is caught.

"We've had luck with just about anything in the tackle box," park manager Willis Bennett said. "Soft plastics, crankbaits -- they'll all do well at Hawk Island."

When the lake was opened to fishing in 2000, people immediately started catching 6- and 7-pound largemouths, and Bennett caught a 21-pound flathead catfish. Park officials realized the potential for this old gravel pit, so they added fishing piers and a swimming area. During the same year, 2,000 largemouths measuring 12 inches were stocked, along with a subsequent planting of 500 pounds of bass ranging from 2 to 5 pounds each. This fishery was well under way from the get-go, and smaller stockings have maintained it. However, be aware that Hawk Island's bass are catch-and-release-only.

The park is on Cavanaugh Road between Pennsylvania and Aurelius avenues. The park gates open at 6 a.m. from May 15 through Aug. 15 and at 7 a.m. from Aug. 16 through September. A fee is required on the weekends and holidays. Rowboats are available for rent at the park. Call the Ingham County Parks Department at (517) 676-2233 for fishing information. If you are a tourist, call the Greater Lansing Visitor's Bureau at 1-888-2LANSING.

* * *

If you live near one of Michigan's big cities, don't let the dog days of summer get you down, because there's good bassin' not far away!

"We've had luck with just about anything in the tackle box," park manager Willis Bennett said. "Soft plastics, crankbaits -- they'll all do well at Hawk Island."

When the lake was opened to fishi

ng in 2000, people immediately started catching 6- and 7-pound largemouths, and Bennett caught a 21-pound flathead catfish. Park officials realized the potential for this old gravel pit, so they added fishing piers and a swimming area. During the same year, 2,000 largemouths measuring 12 inches were stocked, along with a subsequent planting of 500 pounds of bass ranging from 2 to 5 pounds each. This fishery was well under way from the get-go, and smaller stockings have maintained it. However, be aware that Hawk Island's bass are catch-and-release-only.

The park is on Cavanaugh Road between Pennsylvania and Aurelius avenues. The park gates open at 6 a.m. from May 15 through Aug. 15 and at 7 a.m. from Aug. 16 through September. A fee is required on the weekends and holidays. Rowboats are available for rent at the park. Call the Ingham County Parks Department at (517) 676-2233 for fishing information. If you are a tourist, call the Greater Lansing Visitor's Bureau at 1-888-2LANSING.

* * *

If you live near one of Michigan's big cities, don't let the dog days of summer get you down, because there's good bassin' not far away!

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