Three Dozen Michigan Fishing Destinations

There's no better place for fishing than Michigan. These 36 locales should keep you busy the entire year. (Feb 2009)

Half the fun of a fishing vacation is the planning. If it's a new destination, you'll have to get maps, brochures, recommendations on lures and equipment and suggestions on the best time to go. If it's a place you've been to before, you begin reminiscing about the big ones you caught or that got away and the people you met along the way. Either way, the anticipation builds long before you actually take the trip.

The following is a list of destinations old and new that you'll want to consider for this year.

JANUARY
Muskegon River Steelhead

Steelhead enter the Muskegon River throughout the fall, and it's often January before the rainbows make it to Croton Dam. Anglers downstream near Bridgeton and Maple Island start catching fish in late October and their numbers build throughout the winter. Fishing can be great during the winter months near Old Woman's Bend, Felch Avenue, around Henning Park and High Rollaways.

The steelheads take up residence in deep pools to bide their time until spring. Warmer, sunny days often cause them to move into the runs and shallower water to soak up the sun. January thaws often send fresh-run fish shooting upstream to join the holdovers.

For more information, contact Parsley's Sport Shop at (231) 652-6986.

Lake Independence Pike
Lake Independence is one of the state's premier locations for giant pike. This Marquette County destination regularly gives up northerns topping 20 pounds. Hotspots are near the mouth of the Yellow Dog River and Alder Bay on the south side of the lake. Big suckers suspended below tip-ups take some monsters in January.

For information, contact the Gander Mountain store in Marquette at (906) 226-8300.

Lake Mitchell Crappies
Crappie numbers have exploded on Lake Mitchell. Fish up to 17 inches are not unheard of. Locate green cabbage weeds that provide food and oxygen. Try off Big and Little Coves in 6 to 10 feet of water. Minnows are the preferred bait.

For more information, contact Pilgrim's Village & Resort at (231) 775-5412.

FEBRUARY
Saginaw Bay Walleyes

By February, the ice is safe enough to reach the 17- to 24-foot depths of Saginaw Bay where winter walleyes reside. Use caution, as ice conditions can change quickly. Most anglers use jigging spoons sweetened with a minnow. Prime fishing times are early and late in the day. Because of several strong year-classes, most walleyes average 1 1/2 to 3 pounds, but fish topping double digits are common.

For more information, contact Frank's Great Outdoors at (989) 697-5341.

Little Bay de Noc Walleyes
February is a hot month for walleyes on Little Bay de Noc. Anglers will find good ice and walleyes relating to reefs in the central part of the bay. Start on top of the reefs at first light and work deeper as the day wears on. Reverse the pattern in the afternoon. Jigging lures are hot. You can tip them with a minnow or not depending on how aggressive the walleyes are. Ten-pound trophies are common.

For more information, contact the Delta County Chamber of Commerce.

Higgins Lake Potpourri
Often it's February before anglers can safely access Higgins Lake's ice. When they do, they catch a potpourri of lake trout, perch, whitefish and brown and rainbow trout. Look for lakers to be in 100 feet of water and use smelt, gray or blue shiners. Chumming with eggs will attract whitefish averaging 2 to 5 pounds. Perch frequent the 25- to 50-foot depths and can be caught on wigglers, minnows or wax worms.

For more information, contact John's Frozen Charters at (989) 422-6745.

MARCH
Big Manistee Steelheads

Steelheads blast upstream at the first hint of spring runoff. Some may be dark holdover fish, while others are bright silver and fresh from Lake Michigan. Fishing can be hot if we get a short melt. Prolonged snowmelt sends the river sky-high and drives the steelheads upstream to Tippy Dam. Work slow pools and runs downstream from spawning areas. There are good access points at Tippy Dam, High Bridge, Bear Creek and Rainbow Bend.

For more information, contact Mark Chruma at (231) 864-4051 for charter information.

Pere Marquette River Steelhead
The P.M. gets an early run of steelhead. Without any dams, the river warms quickly. Fall-run fish will be fanning beds on bright, sunny days in mid-March. The flies-only section from M-37 to Gleason's Landing is popular with fly-fishermen. Drift-fishermen and drift-boaters pulling plugs have good success farther downstream near Branch, Sulak and Walhalla.

For more information, contact Baldwin Bait & Tackle at (231) 745-3529.

Houghton Lake Panfish
Last ice can produce some great ice-fishing. Look for bluegills, sunfish and crappies to concentrate in the 4- to 10-foot depths on the south end of the lake in cabbage beds. Work the entire water column with spikes or wax worms for bluegills and minnows for crappies.

For more information, contact the Houghton Lake Area Tourist & Convention Bureau at (800) 676-5330.

APRIL
Belleville Lake Crappies

Impoundments of the Huron River begin warming in April and crappies head for the south-facing bays to spawn and feed. Minnows school in the tepid water and the specks aren't far behind. Work the 10- to 20-foot depths near the old river channel if the fish aren't in the shallows. Expect both black and white crappies topping a foot.

For more information, contact the Ypsilanti Convention & Visitors Bureau at (734) 483-4444.

Menominee Brown Trout
Brown trout fishing has declined around Menominee, but there's still enough to make things interesting. In addition to brown trout, the catch may include splake and walleyes. Try off Hennes Park, Stony Point and off the mouth of the Cedar River. Try body baits off flat lines or behind in-line boards in 5 to 20 feet of water.

For more information, contact Nest Egg Marine at (715) 732-4466.

Little Manistee River Steelhead
Steelhead stack up in the Little Manistee before the April opener. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources holds the fish in ponds before taking eggs and allowing them to venture upstream. Fishing can be hot downstream of the weir on the opener and upstream near 6-mile and 9-mile bridges as the fish pass. Bobbers and spawn is the preferred tactic, although spinners allow you to land a higher percentage of fish.

For more information, contact Pappy's Bait &

Tackle at (231) 848-4142.

MAY
St. Joe Kings

The warm waters of southern Lake Michigan attract salmonids. Many target the silvery cohos that average 1 1/2 to 3 pounds. Anglers wanting bigger game will find kings around the color line where the St. Joe River spills into Lake Michigan. The warmwater discharge at Bridgman attracts kings, too, and the fishing can be excellent all the way to New Buffalo.

Savvy anglers put out a spread of short lead cores for cohos and deeper divers and riggers for kings. Use your temperature gauge to search for pockets of warmer water.

For more information, contact the Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council at (269) 925-6301.

Tittabawassee River Walleyes
May finds plenty of holdover walleyes still in the Tittabawassee River near Saginaw when the season opens on the last Saturday in April. Opening weekend is a zoo, but the crowds die in May, although there are still plenty of fish around. Try vertical jigging while slipping the current. Use super lines and light-wire jigs to pull free of snags. Use plastic or tip the jig with a crawler.

For more information, contact Gander Mountain in Saginaw at (989) 791-3500.

Detroit River Smallmouths
Smallmouths move into the warmer water near Grosse Isle and other islands to feed once the water temperature reaches the mid-50s. Bass up to 6 pounds are common and it's nothing to catch 40 or 50 in a morning. You can cast and twitch stick baits, hop tube jigs or cast spinnerbaits. Expect a few bonus walleyes and pike too.

For more information, contact Gerry Gostenik.

JUNE
Lake of the Clouds Smallmouths

It's worth the hike to fish Lake of the Clouds in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. You can access the lake via North Mirror Lake Trail. Bring your float tube or portage a canoe. There is a cabin for rent on the lake. All fishing is catch-and-release only.

The most fun way to catch smallies is on topwater lures. Use a stop-and-go retrieve. The fish will average 2 to 3 pounds.

For more information, call the park office at (906) 885-5275.

Onekama Steelhead
Current, wind and upwelling create scum lines that collect bugs and attract steelhead off Onekama. Use your temperature gauge and Coast Watch temperature maps to locate breaks. Fish will be in the top 20 feet. Use in-line boards, short cores and Slider Divers with hot-colored spoons. Look for birds and surface activity. Expect rainbows up to 16 pounds.

South Branch Of The Au Sable River Browns
Warm, muggy nights in June trigger the famous "Hex" hatch. The big bugs bring the biggest trout to the surface. Listen for feeding fish after dark. The South Branch's Mason Tract is famous for giving up browns topping 30 inches.

For more information, contact the Fly Factory at (989) 348-5844.

JULY
Lake St. Clair Smallmouths

Smallmouth fishing peaks in July on Lake St. Clair. Look for weedbeds and channel edges to concentrate fish. Try a tube jig in pumpkinseed or silver glitter color. Try the Metro Beach access south off the mile roads. On calm mornings, topwater action can be fantastic. Expect 30-fish days with many in the 2- to 4-pound range.

For more information, contact Lakeside Sports Shop at (586) 777-7003.

Lake Michigammee Walleyes
One of the U.P.'s premier walleye lakes, July finds Michigammee walleyes feeding heavily. Try off the mouth of the Peshekee River on the east end of Van Riper State Park. Troll with bottom-bouncers and crawler harnesses, jig with minnows or cast gold and orange Rapalas.

Craig Lake State Park
Smorgasbord

This 6,900-acre wilderness area is worth the hike. Seven lakes make up Craig Lake State Park and they are loaded with muskies, pike, walleyes and smallmouths. Catch-and-release fishing only. Artificial lures only. Use spinnerbaits, crankbaits and jigs.

For more information, contact Baraga County Tourism at (906) 339-4461.

AUGUST
Ludington Kings

Schools of kings converge on Ludington in August. The focus is on Big Point Sable north of Ludington. Chinooks and boats congregate on the structure there. First and last light is the best time. Use flashers and flies, plugs and magnum spoons. Fish the 90- to 130-foot depths. When fishing slows, head west for a potpourri of coho, steelhead and lake trout. South off the Consumer's Energy Project can be good too.

For more information, contact Captain Chuck's Great Outdoors at (231) 843-4458.

Stannard Rock Lake Trout
Stable weather in August makes it the perfect time to make the long run to Stannard Rock. You can head out from Marquette or the Keweenaw Peninsula. Watch the weather, make sure your boat is seaworthy and use common sense. Jig with 2-ounce jigs with sucker meat or troll for trout in excess of 30 pounds.

For more information, contact the Marquette County Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 544-4321.

Pickett Dam Backwater Bass
An impoundment of the Sturgeon River, Baraga County's Picket Dam backwater is loaded with largemouths and smallmouths. Try the dropoffs near the myriad of islands and weedbeds in 10 to 30 feet of water for bass that will top 5 pounds. Use topwater lures.

SEPTEMBER
Big Manistee Chinooks

Kings begin filtering into the Big Manistee River in August and their numbers peak in September. The closer you find them to the lake the better they bite. Although not feeding, chinooks will inhale a chunk of spawn floated under a bobber or back-bounced behind a sinker. Anglers anchor and drop plugs back into the face of migrating salmon. Casting spinners, stick baits and crankbaits can provoke strikes from kings too. Salmon in excess of 20 pounds are common.

For more information, contact the Insta-Launch Campground at (231) 723-3901.

Lake Erie Perch
Perch move into the shallows and go on a feeding binge. Use a perch spreader and minnows and drift until you make contact. Limits are common. Purchase an Ohio license just in case.

For more information, contact the Michigan Charter Boat Association at (800) MCBA-971.

Grand Haven Kings
Expect hot September action around the pierheads at Grand Haven as kings converge on the Grand River. Stitch the color line using plugs and flashers and flies. Vary your speed.

OCTOBER
Cadillac And Mitchell Pike

Cooler waters put pike on the prowl. Locate still-growing vegetation. Cast giant spinnerbaits or Husky Jerks. Mitchell is better for numbers. Try Cadillac for better fish.

For more information,

contact Pilgrim's Village & Resort at (231) 775-5412.

Lake St. Clair Muskies
Muskies begin migrating back into the U.S. water of Lake St. Clair in October. Fall is a great time for trophy fish. Speed-trolling with giant plugs covers water and produces fish. Expect muskies in excess of 30 pounds.

St. Marys River Salmonids
The St. Marys offers a hodge-podge of trout and salmon in October. Access via the Canadian side of the river and fish the rapids below the International Bridge. Use caution wading. Expect steelhead, chinooks, lakers, atlantics and more.

For more information, contact Hank's Sport Shop at (906) 632-8741.

NOVEMBER
Muskegon Lake Walleyes

Stealth trolling with stick baits produces trophy walleyes on Muskegon Lake in November. Troll ultra slow along the 12- to 17-foot contours. Rip the lure forward and watch for a subtle strike on the fallback.

For more information, contact Shoreline Services at (231) 759-7254.

Tawas Whitefish
Whitefish move into the shallows of Tawas Bay in November. Anglers line the piers to catch the tasty whitefish. Use slip-bobbers and teardrops baited with wax worms. The fish average 2 to 5 pounds. Limits are generous.

For more information, contact the Tawas Bay Tourist & Convention Bureau at (800) 558-2927.

Bond Falls Flowage Muskies
Bond Falls Flowage muskies turn on in November. Hardy anglers troll big crankbaits or cast giant bucktails for muskies that may approach 50 inches. The nastier the weather the better.

DECEMBER
Hamlin Lake Bluegills

Hamlin Lake's first-ice bluegill action is incredible. Try off Wilson Park in 6 to 8 feet of water. Wax worms work well early. Try orange or chartreuse teardrops. Spot a tip-up for bonus pike and walleyes.

For more information, contact Pere Marquette Sports Center at (231) 843-8676.

Lake Gogebic Perch
Perch to 16 inches are not uncommon on first ice. Work the 20- to 30-foot depths with a slip-bobber with minnows for jumbo perch and bonus walleyes. Limits are common.

Portage Lake Pike
First ice is best on Houghton County's Portage Lake, but watch the ice conditions. Find scattered weedbeds off U.S. Hwy. 41 north of Chassell and Pike Bay. Medium-sized suckers and shiners work best for pike to 20 pounds.

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