Michigan offers plenty of great fishing waters, and most anglers have their favorite spots to cast for trophies. But with temperatures warming up and the school year winding down, this is the perfect time to focus on a different kind of destination: the best locations for a family fishing trip. The goal this month is to find waters where your kids can actually catch fish, and perhaps enjoy some fun diversions along the way. Here are a few places where you can make some memories.
Michigan family members who are hoping to do a little fishing while on their summer vacation have some decisions to make. Besides accommodations, families must decide on what kind of fish they want to catch. Maybe you return to a tried-and-true location that you’ve been to before or maybe you go to a new destination that you’ve always wanted to try. There’s plenty of opportunity to do both in the Great Lakes State.
Following is a list of destinations where you and the family can have a fun-filled vacation and catch a bunch of fish.
Saginaw Bay is loaded with hungry walleyes right now and that’s the perfect scenario for a fishing family to enjoy a day on the water and put some filets in the freezer. Several techniques produce limits for Saginaw Bay fishermen, and they’re all well suited to young anglers. You can troll with crawler harnesses, spoons or crankbaits in the Bay right now and pull a limit of walleyes. If you fish live bait you’re not only likely to catch walleye, but also a smorgasbord of other species that will keep young anglers busy. There are so many walleyes in the Bay right now, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources raised the limit to eight walleyes per day per person and lowered the size limit to 13 inches. Having too many fish is a problem anglers don’t mind!
The quickest access to deep water is from the west side of the Bay near Linwood. From there it’s easy to get to 17 to 22 feet of water where massive schools of walleyes reside through most of the summer. Knowledgeable anglers will tell you that most of the walleyes head to deeper water and the Charity Islands as the Bay’s inner waters warm, but Dave Militello and I spent a day on the Bay in early August a couple of summers ago and fished southeast of Linwood. We never got much deeper than 17 feet. We pulled crawler harnesses and iced two limits of walleyes. Most were nice 15- to 17-inch eaters, but a few were pushing 25 inches.
If you have your own boat you can launch at Linwood Beach Marina and Campground and set up your base of operations there. Plenty of captains run charters out of the marina. Among the best and friendliest are Captain Jeff Godi, 989-697-4415; themichiganexperience.com.
For live bait, lake maps, tackle and information on guides and charters contact Frank’s Great Outdoors at 989-697-5341, or franksgreatoutdoors.com.
Along The Way
Bay City is the gateway to Saginaw Bay and its outstanding walleye fishing. One of the city’s biggest events centers around fishing. The Free Fishing Festival takes place in June at Bay City Recreation Area and coincides with Michigan’s Free Fishing Weekend. There are contests, games and instructional seminars during the festival. The Saginaw Bay Waterfowl Clinic is another event that takes place at the recreation area during August. The clinic features the latest in waterfowling gear and duck and goose calling competitions. Besides the fishing and hunting attractions, visitors to Bay City have fun at the Infinity Skate Park, visit the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum, Riverwalk Pier, Delta College Planetarium and Learning Center, go on a bike tour, visit the maritime gallery, play miniature golf, see the Tall Ship Celebration and take in Bay City’s spectacular 4th of July fireworks display.
For more information on things to do and see, contact the Great Lakes Bay Regional CVB at 800-444-9979 or michigan.org/property/great-lakes-bay-regional-cvb/.
Lake Erie’s Michigan waters produce some red-hot angling during early summer. Angling families don’t have to go far to catch a limit of walleyes. For anglers trailering their own rigs there are excellent launch facilities at Lake Erie Metropark, Pointe Mouillee State Game Area, Sterling State Park on Brest Bay, and at Hieldenburg Park on the River Raisin in Monroe. There are camping facilities nearby.
May and June find excellent numbers of walleyes within easy reach of Michigan ports on Lake Erie. The post-spawn walleyes mill around in Brest Bay in the 12- to 18-foot depths feeding and recuperating after spawning. Anglers can catch walleyes jigging, drifting, or casting, but trolling is probably the most productive way of boxing a bunch of walleyes.
Lake Erie has become much clearer in recent years due to zebra mussels and better pollution controls. As a result, trolling produces better than the time-proven method of drifting. Small spoons are the got-to lures in recent years although crankbaits still take their share of suspended ’eyes. Look for clusters of boats on schools of fish and then skirt the outside edge of the pack. Wise anglers purchase Ohio licenses as well as Michigan fishing licenses. Ohio licenses are available at most Michigan license dealers in the area.
Along The Way
After you’ve caught your limit of walleyes, there’s no shortage of things to do and see in and around Monroe. There’s the annual Monroe Riverwalk Festival, the Tractor and Engine Show, offshore powerboat races, art fairs, and yes, Mom, plenty of shopping, like at the Cabela’s store in nearby Dundee. Monroe is only a short drive from Toledo, Ohio, and the Toledo Zoo, Cedar Point Amusement Park, Erie Street Market, sailing charters, the African Safari Wildlife Park, the Merry-Go-Round museum, Tony Packo Café’s famous chilidogs and much more. You can reach the Toledo Ohio CVB at toledoohionow.com.
For more information on bait shops, lodging, camping and other amenities, contact the Monroe County Convention & Tourism Bureau at.monroeinfo.com/.
LAKE ST. CLAIR
Talk about the big city! It doesn’t get much bigger than downtown Detroit. For those who live in the Great White North, a trip to Detroit and its skyscrapers is like viewing awe-inspiring mountains.
Detroit residents are lucky to have some great angling right at their back door. Lake St. Clair has fantastic fishing for a variety of species including muskies, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, walleyes and others. Last year on a trip to Lake St. Clair I caught seven different species in a single day.
Catching fish on Lake St. Clair is not difficult. Get yourself a bucket of native spot-tailed shiners or some nightcrawlers, some hooks, and enough split shot to get them to bottom and drift. You don’t know what you’re going to catch. It could be jumbo perch, smallies, walleyes, rock bass, white bass, sheepshead, and a host of other species. Something is bound to put a bend in your rod and a smile on young anglers’ faces. Concentrate on the 10- to 12-foot depths along the weedlines between Huron Point and 9-Mile Road. To reach Lake St. Clair Metropark, call 810-227-2757 or metroparks.com/conditions/lake-st-clair-metropark/. There’s a good launch there plus bathroom and picnic facilities.
Along The Way
It’s a treat to go to Detroit to visit the Automotive Hall of Fame, walk in Belle Isle Park, take in the Cranbrook Art Museum, or see a Detroit Tigers baseball game. There’s Greenfield Village, the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, Motown Historical Museum, Eastern Market, Greektown, the Detroit Institute of Arts, casinos, the Detroit Zoo and eateries galore
For more information on things to see and do in Metro Detroit contact the Metropolitan Detroit Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-DETROIT or at visitdetroit.com.
Hamlin Lake is a favorite of vacationing angling families. It’s easy to see why. The 5,350-acre Mason County lake is famous for its great fishing and nearly half of it lies within the boundary of Ludington State Park.
The big draw for visiting anglers, especially in spring and early summer, is its panfish. Panfish move into the shallows in late May to begin their spawning chores. Anglers can wear polarized glasses to spot the beds in shallow water. The fishing is not complicated. A slip-bobber with an ice-fishing jig or teardrop with a wax worm or scent-enhanced plastic will usually do the trick. The kids will have a ball filling a bucket with the 7- to 9-inch bluegills and sunfish that are common in the lake.
The bayous on the east side of the lower lake are great places to prospect for panfish, especially when the wind is blowing. Hard-bottomed areas up near the dunes are good places to look for panfish, too. Panfish migrate into the shallower, weedy, warmer upper lake in the spring. Platter-sized crappies are available, too. Calm, still evenings are a great time to skirt the edges of the weedbeds casting small Beetle Spins or floating a minnow under a slip-bobber for the 10- to 14-inch specks.
The size and number of walleyes in Hamlin has been on the increase. Expect to catch plenty of 15- to 18-inch eaters, but ’eyes to 10 pounds are available. Trolling with bottom-bouncers and crawlers is a proven tactic for walleyes on Hamlin. Live bait rigging works to, and usually produces constant action and a smorgasbord of fish for young anglers. Vertical jigging with a minnow or leech where the old river channel traverses the lake off Ludington State Park is good for walleyes and the chunky smallmouths that are plentiful in Hamlin.
Country Haven Resort has comfortable cottages and rooms right on lower Hamlin Lake. Boat and slip rental is also available. Contact the resort at 888-845-5187 or at countryhavenresort.com for reservations and more information. Bait, tackle and fishing reports are available at North Bayou Resort at 800-261-7415 or at nbayou.com.
Along The Way
Ludington State Park, with its sand dunes and hiking trails, is close to Lake Michigan and the beautiful beaches and the amenities of Ludington. Ludington is arguably the best charter and sportfishing port on the Great Lakes. Several first-rate trout streams are close by. Ludington has the car ferry Badger, great eateries, beautiful golf courses nearby, White Pine Village and plenty of other places to see and things to do.
For information on other amenities, accommodations, and other sites in the Ludington area, contact the Ludington Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-542-4600 or ludingtoncvb.com.
Manistique, in the heart of the U.P., is an ideal location to base your family fishing getaway. At 10,130 acres, Big Manistique Lake, 20 miles southwest of Newberry, is popular with fishing families. The lake is ringed with both private and rental cottages. The occupants ply the lake for an assortment of finned quarry that includes jumbo perch, walleyes, bluegills, smallmouths and pike. Big Manistique Lake is probably most famous for its perch fishing. Usually a slip-bobber, some leeches and persistence is enough to ensure a perch dinner. Jumbo yellowbellies will top a foot long, although the average will be between 8 and 10 inches. The same rig is likely to interest the lake’s plentiful walleyes and smallmouths. Try around Potter and Long islands near the humps in the center of the lake. There are excellent launch facilities on all four corners of the lake.
Along The Way
Manistique puts you smack dab in the middle of the U.P.’s most famous tourist attractions like Palms Brook State Park and Kith-iti-Kipi Spring, Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Fayette Historic Townsite, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Mackinaw Island, the Big Mac Bridge, and thousands of acres of Hiawatha National Forest. For more information on attractions in the central U.P., contact the Upper Peninsula Travel & Recreation Association at 800-562-7134 or uptravel.com.
For details on boat and cottage rentals and local bait shops, contact the Curtis Area Chamber of Commerce at 906-586-3700 or curtischamber.com.