If you are an avid angler, there probably is no better place in which you could reside than Michigan. Our state has its waters within the Great Lakes, plus thousands of inland lakes, rivers, streams, ponds and reservoirs. If variety is the angling spice of life, then you’d think you’ve died and gone to heaven in Michigan.
With so many choices, it can be difficult trying to decide when and where to go. This monthly calendar will help you make those tough decisions in your fishing life.
Little Bay de Noc Walleyes
January usually finds plenty of safe ice on Little Bay de Noc, which means the winter walleye bite will be in full swing right now.
“Most of the winter walleye fishing is centered on the reefs in 15 to 25 feet of water,” said Little Bay de Noc regular Ron Hanna. “The fish generally start shallow early in the morning and then move deeper as the day goes on.”
Anglers head out from Escanaba, Gladstone, Kipling and Rapid River. Access can be gained off U.S. Highway 2 near Bay Shore Resort, at Rapid River, at Gladstone, at Escanaba and at Hunter’s Point National Forest.
Swedish Pimples and Do Jiggers are the lures of choice for winter walleyes on Little Bay. Tip the lures with a minnow head. Most anglers use a ripping motion to attract attention, and then allow the lure to flutter downward. Walleyes inhale the lure on the fall. Expect to catch plenty of walleyes in the 4- to 6-pound range. However, special regulations on Little Bay de Noc allow keeping only one walleye over 23 inches per day.
For more information on lodging, bait and guides, contact Bay Shore Resort, Bait & Tackle at (906) 428-9687, or online at www.bay-shore-resort.com.
Cisco Lakes Chain Potpourri
The Cisco Chain of Lakes in the Upper Peninsula’s Gogebic County offers ice-fishing variety. Walleyes will average 2 pounds. Look in 6 to 8 feet of water on first ice. The ‘eyes like minnows on tip-ups, and Swedish Pimples. Perch up to 13 inches are common near the center of the lake in midwinter. Cisco Lakes has some good-sized sunfish, bluegills and crappies, too.
Rice Lake Northern Pike
You won’t catch too many trophy pike on Houghton County’s Rice Lake, but you’ll find plenty of action. The lake has no size limit on northerns. There is an abundance of hammerhandles, but 28- to 36-inch pike are becoming increasingly common.
Muskegon Lake Pike
Muskegon Lake is a great place to catch some eatin’-sized northerns, but you also stand a good chance of catching a monster. Pike in the 27- to 30-inch range are very common, and 15- to 20-pounders are caught every winter.
Regular-sized suckers and golden shiners will take the average-sized pike, but for the ‘gators, try jumbo herring. Slammer tip-ups are the tools of choice.
Prime locations are off the South Branch of the Muskegon River, off Fisherman’s Landing, Heritage Landing, Second Street and Hartshorn Marina.
For information on area bait shops and accommodations, contact the Muskegon County Convention & Visitors Bureau at (231) 722-3751, or online at Muskegon.org.
Burt Lake Perch
Burt Lake has a reputation for producing good catches of winter walleyes, but the perch may be more impressive. Perch up to 15 inches are common, and the average yellowbelly is over 10 inches. Walleyes are an added bonus and will generally run from 15 to 19 inches. Large shiner minnows are good medicine for both. Try off Maple Bay, Resort Road and Burt Lake State Park. For more on Burt Lake fishing, see the article starting on page 28 of this issue. For area information, contact the Onaway Chamber of Commerce at (989) 733-2874.
Manistee Lake Crappies
Kalkaska County’s Manistee Lake harbors dandy crappies and perch. Try north of the public access on the east side. A dropoff there from 10 to 16 feet attracts big specks right before dark. Use a lively minnow or jig for crappies up to 14 inches.
Lake Missaukee Panfish
Panfish populations are booming on Lake Missaukee. Tons of trash fish were removed from the lake, and the panfish have responded.
Missaukee is shallow, but there are plenty of 15- to 20-foot-deep flats near the center of the lake that concentrate winter perch. Use wigglers, minnows and wax worms for perch that will average 8 to 10 inches.
Sunfish and ‘gills can be found off Green Road in 5 to 15 feet of water. Use a flasher to locate fish. Keep moving and drill plenty of holes. Limits of hand-sized panfish are common.
For information on Lake Missaukee, contact Lake City Sport Shop at (231) 839-4875.
Lake Independence Perch
Want jumbo perch? Try Lake Independence near Marquette. Perch from 10 to 12 inches are common, and 14- or 15-inchers aren’t unheard of. The jumbos are taken on tip-ups or slip-bobbers suspending walleye-sized minnows. Swedish Pimples and Jigging Rapalas also work well.
Thornapple Lake Crappies
Thornapple Lake has ideal crappie habitat in the form of stumps, laydowns and structure. Predators keep small crappies in check. Look for shallow south-facing bays that warm quickly in spring. Try jigs and minnows for specks that will average 10 inches.
Detroit River Walleyes
Thousands of walleyes move into the Detroit River to spawn in April. Early April is prime time for the big spawners, with walleyes over 10 pounds being common. Two- to 5-pound males are abundant later in the month.
Most anglers use 3/8- to 3/4-ounce leadhead jigs baited with a minnow while using a trolling motor to slip the current. Plastics work if the fish are aggressive.
Launch at Elizabeth Park or Erie Metropark near Trenton. The fishing, though, can be good all the way to Wyandotte.
For more information, go online to www.trentonmichigan.com, or call 1-800-DETROIT.
Little Manistee River Steelhead
It’s a tradition among many steelheaders to open the season on this famous Michigan stream. Anglers descend on the “Little River” on the April 1 opener. On April Fool’s Day, you can expect snow, sunshine, high water or monsoons. The only constant is plenty of big rainbows. Anglers camp on favorite holes until the bewitching hour. Spinners, spawn and flies take the majority of the fish. Try near Six-Mile, Nine-Mile, Fox and Dewitt bridges.
Paw Paw River Steelhead
The Paw Paw River is a sleeper for steelhead. The better steelhead action takes place from 5950th Street all the way to Watervliet. Anglers take fish on spawn and hardware. The Paw Paw River benefits from plants in the St. Joe River. Hot fishing continues from mid-March through April.
St. Joseph River Chinooks
Spring kings are drawn in by St. Joseph River water, and they concentrate off the pierheads at St. Joe during May. That’s when the chinook fishing can be really good.
Trollers use spoons and crankbaits off downriggers, divers and lead-core line to fool salmon. Be sure to cover the entire water column. A trick is to troll the color line where the river dumps into the lake, because the salmon patrol the dirty water.
The salmon average 6 to 12 pounds, but 15- to 18-pound brutes are common. Cohos, brown trout and steelhead add to the smorgasbord.
For area information, contact the Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council at (269) 925-6301, or online at SwMichigan.com.
Saginaw Bay Walleyes
Post-spawn walleyes fan out in the shallows of the Saginaw Bay to recuperate. A night bite takes place in 4 to 10 feet of water. Anglers pull stick baits behind lighted in-line planer boards. Expect ‘eyes in the 4- to 6-pound class. Contact Frank’s Great Outdoors at (989) 697-5341, or online at FranksGreatOutdoors.com.
Deer Lake Crappies
Slab crappies in Charlevoix County’s Deer Lake go on a feeding binge in May. Look around the weedline and all the stumps. Crappies up to 14 inches are common.
Last season was a banner year on Lake Erie, and 2007 promises to be even better.
Walleyes disperse into the 12- to 15-foot depths in June. Spoons trailed behind mini-divers are hot. Try Michigan Stingers and Fishlanders in gaudy colors. Crankbaits still produce, too. Try lures like Hot-N-Tots, Wiggle Warts and Wiggle O’s.
Most walleyes are 16 to 18 inches, but there are many fish expected to be 2- to 4-pounders this year. Access is available at Luna Pier, La Plaisance Bay, Brest Bay, Monroe and Sterling State Park.
Contact the Monroe County Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-252-3011.
Smoky Lake Smallmouths
Iron County’s Smoky Lake produces great smallmouth action. Finesse fishing with light line, tubes and crankbaits is good for bass up to 4 pounds. Try the eastside point, and the depressions and humps in the middle of the lake. For information, contact the Iron County Tourism Council at (906) 265-3822.
Yellow Dog River Trout
June is a great time to sample the Yellow Dog River’s trout potpourri. The river traverses the Escanaba River State Forest and CFA lands near Marquette. Eatin’-sized brookies are plentiful. Expect more browns and rainbows near the confluence with Lake Independence.
Wind, current and warming temperatures create thermal barriers and scum lines off Manistee in July, and the breaks collect terrestrial insects and hungry steelhead.
In-line planers and divers trailing orange spoons are a proven combination to catch the steelies. Fish the top 10 feet of the water column. Lake trout and chinook salmon suspend below the steelhead. Troll fast, cover water and watch for birds working the surface. The steelhead average 6 to 8 pounds, but ‘bows pushing 15 pounds are available.
For local information, contact the Manistee Area Visitors & Convention Bureau at 1-888-584-9860.
Lake Fenton Largemouths
Lake Fenton in Genesee County is a great place to catch largemouth bass. The irregular shoreline, bays and coves offer perfect bass habitat. Try Crane’s Cove and near the narrows on the south end. Weedless rigs work in the weeds where the bass hide during the summer.
Rush Lake Largemouths
Rush Lake teems with big bass. The lake is located within the Mackinaw State Forest. Rush has an abundance of vegetation that bass relate to, including bucketmouths in excess of 5 pounds.
Pre-spawn kings begin to stage off Ludington in mid-July, and salmon shadow the “The Shelf” three to seven miles north of the port. Look for salmon in 30 feet of water early, and then move deeper.
Plugs, Spin Doctors and flies, and super-magnum-sized spoons are best. Glow, green and chartreuse are proven colors.
Fishing pressure is intense. Plan on being on the water early. Expect salmon between 5 and 15 pounds, but kings over 20 pounds are common.
For more information, contact the Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-542-4600, or online at Ludingtoncvb.com.
Muskegon Lake Kings
Pre-spawn kings stack up in Muskegon Lake beginning in August. Water temperature dictates their arrival. Try south of the harbor in 50 to 60 feet of water. Later, kings school just inside the channel, all the way to the Yacht Club. Key is to fish plugs within a few feet of bottom.
Black River Harbor Lake Trout
Black River Harbor offers consistent action for native lake trout during August. The trout school up in the 80- to 120-foot depths between Sucker Creek Reef and Maple Creek Reef. Most lakers will be 3 to 10 pounds, but 25-pounders are common.
South Lake Leelanau Walleyes
South Lake Leelanau walleyes turn on from about mid-September until the weeds begin to die. Locate scattered weeds in 4 to 12 feet of water, and then cast stick baits over openings in the weeds. The walleyes will run from 15 to 19 inches, but 8- or 9-pounders are available.
Try Perrin’s Bay, off Robinson Point, and near the outlets of Weisler and Cedar creeks.
For information, contact the Leelanau County Chamber of Commerce at (231) 271-9895.
Loon Lake Panfish
Loon Lake sees a lo
t of fishing pressure in the summer, but few anglers in the fall. Bluegills and crappies move shallow in September. Try the weed edges adjacent to deep water. Jigs or teardrops will catch ‘gills and crappies up to 12 inches. Contact KD Outdoors at (248) 666-7799.
Lake Millecoquin Bass & Pike
Maybe this is the top lake in the eastern U.P. for largemouths and northerns because both go on a feeding binge as the weeds begin to recede. Lake Millecoquin has few spots over 12 feet. Fish can be found anywhere. Use Johnson Silver Minnows and pork rind, or spinnerbaits. The inlet and outlet areas of the river are hotspots. Contact the Northern Lake Michigan Management Unit at (906) 786-2351 for more details.
Lac Vieux Desert Muskies
Lac Vieux Desert muskies turn on as fall sets in.
Autumn is when muskies patrol the weed edges off Duck, Near and Draper islands. Anglers toss jerkbaits and bucktail spinners. Soaking a sucker under a bobber works, too. The lake contains both northern and tiger muskies.
Skegemog Lake Smallmouths
Most anglers think of Skegemog’s muskies and jumbo perch, but the lake produces some great fall bassin’. The best fishing is from about mid-October through November. Try the stumpfields off the mouth of the Torch River. Spinnerbaits are hard to beat. The bass will push 6 pounds. For details, contact Jack’s Sport Shop at (231) 258-8892.
White Lake Walleyes
White Lake walleyes put on the feedbag in October. Gizzard shad, alewives and native baitfish become vulnerable as the weeds die. Walleyes pig out on the baitfish. Anchor and cast body baits along the weed edges, or you can stealth-troll the 10- to 20- foot contours. The fishing remains hot right up until ice-up.
Pere Marquette River Steelhead
Rains and cool weather trigger steelhead runs in the P.M. River. Steelhead also stage in P.M. Lake, where trollers and anglers fishing with spawn do well. Anglers catch steelhead on spawn, plugs and spinners in the river itself. Near Custer and Scottville can be very good. The river is wadeable upstream of Walhalla.
For information, contact Baldwin Bait & Tackle at (231) 745-3529.
Saginaw Bay Perch
Marinas, ditches and rivers that feed Saginaw Bay stack up with perch in the fall. Look for north and east winds that raise water levels in the channels. Use minnows or tiny jigs for perch averaging 8 inches.
Menominee move shallow in November off the Frankfort breakwalls. Try using worms and salmon eggs. Menominee are light biters. They also are great fighters and good eating. Use an egg-sinker and a No. 10 Aberdeen hook.
Hamlin Lake Bluegills
Hamlin Lake has safe ice by Christmas, and first ice produces hot bluegill action.
Try off Wilson Park in 5 to 10 feet of water. In December, panfish will eat anything, so wax worms, spikes and mousies all work. Chartreuse, green and orange teardrops are hot. Keep hole-hopping until you find a productive area.
For more info, contact Gnat’s Charters at (231) 845-8400, or online at www.gnatscharters.com.
Brevoort Lake Potpourri
Variety describes Brevoort Lake at first ice. The Mackinac County lake is known for producing walleyes, pike and panfish. Boedne Bay is good for panfish and pike. Structure and weeds right off the public access is prime. Try the central portion of the lake for walleyes. Use tip-ups or slip-bobbers during the day, and actively jig in the evening. The walleyes are usually good-sized.
Thousand Island Lake Walleyes
Thousand Island Lake has plenty of walleye structure. Try the 5- to 25-foot depths off Boy Scout Island. Keep moving and punch plenty of holes. Tip-ups baited with shiner minnows work, as do jigging spoons.
* * *
Regardless of the season, there’s certainly no shortage of angling opportunities in Michigan. Enjoy!
Find more about Michigan fishing and hunting at: MichiganSportsmanMag.com