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Michigan's Best Bets For Fishing

Michigan's Best Bets For Fishing

Since you don't have much spare time in your busy schedule, wouldn't it make sense to go fishing where the bite is hot? Go ahead and hang this calendar next to the one on your wall!

Being blessed with such a variety of fishing opportunities can actually be a little troublesome for Michigan anglers. How do you decide where to go with all the choices?

Well, it’s a lot easier if you have a plan. Here’s a fishing calendar that will help you formulate an angling agenda for the next 12 months.


Houghton Lake Panfish

Treatments to eradicate weeds a few years ago left nowhere for predator fish to hide, and anglers put a hurtin’ on Houghton Lake’s predator population. Now that the weeds are coming back, the panfish population on Houghton Lake has bounced back big-time.

“The south end of the lake can be very good for panfish,” said John Michalik of John’s Frozen Charters. “You can usually find the panfish in 4 to 10 feet of water. The key is to find broadleaf cabbage.” Michalik said to keep moving and punch a lot of holes. Work the water column from top to bottom. Concentrate your efforts near the ice surface early and late in the day for crappies.


For more information, contact the Houghton Lake Area Tourist & Convention Bureau at 1-800-676-5330 or

Lake Mitchell Crappies

“The crappie fishing just continues to get better and better on Lake Mitchell,” claimed Steve Knaisel of Pilgrim’s Village and Resort. “We’ve seen crappies up to 17 inches.” The key is to find green cabbage weeds. Try off the mouth of Big Cove and Little Cove, and in 6 to 8 feet of water off Blind Island. For more information, contact (231) 775-5412 or

Little Bay De Noc Walleyes

January finds some consistent ice conditions on Little Bay de Noc. Key to locating walleyes is to locate reefs and dropoffs off the river mouths that enter the north end of the bay. Start on top at first light and work deeper as the day wears on. Jigging with Swedish Pimples is the preferred method. Do Jiggers and Jigging Rapalas also work. For more info, contact the Delta County Chamber of Commerce at


Saginaw Bay Walleyes

Once safe ice forms, anglers concentrate on Saginaw’s 12- to 20-foot depths. Two popular access points are off the DNR public access at Linwood and off Bay City State Park. It’s about a three-mile run then to prime walleye waters.

Some of the best action is at first light. Key is to stay away from groups of anglers and activity, and gradually move deeper during the day. Jigging with a 2  1/2-inch Swedish Pimple with green prism tape is a killer on the bay’s walleyes.

For information on ice conditions, fishing reports and live bait, contact Frank’s Great Outdoors at (989) 697-5341 or online at www.

Higgins Lake Lake Trout

“First ice can be really good for lake trout,” said John Michalik. Start in the 100-foot depths with smelt, or blue or gray shiners on bottom. Trout will suspend, too, so try other rods with slip-bobbers. Once you find the trout it’s usually easy to ice a limit. To book an ice-fishing charter on Higgins Lake, contact John Michalik at (989) 422-6745.

St. Joseph River Steelhead

“If we get a thaw and the river opens up, fishing can be very good in February,” said Russ Clark. Clark said to work the slower, deeper runs below Berrien Springs with plugs or back-bounce with spawn. Key is to work your baits slowly and methodically in the cold water. Toward the end of the month, concentrate near the gravel areas the rainbows will be spawning on. To book a charter on the St. Joe River, contact Russ Clark at (269) 429-6110.


Lake Independence Perch

“Lake Independence has some of the best genetics of any perch lake in Michigan,” claimed Dan Webb of the Gander Mountain store in Marquette. “The average-sized perch is going to be 10 to 14 inches, and you’ll catch a lot more bigger than 14 inches.” Schools of perch roam the 20- to 30-foot flats in the middle of the 1,860-acre lake.

Slip-bobbers suspending minnows is a proven tactic. Attaching a 2- to 6-inch dropper below a Swedish Pimple baited with a wax worm or wiggler can be deadly.

For details on ice conditions and more, call (906) 226-8300.

Saginaw River Walleyes

An early spring will have the river free of ice in March, and anglers in boats can catch big walleyes just before the season closes March 15. Vertical jigging with a leadhead jig tipped with a minnow is the chosen method. More anglers are slow-trolling with deep-diving crankbaits, too. Try downstream of the Zilwaukee Bridge, off Vets Park and near the mouth of the Tittabawassee River. For more information, contact the Saginaw County Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-444-9979.

Hubbard Lake Perch

Last ice produces some of the biggest jumbo perch of the year on Hubbard Lake. Late in the year, anglers congregate on North Bay, East Bay, out from Churchill Point and off Hardwood Point. Concentrate on the 10- to 40-foot depths. Wigglers will take the most perch, but the real jumbos love walleye-sized shiners. For more information, contact East Bay Outfitters at (989) 727-9916.


Pere Marquette River Steelhead

Lake-run rainbows converge on the gravel reaches of the P.M. River in early April. The best spawning habitat is from Walhalla upstream through the flies-only section. Many anglers use drift boats to float the river and get out to fish. Fly-anglers practice the “chuck-and-duck” approach to get flies deep. Try glow bugs, stonefly nymphs, caddis larva and Woolly Buggers.

Wear polarized glasses and look for redds or the flash of a spawning fish. Early and late in the day are when fish are most visible. During midday, probe the deeper holes and runs. Outside the flies-only water, anglers score with spawn, spinners and plugs.

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

Belleville Lake Crappies

Belleville Lake is among the best in Michigan in terms of both size and numbers of crappies. Crappies move into the shallows in March. Concentrate on the south-facing bays. Crappies stage in the 10- to 20-foot depths near the old river channel and move into the bays and coves as they warm. Contact the Ypsilanti Convention & Visitors Bureau at (734) 483-4444.

Menominee Brown Trout

The area of Green Bay off the Menominee and Cedar rivers offers spring anglers exceptional fishing for brown trout and splake. Anglers troll with body baits off flatlines or in-line boards in the shallows from 5 to 20 feet. Try off Hennes Park, Stony Point and the mouth of the Cedar River. Spoons can be hot, too. For more details, contact Pete’s Sport Shop at (715) 582-3681.


St. Joseph Kings

Salmonids gravitate to the warm waters of southern Lake Michigan off St. Joseph. Most people are happy catching 1  1/2- to 3-pound cohos, but anglers after bigger game will find plenty of chinooks. Stitching the color line can be a deadly tactic where the murky water of the St. Joe River spills into the big lake. The warmwater discharge near Bridgman attracts kings, too, and fishing can be excellent all the way to New Buffalo.

Magnum-sized spoons are the preferred bait for spring chinooks. Run them off shallow-set downriggers and divers. In-line boards pulling body baits or lead-core line excel when kings are shallow. Use your surface temperature gauge to locate pockets of warmer water and baitfish.

For area information, contact Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council at (269) 925-6301 or online at

St. Marys River Steelhead

Steelhead begin showing up in May in the cold waters of the St. Marys River. Fishing remains good into June. Anglers can access the rapids area of the river via the Canadian side and a boardwalk that leads to the river. Wading is treacherous, so felt-soled waders and a wading staff help. Fishing is often to visible fish. Wear polarized glasses. For more details, contact the Sault Convention & Visitors Bureau at (906) 632-3301 or online at

Hardy Dam Pond Smallmouths

Newaygo County’s Hardy Dam Pond is open to early-season, catch-and-release bass fishing. The 18-mile impoundment of the Muskegon River is prime for smallies in May. Work south-facing dropoffs with crankbaits, or probe coves that warm quickly for pre-spawn bass. Use tubes and light line. Contact the Newaygo County Chamber of Commerce at (231) 652-3068.


Lake Erie Walleyes

The Michigan waters of Lake Erie open to walleye anglers on June 1. You’ll find plenty of post-spawn ’eyes in the 10- to 20-foot depths off Monroe, Sterling State Park, Bolles Harbor and Luna Pier. Trolling with crankbaits and small spoons is the ticket. Crankbaits are run off in-line boards. Spoons excel off downriggers and divers. Hot colors are pink, purple, copper and rainbow. Drifters can use weight-forward spinners, jigs or crawler harnesses with good success.

For more information, contact 1-800-252-3011 or

Fence River Brook Trout

Iron County’s Fence River fishes well in June, but bring plenty of insect repellent and be prepared to battle brush. The Main Stream gives up brookies to 16 inches, but most average 8 to 10 inches. The river is open enough to fly-fish. Anglers also toss spinners or dunk worms. The surrounding terrain is wild and access is limited. Anglers armed with a GPS will find beautiful brook trout. Contact the Iron County Tourism Council at (906) 265-3822 or online at

Paw Paw Lake Largemouths

Berrien County’s Paw Paw Lake is a topnotch bass lake. Located near Watervliet, the lake has a landlocked population of alewives that the bass grow fat on. Work the coves and shallow water with topwater lures early and plastic baits later. Try the deep water with crankbaits at midday.


Tittabawassee River Smallmouths

The Tittabawassee River is loaded with smallmouths that are ignored during the summer. Anglers can wet-wade and use about anything they want to catch-and-release 30 to 40 smallies a day.

Look for any structure that might hold a fish. Most fish will be sub-legal, but there are bass that will push 4 pounds. The best fishing is between Freeland and Saginaw.

For information, contact the Saginaw Gander Mountain store at (989) 791-3500.

Ludington Steelhead

Scumlines can be found over 200 to 800 feet of water up to 25 miles offshore. Use the Coastwatch maps to pinpoint breaks. Rainbows will be cruising a few feet under the surface. Use in-line planers and divers in the top 20 feet. Orange spoons are the ticket. For information on booking a charter, contact the Ludington Area Charter Boat Association at 1-800-927-3470 or

Cass Lake Largemouths

Cass Lake is one of the best largemouth lakes in the Greater Detroit area. Bucketmouths pushing 5 pounds are common. Use white spinnerbaits, jig-and-pig combos and plastic worms. Concentrate on boat docks, weedlines and other structures. Prime areas are off Marsh Park, in Mud Bay and along the area known as “The Guts.” For more information, contact KD Outdoors at (248) 666-7799.


Rogers City Kings

Trolling for chinooks gets hot in August off Rogers City. Hefty plants of kings at Swan Bay ensure plenty of returning salmon. Anglers intercept them one mile east of Adams Point along structure that runs out 1  1/2 miles into the lake. Concentrate on the 100-foot depths. Between Adams Point and Quarry Point is another hotspot.

Kings are taken on a variety of magnum spoons, flashers and plugs. Downriggers and divers are a mainstay, but lead-core line is gaining a following at Rogers City.

For more information, contact the Rogers City Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-622-4148 or online at

Au Train Lake Pike

Alger County’s Au Train Lake gives up big northerns in the 30- to 36-inch range. Try near the mouth of Buck Bay and near weed edges in 15 to 30 feet of water. The favorite forage is suckers. Soak one under a big bobber or cast muskie-sized baits for the biggest pike. For details, call (906) 293-5131.

Prickett Dam Backwater Bass

An impoundment of the Sturgeon River, Baraga County’s Prickett Dam Backwater is excellent for both smallmouths and largemouths. Dropoffs, islands, weedbeds and coves hold bass to 5 pounds. Topwater baits are excellent.


Manistee River Chinooks

Chinooks begin moving into the river around Labor Day. Good locations are upstream from Manistee, Rainbow Bend and Bear Creek. Fresh-run fish stack up in the holes, where they can be taken on skein spawn, spinners and plugs. The best fishing is on overcast days or early and late in the day. Rains can jumpstart moody salmon. Try fishing during the week to avoid angler traffic. Glow-in-the-dark and pearl are good lure colors. Try chartreuse or green spinners as well.

For more information, call 1-888-584-9860.

Au Sable River Trout & Bass

Cool nights spur the Au Sable River’s trout and bass into a feeding frenzy in September between the Alcona and Loud dams. Floating while casting stickbaits and crankbaits takes bass to 5 pounds and browns pushing 8 pounds. Try gold- or crawdad-colored baits.

Hamlin Lake Panfish

Expect limit catches of big sunfish, bluegills and crappies during September. Use larva for the sunfish and ’gills, and minnows for the specks. Try off Partridge Point, The Narrows and Wilson Park.


Muskegon Lake Walleyes

Walleyes go on a feeding binge as the waters of Muskegon Lake cool. Use a trolling motor for stealth. Anglers take ’eyes in the double-digit range. Best action is after dark. Work the 12- to 17-foot contours with body baits weighted with two or three No. 7 split shot. Keep light and noise to a minimum to prevent spooking fish.

To book a Muskegon Lake walleye charter, contact T.G.I.F. Charters at (231) 773-7447.

Lake St. Clair Muskies

Speed-trolling with Believers, T-3 Terminators and Wileys behind planer boards and with down-rods takes plenty of muskies to 30 pounds and bigger. Contact Miller’s Sport Fishing Charters at (734) 429-9551.

Platte River Cohos

Use polarized glasses to spot fish holding near cover. Cast spawn, spinners or flies to goad salmon into striking. Access can be gained at bridges near the town of Honor. Consult the fishing guide for restrictions.


Eel Lake Muskies

Gogebic County’s Eel Lake’s small size makes finding muskies easy, but catching them is difficult. Cast with big spinnerbaits and bucktails, or fish a big sucker under a bobber. Access the lake off USFS Trail 326. There is a public access on the south end of the lake. Expect to catch a lot of sub-legal muskies before a trophy. For details, call (906) 353-6651.

Singing Bridge Trout

Surf-anglers can catch a smorgasbord of trout and salmon off the mouth of the East Branch of the Au Gres River near Singing Bridge in November. Steelhead, browns and lake trout are common catches. Anglers soak spawn bags or cast spoons.

Bond Falls Flowage Muskies

An impoundment of the Ontonagon River, Bond Falls Flowage has a good population of muskies that turn on in November. Located east of Paulding, hardy anglers troll big crankbaits and body baits or cast giant bucktails for muskies that can approach 50 inches.


Portage Lake Pike

First ice is best for big pike on Houghton County’s Portage Lake. Pike in the 15- to 20-pound range are common. Use medium-sized suckers and shiners over scattered weedbeds. Try off U.S. 41 north of Chassell and in Pike Bay.

For more information, contact the Keweenaw Tourism Council at (906) 482-2388 or

Lake Gogebic Perch

First ice produces hot action for perch up to 16 inches on Lake Gogebic. Limits are common in December. Slip-bobbers suspending wigglers or minnows are good on the 20- to 30-foot flats.

Munuscong Bay Perch

Ice-anglers put a hurtin’ on big perch on first ice on Munuscong Bay in 3 to 4 feet of water. Try jigging spoons, or dead rods with minnows. Many times just a minnow head is all you need.     l

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