We have so many places to go fishing in our state that it can be tough to decide where to go. Our angling expert makes your decision simpler by directing you to three hotspots per month. (February 2006)
Michigan has so many great fishing destinations that it's hard to decide which ones to go to during the year. So much water, so little time!
This angling calendar should make those choices simpler.
Saginaw Bay Walleyes
Cold weather locks up Saginaw Bay by mid-January. A hot first-ice bite occurs in depths from 6 to 12 feet from Linwood on the west around to Sebewaing to the east on the inner bay. First and last light produce the hottest action, although on overcast, cloudy days, fishing can be good throughout the day.
Jigging spoons like Swedish Pimples and Do Jiggers in gold/orange, blue/silver and glow colors are hot when tipped with a minnow or minnow head. Anglers also score with leadhead jigs, Jigging Rapalas and similar lures. A lift-and-drop cadence seems to work best while staying on the move.
For live bait, tackle and fishing reports, contact Frank's Great Outdoors at (989) 697-5341, or online at
Austin Lake Panfish
Kalamazoo County's 1,090-acre Austin Lake gives up some nice bluegills and crappies. Try the 11-foot hole in the center of this shallow lake and the 5- to 10-foot dropoff around it. Larva and teardrops produce best for bluegills averaging close to 8 inches and crappies up to 14 inches. For more information, contact the Kalamazoo County Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-222-6363 or visit
Muskegon River Steelhead
Steelhead will trickle into the river throughout the winter, and provide steady fishing during January and February. Plugs work best in the cold water. Try from Croton Dam to Newaygo. To learn more, contact Parsley's Sport Shop at (231) 652-6986.
Higgins Lake Smorgasbord
It's often February before 9,600-acre Higgins Lake offers safe ice. But when it does, ice-anglers catch a mixed bag of lake trout, whitefish, perch and smelt.
The lake-trout action starts in 70 to 90 feet and moves deeper as winter progresses. Live smelt or blue or gray shiners suspended below conventional tip-ups and Slammers work best. Browns and rainbows are available, too.
Whitefish from 3 to 6 pounds can be caught right along with the trout. Anglers chum a hole with corn, rice or spawn and then fish the bottom with slip-bobbers or jigs. At night, smelt can be caught on teardrops and wax worms. Use a light to attract the micro-organisms that in turn attract smelt. Perch numbers are high in Higgins, but their size is small right now. Use wigglers, wax worms or minnows on bottom for the perch in 25 to 50 feet.
To book an ice-fishing charter on Higgins Lake, contact John's Frozen Charters at (989) 422-6745.
Lake Margrethe Bluegills
At 1,920 acres, Lake Margrethe has been hot for good-sized bluegills the past few winters. A good location is 300 yards out from the state park in 5 to 8 feet of water. Look for a defined weedline. Other hotspots include South Bay and off Eagle Point. For more information, contact the Grayling Visitors Bureau at 1-800-937-8837, or online at
Burt Lake Walleyes
Look for Cheboygan County's Burt Lake to produce good walleye action in February. Try tip-ups with shiners, or jigging spoons with minnows. Try 15 to 45 feet off water off Kings and Colonial points. For more information, contact the Indian River Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-238-9325, or online at
Pine Lake Crappies
Expect frantic ice-out crappie action on Barry County's 660-acre Pine Lake. Specks migrate to the backs of coves and bays to find warm water and to bulk up before spawning time.
All four separate basins produce stringers of crappies. Concentrate on the south-facing shorelines. There's a public access at the northwest corner.
For more information, call D&R Sport Center at 1-800-992-1520.
Fletcher Floodwater Northerns
Pike put on the feedbag just before ice-out in this shallow 9,000-acre Alpena County lake. Spot tip-ups near the old riverbed. Use golden shiner or sucker minnows for northerns that will regularly top 10 pounds. Contact Jack's Landing at (989) 742-4370, or at
Pere Marquette River Steelies
Steelhead that have wintered over in the river begin fanning gravel in mid-March. Plan your trip after a few warm days. Wear polarized glasses to spot white depressions and spawning activity. The Flies-Only Section down to Walhalla is prime water.
New Buffalo Cohos
This sleepy port is on fire for coho salmon in April. Shallow water, thermal input from factories and runoff all concentrate a hodgepodge of cohos and other salmonids.
Target 10 to 30 feet. In-line planer boards and divers pulling spoons, body baits and crankbaits all score. Orange is hot. Try small dodgers or flashers trailing black flies, too. The cohos will average 1 1/2 to 3 pounds and have flame-red flesh.
Hotpots are all along the shoreline from the pump house south of New Buffalo all the way to Warren Dunes State Park. There is a DNR launch near the mouth of the Galien River.
For more information, contact the Southwest Michigan Tourist Council at 1-269-925-6301, or go online to
Anglers will find good brown trout action at Pentwater in April. Body baits that imitate smelt and alewives are tops when towed behind inline boards. Try south to Juniper Beach or north to the Consumer's Energy Project in 10 to 20 feet of water. To learn more, call (231) 869-4150.
Detroit River Walleyes
Thousands of Lake Erie walleyes converge on the Detroit River in April to spawn. Vertical jigging with 3/8- to 1/2-ounce leadhead jigs takes the most fish. Tip them with live minnows, plastics or Berkley Power Grubs. 'Eyes topping 10 pounds are very common, especially early in the month.
Tittabawassee River Walleyes
A cold spring finds plenty of post-spawn walleyes still in the Tittabawassee come May. Most will be males averaging 1 to 3 pounds, but fish up to 8 pounds are available in good years.
Slipping the current to vertical jig is a proven tactic. Dragging jigs across shallow flats works, too. Some anglers troll upstream with crankbaits and have good success.
Good access points are at Center Street, Imerman Park and Wicks Park on the Saginaw River. A good location is just upstream from where the Tittabawassee joins the Saginaw River. Also try near West Michigan Park, above the Gratiot Street Bridge and near State Street.
For more information, contact the DNR's Southern Lake Huron Management Unit at (989) 684-9141.
Belleville Lake Crappies
Turbid water, stumps and warming waters make Belleville a prime location for May crappies. Besides good numbers of crappies, Belleville gives up trophies, too, as in 14-inchers. Minnows are the preferred bait, but artificials also score. Look for specks at the back of bays and channels.
Black River Brook Trout
Spring fly hatches, receding water and warmer temperatures make May prime time for capturing the Black River's biggest brookies. The brook trout can be caught on small spinners, worms and flies. Most will average 7 or 8 inches, but fish to 17 inches are available. Try near Barber, Shingle Mill and Main River bridges.
Current, wind and wave action cause thermal barriers and scum lines to form off Onekama that concentrate steelhead in June. The breaks collect windrows of insects, baitfish and spunky rainbows.
Although you might be fishing 900 feet of water, the trout are rarely below 20 feet. In-line boards trailing small orange spoons are the ticket when combined with shallow-set divers. Look for bird activity and watch your surface-temperature gauge. Troll fast at 3.0 to 3.5 mph to cover water. Most of the rainbows will average between 5 and 12 pounds, but steelies topping 20 pounds are caught. The fishing stays hot through July.
Michigammee Lake Walleyes
Lake Michigammee is one of the premier walleye lakes in the Upper Peninsula. June finds the walleyes feeding heavily. Try off the mouth of the Peshekee River on the east end of the lake near Van Riper State Park. Use bottom-bouncers, jigs and minnows, and gold/orange Rapalas.
Driggs River Brook Trout
June is a great time to catch brookies for the frying pan on Schoolcraft County's Driggs River. The Driggs gives up limits of 8- to 10-inch brook trout to anglers using worms, spinners and flies. Access can be gained off M-28 or Driggs River Road.
Craig Lake State Park Potpourri
Michigan's most remote state park, Craig Lake State Park is a 6,900-acre wilderness area that offers great angling opportunities. Seven lakes and numerous ponds offer great fishing for pike, muskies, walleyes and smallmouth bass. Getting to the fishing is the hard part. Rugged trails lead to a 1/4-mile portage to Craig Lake and access to the other lakes.
Fishing is catch-and-release for every species but walleyes, and you must use artificial lures. White or chartreuse spinnerbaits are good searching lures. Crankbaits and twistertail jigs are good choices, too.
For more details, contact Baraga County Tourism at (906) 339-4461; their Web site is
Beaver Lake Smallmouths
Alpena County's 665-acre Beaver Lake is a sleeper for big smallmouth bass. Fish to 6 pounds are not uncommon. Structure concentrates bass here. Try hopping jigs and minnows around the fish shelters on the eastern shore in 10 to 30 feet of water.
Lake St. Clair Smallmouths
Smallmouth bass fishing peaks on Lake St. Clair in July. A hands-down favorite for the bass is a tube jig in silver/glitter or pumpkinseed. The colors imitate the bass's favorite food -- baitfish and crayfish. Try near Metro Beach south of the mile roads. Thirty-fish days are common.
Massive schools of chinooks converge on this port in August.
Fishing focuses on the structure near Big Sable Point. Salmon can be found as shallow 20 feet at first light until the sun and boat traffic moves the fish deeper. The 90- to 120-foot depths are a good bet then. Flashers and flies, J-Plugs, as well as magnum spoons all produce. The lures can be fished off downriggers, divers, sinker drops and lead-core line. Boat traffic can be horrendous on weekends, so plan a midweek trip.
Sable Point isn't the only place you'll find Ludington chinooks. Try straight out of the harbor in 100 feet and south off the Consumer's Energy Project. You'll find a lot less competition there. If fishing slows, head west. Usually you can find an abundance of young kings, cohos, lake trout and steelhead over deeper water.
For more info, contact Chuck's Great Outdoors at (231) 843-4458.
Paw Paw Lake Largemouths
Berrien County's Paw Paw Lake is one of the better bass lakes in southwest Michigan. This 857-acre lake features a lot of coves, weeds and ideal largemouth habitat. A landlocked population of alewives helps bass grow fat. Bass to 4 pounds are not uncommon. Toss crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jig-and-pig combos.
Stannard Rock Lake Trout
Stable weather in August makes it the perfect time to make the long run to "The Rock," located 42 miles off Marquette. Fishing Stannard Rock requires a seaworthy vessel, a knowledge of local weather and some common sense. Lakers to 30 pounds are common. You can troll for them, but jigging is more fun. Use a 2-ounce jig, a twistertail and a chunk of sucker meat.
Manistee River Chinooks
Bronze-colored kings rush into the Manistee River in September, headed for Tippy Dam. Anglers can intercept them in the lower reaches of the river.
Many anglers anchor at the head of a run and let Flatfish or Hot-N-Tots wiggle in the current. Others toss spinners or back-bounce with spawn. Find a deep run and wait for the salmon to move through. Position your baits to block their upstream movement. Autumn rains trigger runs of fresh fish.
Anglers can gain access at Insta-Launch Campground, Bridge Street, Rainbow Bend or Bear Creek. A daily fee is charged to launch at several of these accesses. To learn more, call Insta-Launch at (231) 723-3901.
Northerns & Walleyes
Cooling water makes for hot fishing on Greenwood Reservoir in September. Northerns and walleyes put on the feedbag in early fall. Look for pike off Humenne Island and right off the boat launch. Walleyes will be hanging off the mouths and points associated with the Middle Branch of t
he Escanaba River. For more, call Wilderness Sports at (906) 485-4565.
Intermediate Lake Walleyes
Intermediate Lake's walleye turn on when the leaves start to turn. Look for walleyes that run from just-legal up to 4 pounds on the south end of the lake where humps, depressions and structure concentrate fish. Cast with jig-and-minnow combinations.
Cadillac & Mitchell Pike
Big pike go on the prowl on Mitchell and Cadillac as waters cool in October. Northerns in the 38- to 40-inch range are common.
The key is to locate vegetation that's still growing. Cast Rapala Husky Jerks and big spinnerbaits over and around the weeds. Mitchell is better for numbers, while Cadillac produces better fish. Giant smallies are a bonus.
To learn more, contact Pilgrim's Village & Resort at (231) 775-5412.
Lake Bellaire Walleyes
Antrim County's Lake Bellaire is a great place to cast suspended body baits for walleyes in the fall. Walleyes suspend near baitfish schools. Use X-Raps, Rattlin' Rogues and similar lures.
Chocolay River Salmonids
A steady source of groundwater in the fall attracts a hodgepodge of trout and salmon to the Chocolay River in October. Naturally reproduced coho salmon converge on the river to spawn. The steelhead are hot on their tails. Chinook salmon, brown trout and pink salmon add to the mix. Try near the village of Harvey.
Lake Independence Walleyes
Marquette County's Lake Independence serves up hot walleye action just before the lake freezes. Two- to 3-pound walleyes are the norm, but bigger fish are common.
The key is to troll slowly with bottom-bouncers trailing body baits like Rapalas and Storm ThunderSticks. Best colors include perch and fire-tiger patterns. The walleyes relate to the 25- to 30-foot contours. Try out from the public launch and near the mouth of the Yellow Dog River. Look for humps and subtle contour changes that concentrate fish.
For more information, contact the Marquette Gander Mountain store at (906) 226-8300.
Bear River Menominee
These small whitefish converge on the mouth of the Bear River near Petoskey in October and November to gorge on salmon eggs. Use a slip-sinker, 4-pound-test leader and a No. 10 Aberdeen hook. Boiled single salmon eggs are their preferred bait. The menominee average about a pound, and make delicious eating.
Lake Skegemog Muskies
Muskies gravitate to this shallow 2,562-acre dinner table in November. They gorge on panfish, suckers and other snacks. Cast jumbo in-line spinners, jerkbaits and body baits. Fish to 30 pounds are possible.
Lake Gogebic Walleyes & Perch
Winter comes early to the western U.P., and first ice on Lake Gogebic can come at Thanksgiving.
Jumbo perch are suckers for a wiggler fished below a slip-bobber. Perch topping 12 inches are no big deal. Target 25 feet of water near the center of the lake for yellowbellies. Gogebic is not known for producing large walleyes, but there are plenty of them. Jigging spoons sweetened with a minnow are a good combo. Try the contours off Meriwether and Lake Gogebic State Park.
Bring some type of transportation to get around. To learn more, contact Nine Pines Resort at (906) 842-3361.
Houghton Lake Panfish
Shallow 20,000-acre Houghton Lake freezes early and provides some great first-ice panfish action. Bluegill and crappie populations have rebounded after the weeds were killed off a few years ago. Try off the south shore and the area known as "The Heights" in as little as four feet of water for 'gills. Look for slabs to 14 inches in the same area, but slightly deeper.
Chicagon Lake Smorgasbord
Off Midsummer's Point is a good location for walleyes and perch. Along the golf course on the south shore is good, too, amongst remnant weed. The deep center portion is good for whitefish and lakers. Access is at Pentoga County Park.