Knowing where to go is the first step to having a great time on the water. Here's a look at where to go for angling action all year long.
Michigan is blessed with year-round fishing opportunities for everything from bluegills to salmon. Wherever you live, there's a great fishing hole nearby, or if you wish to travel, you can take your pick of hotspots and enjoy the state's best angling.
However, not all fishing holes are created equal. Many lakes and rivers are better than others and knowing where to go is the first step to having a great time on the water.
Here's a look at where to go to get in on the action this year.
Manistique Lakes Chain
One of the finest pike fisheries in the Upper Peninsula is the Manistique Lakes Chain that includes North Manistique, Big Manistique and South Manistique lakes.
A recent DNR survey netted 10 northern pike over 40 inches in a day, a feat that isn't repeated often on any pike water. One of the northerns measured 49 1/2 inches.
Most pike are caught at Big Manistique, a 10,000-acre lake in one of the largest natural waterways in the Upper Peninsula.
Hotspots include three midlake submerged bars that anglers hit hard with excellent results.
The lakes are located in Luce and Mackinac counties. A state boat ramp is located on the south shore near Curtis Road and public ramps are on Route 1245 and on Long Road.
For more information, contact JR's Sport Shop at (906) 586-6040.
Oakland Lake covers 255 acres in Waterford and Independence townships in central Oakland County.
The lake is an ice-angler's dream. Shoreline structure provides cover for plenty of feisty bluegills and anglers often go home with a bucketful. The three main lake basins range to 25, 27 and 64 feet and are bordered by steep slopes that concentrate bluegills next to deeper water. There are several small bays on the lake that are less than 5 feet deep along with a few small islands.
Oakland Lake's submerged vegetation, much of which survives the winter, holds bluegills along the weed edges.
The average size of the bluegills sampled during a recent DNR survey was nearly 7 inches in length.
Black crappies were the runners-up but not nearly as numerous. The average crappie measured an impressive 9 inches. For more information, call the DNR's Lake Erie Management Unit at (734) 953-0241.
Stony Creek Reservoir
Stony Creek Reservoir, north of Rochester Hills in Macomb County, is a favorite springtime destination for many crappie anglers. The 497-acre lake is an impoundment of Stony Creek, a tributary of the Clinton River. At one point, a state-record papermouth came out of these waters.
Two fish attractors near the boat ramp provide excellent crappie cover. Average depths range from 5 to 15 feet in most of the lake, and then drop off to about 20 feet near the southern shore. Old logs and other woody structure are ideal spots to drop a line.
Stony Creek doesn't have as much pressure as other area lakes. Crappie populations are cyclical but there always seem to be some nice fish there in the spring. For more information, contact the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority at (800) 477-2757.
Lake Michigan At St. Joseph
Spring angling opportunities for offshore salmon are good but often require a go-and-find-them attitude.
Salmon can be just about anywhere this time of the year and their locations depend on the weather. When surface temperatures hover near 54 degrees, salmon are usually found on the surface or near the shoreline. As summer water temperatures begin rising, the fish will move to deeper water.
Abundant numbers of salmon are caught in St. Joseph every year. When fish are feeding near the surface, fly-fishing can be exciting.
If anglers can find schools of alewives or other baitfish, the salmon should be nearby. You might tag a 10-pounder, and then tangle with a real rod-bender in the 25-pound plus range from the same school of fish.
A public boat launch is located on Marina Island in St. Joseph, while smaller boats may use the DNR's Jasper Dairy access. For more information, contact BJ's Sporting Goods at (616) 429-8271.
Although it boasts a good population of bucketmouths, Wamplers is often overlooked as a bass lake. Summer is notoriously a hard bite but Wamplers has the habitat to make it bearable.
Bass angling starts to take off as the water warms. The fish will be in shallow water along submerged weedlines, emergent vegetation and woody cover. It may take some work to tempt one to bite, but it can be done. Early mornings and late evenings are the best times to try.
The lake is in the Walter J. Hayes State Park near Jackson. Boat ramps are located north of the beach on Wamplers Lake Road and on Round Lake that lies east of Wamplers but is connected by a navigable channel. A park sticker is required for entry.
For more information, call the DNR's Lake Erie Management Unit at (248) 359-9040.
Fletcher Floodwaters may be the most productive northern pike water in the Lower Peninsula. Largemouth bass have boomed as well, but they can't compare with the 30-inch northerns that dominate the lake.
There is no one best spot on this structure-filled lake. The northwest section is loaded with submerged stumps and scattered weeds. The old river channel runs through the main-lake basin and is another good spot, with the riverbed being slightly deeper than the surrounding flats.
Most of the lake is only 6 feet deep with stumpfields coverin
g hundreds of acres of water. The stumps were cut off at water level and are very hard to see. Dented aluminum boats with small motors are the mainstay and trying to operate anything larger is just asking for trouble.
Fletcher Floodwaters covers 8,970 acres in Alpena and Montmorency counties. A public ramp is located near Fishing Site Road on the north side of the lake.
For more information, contact the DNR's Northern Lake Huron Management Unit at (989) 732-3541.
One of the finest pike fisheries in the Upper Peninsula is the
Manistique Lakes Chain that includes North Manistique,
Big Manistique and South Manistique lakes. A recent DNR survey netted 10 northern pike over 40 inches in a day, a feat that isn't repeated often on any pike water. One of the northerns measured 49 1/2 inches.
Lake Michigan Off Frankfort Port
Trolling for lake trout in Lake Michigan near Frankfort has proved productive with fish measuring up to 20 inches and weighing 3 to 6 pounds.
One of the hotspots is directly in front of the harbor in 70 to 90 feet of water. Trolling north or south in these depths will put you over fish.
The Herring Hole, four miles south of the harbor, is best fished at 90 feet.
Six miles north of Point Betsie is, what else, the Six Mile Hole, a dropoff loaded with lakers and salmon.
As the water temperatures warm, thermal breaks or scum lines can form. Troll due west from Frankfort 15 to 20 miles offshore until you find a break with a drastic temperature change. These scum lines push floating bugs, baitfish and debris that attract big lakers. Fish the scum lines from the surface to about 30 feet.
For more information, call McQuillan at (231) 218-2379 or visit his Web site at www.hawgtide.net
Lake Hudson is one of the state's best bets for hooking a big muskie. Muskie numbers are artificially high, since this lake is maintained as the primary brood-stock lake for Michigan's muskellunge rearing program. There are many 36- to 40-inch fish swimming the lake's 502 acres.
In August, a good night bite can develop when there's a great deal of boat traffic and fishing pressure during the daylight hours. Shallow weedbeds harbor numerous muskies after the sun goes down, but they'll also roam more freely away from cover.
Daytime muskies will be deeper. The lake consists of two main lake basins and the fish are in both. The most productive sections are the main lake body on the beach side and in the area southwest of the boat launch and campground.
Lake Hudson is located in Lenawee County, a mile south of M-34 on M-156 and eight miles east of Hudson. Public access is provided in the recreation area off M-156 north of Medina Road.
For more information, call the DNR's Lake Erie Management Unit at (734) 953-0241.
Anglers tend to overlook this fishery, but some big catfish have been pulled from here. Patient anglers have pulled in cats in the 29- to 30-inch range.
Channel cats are usually considered warm-weather fish. Cats love the warmer weather but don't quit eating when anglers give up and call it quits in the fall.
Try anywhere there is flat, shallow water in the evening and on into the night. The cats will be hanging out in deeper water during the daylight hours and move in shallow at night to feed.
Access to the lake is from the Tubes area on Stanley Road, the Mt. Morris Road bridge and the area at Zemmer and Hanmann roads.
The lake covers 1,973 acres and is part of the Holloway Reservoir Park.
Be prepared to pay a seasonal fee. For more information, call the Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission at (800) 648-7275.
St. Joseph River
Walleye for walleye, few Michigan rivers can match the St. Joe.One of the best times to tag a limit of 'eyes is during the pre-spawn period in the late fall and early winter when the fish are moving in from Lake Michigan, especially in the lower section. A few fish are upriver by this time and more are on their way. These migrating walleyes have a 25-mile stretch between Lake Michigan and the Berrien Springs Dam where all upstream progress is stopped.
The St. Joe is especially good for walleyes below the Berrien Springs Dam where they're forced to congregate. There is also plenty of good fishing from Colon in St. Joseph County all the way down to Lake Michigan.
The St. Joe empties into Lake Michigan near the city bearing its name. The river meanders through the Lower Peninsula on its westward journey, and then dips across the Indiana state line. About 50 miles east of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, the river crosses back into Michigan in Berrien County.
For more information, contact the DNR's Southern Lake Michigan Management Unit at (269) 685-6851.
Au Sable River
Steelhead are well on their way up the Au Sable River by November.
Action picks up as the fish move out of Lake Huron and into the 20-mile stretch of river that ends at the Foote Dam. Though steelies are found in this stretch of river all year long, the numbers shoot up in the late fall.
Steelhead usually reach 10 or more pounds and anglers can expect to find many of them once the run picks up steam. By mid-November, the largest numbers of fish are in the river.
The best fishing has been from Foote Dam downstream to the Whirlpool landing with most of the fish being in the deeper gravel. As water levels rise, the fish swim farther upstream. During periods of low water, they'll hold up in the deepest water they can find. These deep holes are concentration points where anglers can roll a wax worm, spawn bag or earthworm for some nice-sized fish.
High-water hotspots are hard to pinpoint, since the trout are moving.
For more information, contact The Dam Store tack
le shop (989) 739-9979 in Oscoda.
Crappies attract many ice-fishermen in December when there's safe ice. Bonus fish include bluegills and yellow perch that are often taken in shallow water.
Locals like to hit the hardwater for papermouths the first hour or two after sunset. Most anglers head for home at dusk, but the Union Lake crappie bite is just getting underway.
Try setting tip-ups right out from the boat ramp or on the shallower water on the northwestern and eastern edges of the lake. Many of the fish are taken in 5 to 10 feet of water.
At other times, anglers will find schools of cold-water crappies suspending in the depths. Be willing to work the water and keep moving until you connect with fish.
Union Lake is a short drive for Detroit-area anglers in Oakland County. The lake covers 465 acres of fish-producing water with excellent yields of crappies.
Occasionally, the lake will yield a walleye or redear sunfish.
State-owned public access is located on the north shore near the intersection of Union Lake Road and Locklin Lane.
Contact the Michigan Boat Works at (810) 632-7933 for more information.
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