Come ice or floods or merciless summer heat, you will catch fish this year, all year. With 36 powder-keg possibilities in our annual fishing calendar, your season could be explosive!
Michigan has so many great fishing destinations that it's a challenge to pick just one place to go. Following is a calendar's worth of great fishing venues to help you organize your angling schedule this year.
The Grand River, Lake Cadillac and Baraga County's Pickett Backwater offer first-rate opportunities for bronzebacks.
Photo by Ron Sinfelt.
Hamlin Lake Bluegills
Safe ice can usually be found on Mason County's upper Hamlin Lake by Christmas. Fishing is hot for slab bluegills on first ice. Twenty-five-fish limits of 'gills that average 7 to 9 inches are common, and Master Angler bluegills are caught every winter. Anglers using 2- to 4-pound-test line catch limits right alongside experts, but as winter deepens, anglers who use thin monofilament and downsized baits continue catching fish.
A hotspot is off Wilson Park on the upper lake. Target the 6- to 8-foot depths where you find weeds. For live bait, tackle and fishing reports, contact Pere Marquette Sports Center at (231) 843-8676.
Independence Lake Pike
Marquette County's Lake Indepen-dence is a premier trophy pike lake. Hotspots are off the mouth of the Yellow Dog River on the lake's east end and in Alder Creek Bay.Portage Lake Pike
Another U.P. lake that gives up trophy northerns is 9,640-acre Portage Lake, which gives pike plenty of room to grow and no shortage of forage. Try Oscar Bay and Pike Bay on first ice.
Saginaw Bay Walleyes
Saginaw Bay's walleye population has exploded in recent years due to several strong, naturally reproduced year-classes. It's usually mid-January before the ice is safe enough for anglers to get on it. Initially, 'eyes can be caught in the 6- to 12-foot depths only a mile or two offshore. As winter deepens, the fish move deeper to reefs off Linwood and Pinconning and the area known as "The Black Hole." Anglers jig with Swedish Pimples, Do Jiggers or Rattlin' Buckshot spoons. For more info, visit Franks' Great Outdoors at www.franksgreatoutdoors.com.
Crystal Lake Trout
Benzie County's Crystal Lake has a hodge-podge of trout species that are available to ice-anglers once the lake freezes over in February. Initially, anglers have good luck in the relatively shallow water off Beulah. Anglers target 5 to 40 feet of water for a mix of rainbows, browns and perch. Spawn or minnows work well for the trout, and the perch are partial to wigglers.
Lake Mitchell Crappies
Try off Big and Little Cove and Blind Island for crappies here. The specks take residence in the weeds, so anglers need to hole-hop to find them and work the entire water column. The crappies will be right under the ice by dark. Minnows work well, but try larvae, too, for fish up to 16 inches.
Pere Marquette River Steelhead
The Pere Marquette River between Scottville and Baldwin produces some good early-season action in March. Steelhead that enter the river in the fall and winter are upstream near the spawning gravel at locations like Rainbow Rapids, Sulak and in the flies-only section. Fresh-run fish are in the lower reaches near Custer and Scottville. Most anglers use flies or spawn when fishing the gravel. Downstream plugs often interest rainbows that are moving upstream.
Belleville Lake Crappies
Crappies start their move into the shallows beginning in March. Concentrate on south-facing bays that warm first and attract baitfish.
Grand River Steelheads
Spring rains cause steelhead to rush upstream before stopping at the 6th Street Dam in downtown Grand Rapids. The run usually peaks in late-March. The Grand is often dingy, so use bright flies and spinners.
Detroit River Walleyes
Millions of pre-spawn walleyes enter the Detroit River in March and April. Rotund, egg-laden females are first, followed by scores of smaller males. Post-spawn fish and aggressive males are caught through May. Popular areas include the Trenton Channel and Wyandotte.
Vertical jigging is the preferred technique, but trolling works when the water is off-colored. Use 3/8- to 3/4-ounce jigs depending on the current. A trolling motor is necessary to stay vertical.
Pentwater Brown Trout
Target the 5- to 20-foot depths south of the harbor to Juniper Beach and Little Point Sable north to the Consumer's Energy Project. Body baits trolled off in-line boards imitate the baitfish on which browns feed.
Island Lake Bluegills
Loaded with big bluegills, Ogemaw County's Island Lake is a good bet as waters warm. Look to south-facing bays that warm first. Use flies, poppers, tiny plastics or live bait.
St. Joe Chinooks
The tepid water of the St. Joe River attracts alewives and silvery chinook salmon in May. The kings converge on the color line where the river dumps into Lake Michigan. Savvy anglers stitch the color line, trolling their lures in and out of the dirty water. Shallow-set downriggers, divers and short lengths of leadcore line account for kings averaging 5 to 20 pounds. Productive lures include spoons, body baits and plugs. The kings prefer shades of blue, green, chartreuse and pearl.
Tittabawassee River Walleyes
The bulk of the walleye run in the Saginaw River system occurs in March and April, but enough fish remain in May to make things interesting. Post-spawn walleyes recover in the holes and runs found between Freeland and the mouth of the river.
Cass Lake Bass
Oakland County's Cass Lake is a top producer of largemouth and smallmouth bass. New laws permitting catch-and-release fishing before the bass season opens make May the time to hit the lake. Tube jigs, crankbaits and spinners interest big fish.
Lake Erie Walleyes
Schools of post-spawn walleyes gather in the shallow Michigan waters of Lake Erie during June. You'll find plenty of walleyes in the 10- to 15-foot depths off Monroe, Sterling State Park, Bolles Harbor and Luna Pier. Trolling with small spoons and crankbaits is the ticket. For information on amenities and accommodations, contact www.monroeinfo.com.
Paw Paw Lake Largemouths
Berrien County's Paw Paw Lake is a topnotch largemouth lake. Located near Watervliet, the lake has a landlocked population of alewives that bass target. Work the coves and shallow water early in the day with topwater lur
es. Later, try plastics and crankbaits along dropoffs and edges.
South Branch of the Au Sable Brown Trout
Big Hexagenia Limbata mayflies hatch in mid-June. The bugs bring out the largest trout in the river. The hatch begins just after dark and can last for several hours. The South Branch's Mason Tract provides brown trout topping 20 inches.
Stannard Rock Lake Trout
Trophy lake trout make the 42-mile run from Marquette's lower harbor to Stannard Rock worth the effort. Anglers need to have a seaworthy boat in top running condition. Watch the weather and make use of electronics. Reefs near the Rock rise hundreds of feet to the surface. Native lake trout gather there to feed on herring, bloater chubs and insects in July and August. Most anglers use heavy 2-ounce leadhead jigs adorned with a plastic tail and a strip of sucker meat.
Lake St. Clair Muskies
As summer heats up, so does Lake St. Clair's muskie fishing. Anglers speed-troll with Believers, Terminators and Wiley's in perch and frog colors. Try off the Puce, Belle and Ruscom rivers or near the old dumping grounds at the mouth of the Detroit River in 16 to 18 feet of water.
Pickett Backwater Bass
Baraga County's Pickett Backwater is filled with stumps, weedbeds, deadheads and bass. Both largemouths and smallmouths are common. Topwater lures work best on this Sturgeon River impoundment.
Schools of pre-spawn chinooks converge on the structure found off Ludington in August. Boats stack up near Big Point Sable south to the Bathhouse to work the 70- to 150-foot depths there. Best action is early and late in the day. Use flasher/fly combinations, spoons and plugs behind downriggers off divers and lead core. Look for fish to concentrate near the thermocline.
Grand River Smallmouths
The heat of summer is a great time to try river smallmouths. The Grand River has lots of smallies from Lansing to Grand Rapids. Flies, jigs and lures work equally well.
Grand Haven Chinooks
Kings zero in on the outflow of the Grand River at Grand Haven in August. Hot fishing lasts two or three weeks before the kings shoot upstream. Troll the color line or hit the hole just south of the harbor with plugs and spoons.
Green Bay Northern Pike
Giant northern pike move into the weedbeds off Menominee and north to pig out on suckers and walleyes in September. Look for weeds in 10 to 20 feet of water and troll the edges or cast big bucktails, jerkbaits and spinnerbaits into pockets in the weeds. Troll with Rattlin' Raps and Husky Jerks in fire tiger, perch and shad colors.
Big Manistee River Chinooks
Mature salmon numbers peak in September in the Big Manistee River. The salmon bite best when they first enter the river. Try near Bridge Street, Rainbow Bend and Bear Creek. You can catch the salmon on spawn, crankbaits and spinners. Fish the runs and holes during low-light hours and concentrate on cover once the sun gets up. Dark, rainy days can be excellent.
Lake Cadillac Smallmouths
As waters cool and the days get shorter, Lake Cadillac smallmouths go on a feeding binge. The bass love crayfish that hang out in old slab woodpiles around the lake. Work a jig-n-pig or crawfish-colored crankbait around the wood and hold on.
Tahquamenon River Muskies
Feisty fall muskies in a wilderness setting are the lure of the Tahquamenon River in October. Downstream of McPhee's Landing are 20 miles of breathtaking scenery and muskies. Look for in-stream cover and weed edges that muskies use to ambush prey. Casting with jumbo jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and bucktails is productive. Prime locations are near the mouth of the Sage and Hendrie rivers.
Muskegon Lake Walleyes
As waters cool, Muskegon Lake gets hot for walleyes. Lake Michigan fish join residents to feed on baitfish flushed from dying weedbeds. Anglers use electric trolling motors under the cover of darkness to find 'eyes that routinely top 10 pounds.
St. Marys River Salmonids
The St. Marys River hosts a smorgasbord of salmonids in October. The catch could include chinooks, coho, pink or Atlantic salmon, steelhead, browns or brookies. Try the rapids below the International Bridge. Anglers must gain access from the Canadian side of the river. Wading is treacherous; use caution.
East Tawas Whitefish
Whitefish move into the rocks around the East Tawas piers come November. The tasty whitefish can be caught on worms, wax worms and eggs fished below a slip-bobber in 9 to 11 feet of water. A light onshore wind is best as it stirs up food and fish. The whitefish are very light biters and have soft mouths.
Eel Lake Muskies
Finding muskies in Gogebic County's Eel Lake is easy. Catching them isn't. November is the best time to cast big spinnerbaits and bucktails or soak a sucker under a bobber.
Betsie River Steelhead
Fishing for Betsie River steelheads just gets better as November is ushered in. The first action is in the Meadows and the fish work their way up to the old Homestead Dam. In between are plenty of deep runs and public access. Use spawn or spinners.
Houghton Lake Panfish
Shallow Houghton Lake has ice by Thanksgiving and safe fishing by December sometime. Action for panfish can be hot on first ice. Try off the high school, off Hunt's Drugs and anywhere in the Middle Grounds. Find subtle structure and don't be afraid to drill holes. Find green weeds and work from top to bottom. You'll be rewarded with slab bluegills and sunfish and the occasional eye-popping crappie. Tiny teardrops baited with spikes are the ticket.
Thunder Lake Crappies
Schoolcraft County's 340-acre Thunder Lake is the U.P.'s premier crappie water. Located 15 miles north of Manistique, the best ice-fishing for crappies is as soon as anglers can get on the ice and before the snow gets too deep. Minnows work best, but small jigging spoons and Jigging Rapalas score too.
Lake Gogebic Walleyes And Perch
Winter comes early to the Western U.P. Lake Gogebic has safe ice in December and some of the year's hottest action for perch and walleyes. Use jigging spoons or slip-bobbers for both. Try the 20- to 30-foot flats for perch and shallow structure for walleyes.