January 30, 2023

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The Complete Guide to Michigan Fishing Seasons

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Bordering on four of the five Great Lakes, Michigan is the place where some of the best freshwater fisheries in the world intertwine. The state’s waters offer endless opportunities for adventure, whether you’re looking to put some dinner on the table or catch your next angling trophy. Of course, you’ll first have to get acquainted with Michigan fishing seasons, because what you end up catching will depend on when you go.

Like the rest of the upper Midwest, Michigan gets cold during wintertime. However, the fishing doesn’t stop even when its waters are all but frozen. In fact, one of Michigan’s nicknames is “Winter Wonderland” and you better believe it applies to fishing as well.

To find out exactly how the fishing changes and how the seasons turn, stick with us. We’ll provide a month-by-month overview of the fishing seasons in Michigan, so you know what to expect no matter when you decide to go.

What is the best season to go fishing in Michigan?

Species Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Chinook Salmon Weak Weak Weak Weak Good Good Great Great Good Weak Weak Weak
Coho Salmon Weak Weak Good Great Great Good Weak Good Great Great Weak Weak
Atlantic Salmon Weak Weak Weak Weak Weak Good Great Great Good Great Great Good
Steelhead/Rainbow Trout Great Great Good Good Great Great Weak Weak Weak Good Great Great
Lake Trout Good Good Great Great Great Great Good Good Great Great Great Good
Brown Trout Good Good Great Great Good Good Weak Weak Good Good Good Good
Walleye Good Good Good Great Great Great Great Great Good Good Good Good
Perch Good Good Good Great Great Good Good Good Great Great Good Good
Smallmouth Bass Good Good Good Good Great Great Great Good Great Great Good Good
Muskellunge Weak Weak Good Good Good Great Great Great Good Great Good Good
Northern Pike Good Good Good Great Great Great Good Good Great Great Good Good

For those looking to experience the Great Lakes, and catch their fill of all the amazing fish that inhabit these waters, summer is the best time to go fishing in Michigan. Whether it’s Walleye, Chinook, Coho Salmon, or most of the other species you’ll find out here, they’ll all be biting between June and September.

Summertime is also the peak season on many other lakes you’ll find in Michigan. For example, Lake St. Clair features fantastic Muskie action when the waters are warm. Meanwhile, Manistee and Maple rivers can put you on some of the best Trout fishing around. Whichever way you go during the summer, you’ll be in for a productive time on the water.

With this in mind, you can fish Michigan’s waters no matter when you visit. It’s just that the period between December and March is usually reserved for ice fishing. If you’re interested in knowing more about what each month has on offer, take a look at our breakdown below. Or, check out what’s biting in Michigan right now.

January

It’s deep winter in the Mitten State, with many of its waters completely frozen over. For anglers brave enough to tackle the frigid weather, this means only one thing – ice fishing. In Michigan, this type of fishing is a time-honored tradition and a popular pastime both for visitors and locals.

There are many different spots you can visit throughout the state. Among them, Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay is a popular destination during Michigan’s ice fishing season. In winter, fishing here will net you one of the tastiest catches out there – Walleye. Other lakes, such as Hamlin, Cadillac, or Mitchell Lake are full of Crappie, Bluegill, as well as Northern Pike, and Walleye. Finally, Crystal Lake is a great choice if you want to reel in some Lake Trout.

Compared to summertime, ice fishing trips in Michigan do have their fair share of logistics attached to them. You’ll need shanties, augers, ice fishing gear, as well as transportation to the prospective lakes. While you can bring or rent the equipment, the best option is to pair up with one of the many ice fishing guides in Michigan. Besides knowing where the bite is, they’ll supply you with all the necessary equipment to make your trip comfortable.

February

While many inland lakes are frozen at this time of year, large rivers such as Manistee or Muskegon will still be flowing. In them, you’ll find plenty of Trout, as well as Steelhead, the supercharged migratory version of Rainbow Trout. Of course, you’ll have to make sure you’re equipped to handle the cold because the average temperatures range from about 20 to 30 F.

Three anglers ice fishing inside a shanty.

The ice fishing conditions are largely the same as in January. In Saginaw Bay, you’ll see some Perch and Walleye take your bait. Lake Gogebic is another spot renowned for its Perch fishing. On other lakes, you’ll get the chance to reel in some Bluegill and Crappie, Northern Pike, Trout, and more.

March

In Michigan, the first half of March is still rather chilly, with plenty of the state’s waters still encased in ice. With this in mind, it’s smart to check the ice fishing reports or ask a local bait shop whether the ice is thick enough to fish on. If so, you can expect the same kind of action January and February offer, with Walleye, Perch, Pike, and Trout being the main targets depending on where you go.

A closeup shot of a Walleye caught during the winter season in Michigan, next to an ice fishing hole.

Towards the latter half of March, you’ll start seeing the first signs of spring. As the waters warm up in rivers such as the Pere Marquette near Ludington, or Muskegon and Manistee, Steelhead will be making their spring run. These fish are some of the best freshwater fighters you can hope to encounter, worth braving the cold for.

April

As springtime finally arrives in the Wolverine State, Steelhead will be making their run along the state’s various rivers. The earliest runs usually take place on the Pere Marquette and the White River, with Muskegon, Manistee, and others joining soon after. For those among you who’ve been itching to wrestle some Steelies, this is your chance to do so.

An angler holding a big Manistee River Steelhead.

Alternatively, Walleye fishing on the Detroit River is absolutely on fire in April. Their fishing season in Michigan generally begins as soon as the ice thaws. Early during the Walleye run, you’ll have the chance to reel in trophy-sized fish. Later on, the fishing gets more and more consistent, with anglers often hitting limits of smaller fish.

Also, Walleye fishing in the Saginaw River reopens on the last Saturday in April, right after the spawning season ends. At this time, you can expect to enjoy some of the finest, most bountiful Walleye action in this part of Michigan. If you can’t visit during summer, this is the ideal time to catch your share of these delicious fish.

May

By May, most charter boats will be offering fishing trips on the four Great Lakes surrounding Michigan. Starting around the middle of the month, you’ll get the chance to fish Lake Michigan for Coho Salmon and Trout, as well as Bass. If you visit Lake Superior instead, you’ll get to fish for Brown Trout, Cisco, as well as early-season Coho and Chinook Salmon.

An angler holding a huge Walleye caught in Lake Erie's western basin in Michigan.

Another excellent place to fish around this time of year is Lake Erie’s western basin. Launch from Monroe, and you’ll get the opportunity to reel in plenty of delicious Walleye. Alternatively, the Tittabawassee River is also a great option if you want to catch some ‘Eyes.

On the other hand, if you’re in the mood for some panfish, try making your way to Union Lake or the Portage Chain-of-Lakes. Around this time, big Bluegill should be hanging out in the shallows, along with some Crappie. Strawberry Lake in particular is known for the chubby Bluegill swimming through its waters.

June

June marks the beginning of the high season on the Great Lakes. On Lake Michigan, you’ll get to target Steelhead and Lake Trout, as well as Coho and even Chinook Salmon. Lake Superior also offers plenty of Salmon and Trout action, while Lake Erie traditionally features the hottest Walleye fishing.

A man on a boat holding a Lake Trout.

Other options for Walleye anglers are the Detroit River, St. Clair River, and Lake St. Clair. All three will be teeming with these delicious fish during the month of June. On Lake St. Clair, you’ll also get the chance to reel in some Smallmouth Bass, as well as the elusive Muskellunge.

However, if you’re looking for the most diversity, there’s no better choice than to visit Lake Huron. It offers amazing Walleye action in places such as Saginaw Bay and Thunder Bay. In addition to that, there’s also an assembly of Lake Trout, Rainbow Trout, Coho, and even Atlantic Salmon elsewhere on the lake. The number of species you can catch on Lake Huron ensures you’ll never get tired of these waters.

One last thing to note regarding June fishing in Michigan is the hex hatch. The hatch marks the high time for fly fishermen to hit the waters as Trout will be swimming near the surface, looking to feed. Visit rivers such as Au Sable, Manistee, Pere Marquette, or Grand River for some of the best fly fishing in the whole Michigan state.

July

The fishing only gets better in July. For those interested in battling the famed Chinook Salmon, now’s the time to hit Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, or Lake Huron. Also known as King Salmon, these fish are some of the finest fighters out there. The Salmon season in Michigan is arguably the most exciting time to go fishing in the state, so make sure you join in on the action.

An angler posing with a big Chinook Salmon he reeled in during the peak fishing season on Lake Michigan.

If you somehow end up catching your limits of Salmon early during your trip, you’ll be glad to know there are other fish to catch on those three lakes. In fact, they all provide habitat for plenty of Lake and Brown Trout, which are always fun to chase after. Finally, you might even hook into some leftover Coho Salmon, though the fishing usually drops off in July.

Of course, it’s peak season pretty much everywhere else in Michigan, too. Lake Erie anglers are consistently catching limits of Walleye, even if they don’t spend a full day on the water. On Lake St. Clair, the Smallmouth Bass fishing is absolutely on fire. Adding to that, there are also Muskellunge hiding around it, giving you the opportunity to land the “Fish of a Thousand Casts.”

Finally, if you’re itching to add Atlantic Salmon to the mix, St. Marys River is a great place to do so in July. Kings will also be biting, and you’ll sometimes even hook into Walleye. All in all, it’s worth checking out.

August

The amazing King Salmon fishing July brings only continues in August. If you’re keen on catching some on Lake Michigan, Traverse City and the nearby towns will serve as great starting points. Otherwise, head to Lake Superior or Lake Huron and reel in your share of these freshwater superstars.

Two men aboard a Lake Superior fishing charter, posing with a King Salmon they caught.

For anglers, Lake Erie is pretty much synonymous with Walleye fishing, which holds true during this time of year as well. The fishing is extremely consistent, with limits of Walleye being the standard, rather than the exception. We are talking about the finest Walleye fishery on the planet, after all.

St. Marys River remains a prolific Salmon fishery in the summertime. It drains Lake Superior into Lake Huron, offering some of the best fishing you can find in either. By August, Chinook Salmon should be biting throughout the river. Otherwise, fish near the mouth of Tahquamenon River for some Perch, Walleye, and Bass.

September

You can still enjoy plenty of King Salmon action in the first half of September. They’ll be getting ready to head upriver to spawn, which means you’ll often find them staging close to lake shores. Of course, you’ll also get to reel in Coho Salmon on Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Superior.

An angler posing with a Walleye he reeled in on a Lake Erie fishing charter.

If you turn to Lake Erie instead, Walleye will naturally still be biting. However, September also marks the start of the fall Perch season. During this time, you’ll get the chance to reel in larger specimens of these delicious fish, and supplement your Walleye haul with even more catch.

On other lakes, such as Lake St. Clair, it’s once again a great time to catch some Smallmouth Bass. On the nearby Detroit River, Walleye fishing is still going wrong. And, of course, there’s always Brown Trout swimming along Michigan’s various rivers.

October

By now, fall is in full swing in Michigan. On Lake St. Clair, the Muskellunge bite will pick up again as the water temperatures settle into the 40s. This usually happens in the latter half of the month, making it a great time to fish for trophy Musky.

A man on a boat, posing with a Musky he caught fishing on Lake St. Clair in Michigan.

Late October also marks the return of the beloved Steelhead. These overgrown Trout haven’t exactly been to the ocean, causing some anglers to put their moniker to doubt. However, they look and fight the same as the ones you’d find on the West Coast, which is enough for us to call them Steelhead.

During the fall fishing season in Michigan, you’ll find Steelhead along rivers such as the Pere Marquette, Manistee, Au Sable, Platte, and Muskegon. Whether you’re fishing conventional or on the fly, this is the best time to visit these waters, as the fish will definitely be biting.

Finally, October is typically the last month you’ll get to hop on a charter boat and fish the Great Lakes. By the end of the month, most captains will be preparing their boats for the oncoming winter.

November

Even though the waters will be getting cold by November, the Steelhead fishing season will still be at its hottest throughout Michigan. We’ve already mentioned a few rivers where you can catch these fish in our October writeup. So this time, you should know that there’ll also be some Salmon still in the waters in early November.

An angler holding a beautiful Steelhead caught during the fall fishing season in Michigan.

By the middle of the month, you can expect Whitefish fishing to pick up. There’s plenty of Smallmouth Bass to catch as well. They’ll be scattered throughout the various Michigan lakes, including Skegemog, Upper Herring, Lake Leelanau, and numerous others. The Lake St. Clair Musky bite is usually great as well during the first half of November.

Other fish, such as Northern Pike, Brown Trout, and Walleye will be biting throughout the inland lakes and rivers. Occasionally, you’ll even find Great Lakes charter guides offering some of their last trips of the season during the first days of November.

December

Even though winter is here, big rivers such as Manistee, Muskegon, or Pere Marquette are in no danger of freezing over. Instead, they offer steady Steelhead and Trout fishing for anyone eager to still get out there. With fewer anglers fishing, the waters are under less pressure, leaving you to enjoy them all by yourself.

Two Muskegon River anglers holding a Steelhead each towards the camera.

On the other hand, you can expect many smaller lakes to start accumulating ice. Since it’s only the start of winter, make sure to check with the locals whether the ice on the lake you want to fish is thick enough. If so, you’re in for a treat, as fish ranging from Perch and Walleye to Bluegill, Northern Pike, and Trout will be biting.

If you can manage to get on Lake St. Clair during the first half of December, you might still get to reel in some Musky. Later during Michigan’s winter fishing season, this lake will also freeze over, so you’ll need to bring the ice fishing equipment or hire a guide.

Michigan Fishing Seasons: A Year-Round Wonderland

Turnip Rock near Port Austin in Michigan.

The season shift but the fishing never stops in Michigan. The state’s various waters can only be described as a freshwater angler’s dream. There’s so much you can do, so many fish to catch, and so many places to visit. All you need is an adventurous spirit and willingness to get out there.

But before you start fantasizing about what you want to catch, here’s one final thing to consider – fishing regulations. We’ve presented what you can catch, but whether the fish can be kept or not is up to the state of Michigan to decide. The regulations can change from year to year, so make sure to visit the Michigan DNR website for the latest information.

What’s your favorite season to go fishing in Michigan? Which fish species do you enjoy targeting the most? Hit the comment button and let us know!

The post Fishing Seasons in Michigan: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Marko
Title: Fishing Seasons in Michigan: The Complete Guide
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/michigan-fishing-seasons/
Published Date: Fri, 23 Sep 2022 15:45:00 +0000

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