Top Fishing Destinations in Michigan

Plan your next fishing trip to the lovely state of Michigan. Find the top hotspots to include on your itinerary with this quick guide.

Top Fishing Destinations in Michigan
Top Fishing Destinations in Michigan
Team Guidesly

September 19, 2022, 4 min read

Updated on September 18, 2022

Top Fishing Destinations in Michigan
Team Guidesly

September 19, 2022, 4 min read

Updated on September 18, 2022

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Home to 11,000 inland lakes and 3,000 rivers, along with a coastline that could rival the biggest in all of the United States, Michigan is undoubtedly a fishing destination for the books. The Great Lakes State derives its name from the Ojibwe word for “large lake,” so if you’re keen on experiencing lake fishing like no other, Michigan should be at the top of your bucket list.

In this quick guide to our top fishing destinations in Michigan, we’ll list some of the state’s most magnificent water bodies that offer excellent fishing for experts and beginners.

We’ll point you towards the best lakes and rivers to fish if you’re looking for a specific fish species and which ones are geared towards certain fishing techniques you’d like to try.

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1. Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan is one of the Great Lakes of North America, the third largest among the lakes that can be accessed from the states of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Within Michigan, the ports in the western region offer excellent fishing for offshore coho salmon, chinook salmon, and steelhead

2. Manistee River 

Manistee River trail

Manistee River is a major tributary of Lake Michigan that’s worth looking into. It flows through the city of Manistee and breaks off, offering a complex and rich water system well-loved by catfish, smallmouth bass, sturgeon, chinook salmon, and rainbow trout.

3. Lake Leelanau

A quick drive away from Traverse City, Lake Leelanau is a favorite among anglers because of its trophy fish. It’s divided into south and north, the south in particular renowned for its big bass. Plenty of walleye can likewise be found in the lake if you fish it in the township of Leland in the Upper Peninsula, especially if you fish very early in the morning or late in the evening when they begin to gather in the shallows.

4. Pere Marquette

Fly anglers flock to Pere Marquette River, a National Wild and Scenic River north of the Grand Rapids. Brown trout and chinook salmon are the choice catch in this river. Anglers keen to fly fish for trout should come here in spring and summer, while salmon hunters will find great success in the fall and may even land some steelhead. If you’re keen on trying wade fishing and drifting, book a fishing guide to practice both techniques for your ease and safety.

5. Lake Erie

Lake Erie is yet another Great Lake you can access within Michigan. Apart from being a popular summer destination, Lake Erie is a walleye capital and a renowned smallmouth bass hotspot. Within the state, you can fish this excellent lake via Luna Pier and Monroe or jump to the western basin crossing Ohio ( make sure you’re licensed to do so). One thing to note about this lake is that it can get rough, so plan your fishing trip around weather forecasts and book a local guide for your safety.

6. Saginaw Bay

Saginaw Bay is on Lake Huron, the second largest of the Great Lakes. It’s situated north of the city of Detroit and is a massively popular fishing spot for just about any type of fishing. You can book a fishing charter, fish from the shore, or cast a line on a pier. There are plenty of places to rent fishing gear as well. Carp, bass, perch, and northern pike are some of the most commonly caught fish in the bay, but anglers are all abuzz about its monster walleye fishery, especially around the spawning season in April and May. 

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7. Au Sable River

A DNR awarded Blue Ribbon trout stream, Au Sable River, flows from Grayling to Oscoda before emptying into Lake Huron. It’s a fantastic fly fishing spot with many different types of wild trout and steelhead. 

8. Lake St. Clair

If you want to have your fill of trophies, head east of Detroit and fish on Lake St. Clair. The lake connects Lake Huron and Lake Erie, making it a rich waterbody for muskellunge, walleye, and smallmouth bass. 

9. Burt Lake

Burt Lake is an excellent camping and cabin hotspot that also happens to be a great fishing area. Boat fishing is wonderful here — no need to bring your own as there’s plenty to rent. You can fish from the banks as well. If you want to fish in the winter, Burt Lake offers productive ice fishing, with its waters freezing as thick as six inches.

10. St. Joseph River

St. Joseph River is huge and offers plenty of fishing access. Here you can enjoy fishing from the shore, boat, or pier. The river mouth alone can be accessed from two parks. For fly fishing, head straight to St. Joseph River Riverview Park. The entire river system itself contains big pools, deep runs, and several dams that boost fishing. It’s known for its trophy steelhead and schools of coho salmon that arrive in September.