The fish doesn’t get any fresher than this…

Did you know that in Michigan, charter fishing clients who catch fish from the Great Lakes have an opportunity to take their fresh catch straight to a Michigan restaurant to be cooked? While cold weather throughout the rest of fall and winter will keep many charter boats off the lakes until spring, it's not too late to learn about this unique program! In fact, now is the perfect time to start thinking about booking a trip for next spring or summer.

Today, Christine Schwerin of the Department of Natural Resources fills us in on the Michigan Catch & Cook program.

If you’ve ever strolled past the marinas in Grand Haven, Traverse City, Port Austin or any of the other Michigan beach towns along the Great Lakes, you’ve probably seen a charter boat docking with a handful of grinning faces and plump, freshly caught fish. Maybe you were a little envious, a little curious, and a little tempted to try it yourself. So what’s holding you back?

There’s a certain sense of freedom out on the water—you don’t even have to stand up straight. In fact, swaying is the norm.

You don’t have to know much about Michigan fishing. The crew knows where the fish are biting, and they know what it’ll take to catch ‘em.

If the fish on your line puts up a fight (and it will), that’s your chance to earn some bragging rights. But don’t worry, if it turns out to be just a bit tougher than you thought, no worries; there’s help nearby to reel it in.

Not sure how to fillet a fish? Most charters will take care of that for you once you’re back on solid ground.

After a half-day out on the water breathing in the fresh air out on the Great Lakes, reeling in a big one, earning some hard-won fish stories, you’re stomach will be growling. You’re in luck—that beautiful fresh fish fillet your captain handed you can be deliciously prepared, served up with a side of golden mashed potatoes without you ever having to dig out a frying pan. So how do you get from dockside to tableside?

In a nod to the increasingly popular notion of eating fresh, locally grown—or in this case locally caught—foods, charter boat captains and restaurants around the state are teaming up in a program aptly named Catch & Cook. The Great Lakes may be big, but the towns that dot the shoreline are close-knit. The captains know the cooks, and the cooks know how to serve a mouth-watering meal to a hungry group.

Here’s how it works: once you’re done fishing, the charter boat crew fillets your fish, puts it in a bag of ice, and marks the bag with the date, time, and name of the charter boat. They’ll let you know which restaurants in the area are a part of Catch & Cook. You—along with your friends, family, or whatever adventurous group you’ve shared the morning with—bring the fillet to the restaurant and they’ll prepare it for you with one of their tried-and-true techniques. Want it baked? Blackened? Fried? Chances are they’ve got a recipe for that.

Find out which charter boats and restaurants are a part of the program at

Christine Schwerin has been writing about Michigan-related topics since launching a career with Michigan History magazine in 2004. She currently works for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, where she’s fortunate enough to combine her love of writing with her love for the outdoors.  

For more on fishing in Michigan, visit or the Pure Michigan fishing tab on Facebook.