Fall Fishing in Michigan: Your Ultimate Guide

Fall fishing in Michigan offers something for every angler. Not only are the fall colors abundant and beautiful, but the fish are biting too! It’s no secret that fish like cooler water temperatures and many start to spawn in the fall, using the shallower, more exposed parts of lakes and rivers to lay their eggs. Take full advantage of this season with our fall fishing guide, filled with tips and tricks for reeling in the best catch!

A man fly fishing in a river during fall
Fall Fishing in Michigan | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

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1. Know Your Species

Though more than 145 species of fish call Michigan waters home, the species of fish below are best caught during the fall months when then migrate into shallow waters to spawn. Familiarize yourself with each species so you know where to find them and what types of bait and tackle they respond to best.

2. Location, Location, Location

Manistee River flowing through a forest during fall
Manistee River during fall | Photo Courtesy of Instagram Fan jmwolford

Whether you prefer lake or river fishing, it’s important to note that cooler waters are key for fall fishing in Michigan. Spurred on by more comfortable conditions and more oxygenated water, resident river species like trout, pike, walleye and smallmouth bass go crazy in the fall. You'll also find lake-loving species, like salmon, steelhead and brown trout making the swim to cooler waters too.

Michigan’s bigger rivers like the Manistee River, Au Sable River, Muskegon River, Tittabawassee River and Chocolay River are all a cornucopia of species waiting to be reeled in! For big lake fish, we recommend checking out the bigger bays such as Betsie Bay, Platte Bay and Grand Traverse Bay.

3. Timing is Everything

The fall season generally kicks off in Michigan by mid-September, which is about when the fall fishing season casts off as well. In early fall, mid-September through October, anglers are more likely to catch salmon, smallmouth bass, walleye and lake whitefish. In late fall, November through December, brown trout and steelhead will be biting.  

4. Get the Best Bait and Tackle

Whether you’re using plugs, spoons, spinners or flies, it’s important to use the best type of bait and tackle for the type of fish you’re trying to catch this fall. Every steelhead river angler will tell you the best bait to use is fresh spawn—still skeined and coming from the same species that you are trying to target—while a northern pike fisherman will tell you to use wire leaders to combat the fish’s sharp teeth. Our advice, make sure to do your research on the best bait and tackle for the species you are looking to catch before you head out on the water.