Spring Fishing in Michigan

Life lurks beneath the surface of the Great Lakes and spring fishing season is in full force. While enthusiastic anglers are already ready to go, first-timers or young families may need a little more guidance before they get started. We talked to some experts to get tips on how to make the most of your spring fishing trip in Michigan.

Two people fishing from a kayak on Lake Michigan
Fishing on Lake Michigan | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

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Michigan is an angler’s dream because of its incredible diversity. Not only can you catch a variety of fish in a single day, but there’s also an abundance of locations to choose from. You can catch freshwater fish in southeast Michigan's Great Lakes areas (St. Clair System and Lake Erie), Lake Huron, Lake Michigan or Lake Superior. There are also thousands of inland lakes, cold-water trout trails and rivers that are ideal for fly-fishing.

“I’ve worked and fished in other states, and Michigan really holds world-class fisheries in terms of the quality and diversity,” says Cory Kovacs, fisheries biologist for the Eastern Lake Superior Management Unit. “On the Great Lakes you can keep up to five trout and salmon in any combination, which means you could have a brown trout, rainbow trout, lake trout, coho salmon, chinook salmon — nowhere else in the world can you have such a diverse bag in your catch.”

For those who are new to the hobby, Kovacs suggests dock fishing off the shoreline. “Look for inland lakes with cool-water species – a bass bluegill or northern pike. They’re more readily available in the near-shore areas, and it’s the least expensive way to go fishing.”

Learn more about pier fishing in Michigan.

A man holding a trout in a boat
Trout fishing in Michigan | Photo Courtesy of Instagram Fan cj_cereal

The Great Lakes tend to attract more advanced anglers. In fact, for fishing enthusiasts, this is considered the ideal place to catch the fish of a lifetime, from lake sturgeon to the Great Lakes muskie.

Meanwhile, spring is a good season to fish for smallmouth bass and walleye; they move to shallower waters to lay their eggs, and then move to deeper waters as the weather warms. “The quality of our walleye fisheries separates us from other places in the world,” says Kovacs. “You could catch a 15-pound walleye in the Detroit River!”

Every year, Michiganders and visitors look forward to the last Saturday of April when trout season opens. Click to learn about the 2024 Michigan Fishing Regulations.

You can be part of a beloved Michigan tradition during the state’s two Free Fishing Weekends. Twice a year, all fishing license fees are waived for two days for both residents and out-of-staters by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). On June 8 and 9, 2024, the event is held alongside “Three Free” weekend, where you can also ride off-road trails, visit state parks and use boating access sites with no fees.

For anyone who is just starting out, check out these helpful tips for spring fishing:

  • “Be prepared for Michigan weather,” says Kovacs. “It could be 65 degrees an hour away, but 45 degrees by the water.”
  • Following in the footsteps of an expert is always a good way to go. Find local guides and other resources for fishing in Michigan.
  • Learn more about the habits of local fish species and how to identify them in the water.

Related links from Michigan’s DNR: