A recent report by Bassmaster magazine reviewed the best fishing lakes in the United States and out of the top 10, Michigan featured 6 times. A great result for Michigan anglers and the thousands of visitors that travel to the region every year to try their luck at catching “the big one”.
With over 11,000 lakes in Michigan, the top Michigan Lakes that made the US top 10 list include
- Lake St. Clair (ranked No. 2)
- Burt/Mullet Lakes (ranked No. 5)
- Bays de Noc (ranked No. 7)
- Saginaw Bay (ranked No. 8)
- Lake Charlevoix (ranked No. 9)
- Grand Traverse Bay (ranked No. 10)
Let’s take a look at the best Michigan fishing lakes in more detail starting with Lake St.Clair.
Lake St.Clair is a freshwater lake that is part of the Great Lakes system between the Canadian province of Ontario and bordering the city of Detroit, Michigan. The lake is not overly deep, with a max depth of 27ft (8.2m) and covering an area of 1,114 km2. There are a range of fish species in the lake with the most common being Muskellunge, Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike, Rainbow Trout, Bluegill, Sturgeon and Walleye. With 130 miles of shoreline to choose from, the chances of landing a “big fish” are quite high. The lake is renowned as a quality fishing location and is easily accessible from nearby Detroit only 6 miles away. This close proximity makes the lake popular for not only fishing, but also swimming, boating, kayaking and other water activities.
The lake is reported to hold approx. 150,000 Muskies, which is a huge number of fish for a lake its size, resulting in a large catches being reported on a single day fishing. The chances of NOT catching a Musky is very rare. Walleye are another popular target species and during the spring Walleye run, millions of the fish make their way up the Detroit River from Lake Erie to spawn. Anglers have reported sessions with 50+ fish being landed – just be aware of the 5 per person bag limit.
Things to note:
- Because Lake St.Clair is a boarder lake, you must have a Canadian Fishing license when fishing the Canadian area of the lake.
Burt & Mullet Lakes
Burt Lake is the 4th biggest lake in Michigan and is connected to Mullet Lake. Being a large lake means it has a great supply of freshwater fish ready to be caught. Burt Lake is located in the Cheboygan County of Michigan and is home to a variety of fish including Bluegill, Brown Trout, Largemouth Bass, Muskie, Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike and Sturgeon to name a few. The lake itself is surrounded by 35 miles of picturesque shoreline and covers an area of 17,000 acres and is best explored by boat. Kayaking and canoing is popular when the weather conditions allow and in winter when the lake freezes over and the ice is safe, ice fishing fans can brave the cold and try their luck at landing any of the previously mentioned species.
There are many boat ramps and great facilities throughout the region, with many fishing guides and charter options available.
Bays de Noc
Located in the upper end of Lake Michigan, in the area know as Green Bay, Big and Little Bays de Noc equate to approx. 100,000 acres of quality sports fishing water. The most popular target species are walleyes which can be found in great numbers and also large sizes. The bays offer great terrain including rocky dropoffs, cliffs, weeds and various other fish-loving structure, with the best time of year for catching large walleye being the summer months.
The clearer water away from the small inlets offers the best chance of catching a trophy fish, but be careful not to spook the larger fish with your boat as they will retreat to deeper water. If possible, try using a fish finder with side-scan technology (check our top fish finder comparison if you’re on the lookout for a new one). Trolling spinnerbaits has seen success around the edges of weed beds in around 14 foot of water and also jigging around structure will result in good catches.
Things to note:
- Walleye season in Michigan opens in mid-May and the best areas to target in the first few weeks / month are the upper areas of the small bays.
Some consider Saginaw Bay the best walleye fishery in the world. The large open lake holds many quality sized trophy fish, but the hard part is actually finding them. The most common form of fishing in the lake is trolling – trolling is the art of slowly motoring around with a lure a fair distance out behind or to the side of the boat or kayak. If you don’t have a boat, or trolling isn’t your cup of tea, then consider using jigs to bottom bash your way around the lake, enticing fish to your lure with an up-down ready motion. Many anglers will combine a jig with a night crawler to appeal further to stubborn fish.