Thanks to the fact that Michigan borders four of the five Great Lakes, it offers some of the best freshwater angling in the United States, if not the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to land a world-class trophy fish or just take home a feed of delicious fish for dinner. The waters around Michigan offer something for everyone. However, before you start planning your fish fry, you’ll need to get acquainted with the Michigan fishing seasons to ensure you know when and where to fish.

Like a lot of upper Midwest states, it’s not uncommon for Michigan to freeze over during the winter months, but that doesn’t mean the fishing action stops. There’s a reason that a lot of people refer to Michigan as a Winter Wonderland!

In the following Michigan fishing seasons guide, we’ll be covering:

If you love freshwater fishing, you’ll love this article, Reel in Big Catch: Your Ultimate How-to Guide for Catching Catfish, to learn about the best ways to maximize your catfishing opportunities and land that monster Catfish you’re after!

If you’re looking to find the best fishing spots in Michigan, including local hot spots, you’ll need a little help, especially if you’re planning a destination fishing trip to MI. If you want to land fish on your next Michigan fishing trip, you’ll need the premium Fishing App and Fishbox App. Thanks to the Fishbox App, you’ll know the perfect time to go fishing in Michigan and when you’re better off staying home and cleaning out your tackle box.

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Understanding Michigan’s Fishing Seasons

While most fish bite well in Summer, others prefer cooler weather before they start aggressively feeding. By knowing what fish you plan on targeting and where you plan on targeting them by using the Michigan fishing season calendar below, you’ll be able to cross multiple fish species off your bucket list. If you live locally in Michigan, it’ll be much easier to plan your fishing trips. However, if you’re traveling to Michigan for a fishing trip, you’ll need to carefully plan around peak fishing times to ensure you give yourself the best chance of landing your dream fish.

Below, we’ve prepared a Michigan Fishing Seasons Calendar to help you better plan for your fishing trip based on the season and your target fish species. While there are great times and poor times to target specific fish species in Michigan, that doesn’t mean that you won’t catch them at all during the poorer months and seasons. It’ll just be a little harder, and your odds will be a little lower.

Michigan Fish SpeciesJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Chinook SalmonPoorPoorPoorPoorGoodGoodGreatGreatGoodPoorPoorPoor
Coho SalmonPoorPoorGoodGreatGreatGoodPoorGoodGreatGreatPoorPoor
Atlantic SalmonPoorPoorPoorPoorPoorGoodGreatGreatGoodGreatGreatGood
Steelhead/Rainbow TroutGreatGreatGoodGoodGreatGreatPoorPoorPoorGoodGreatGreat
Lake TroutGoodGoodGreatGreatGreatGreatGoodGoodGreatGreatGreatGood
Brown TroutGoodGoodGreatGreatGoodGoodPoorPoorGoodGoodGoodGood
WalleyeGoodGoodGoodGreatGreatGreatGreatGreatGoodGoodGoodGood
PerchGoodGoodGoodGreatGreatGoodGoodGoodGreatGreatGoodGood
Smallmouth BassGoodGoodGoodGoodGreatGreatGreatGoodGreatGreatGoodGood
MuskellungePoorPoorGoodGoodGoodGreatGreatGreatGoodGreatGoodGood
Northern PikeGoodGoodGoodGreatGreatGreatGoodGoodGreatGreatGoodGood

In the next sections, we’ll do an in-depth review of each of the fishing seasons in Michigan, including Spring fishing in Michigan, Summer fishing in Michigan, Fall fishing in Michigan, and Winter fishing in Michigan.

Expert Opinion on Michigan Fishing Seasons

Pierce Latta

16 years fishing experience

“Michigan provides anglers with some of the greatest fishing environments in the entire world. Its immense biodiversity allows for ample opportunity to try both different tactics and catch different species. While I have never had the opportunity to fish in Michigan in any capacity, this article along with many videos and other articles I have read is drawing me to take a trip to visit this beautiful state. Although I have not been to Michigan, I’ve been blessed enough to have the opportunity to catch some of the fish that live there in different parts of the United States. More specifically, some of these species include various species of Salmon, Trout, and even Smallmouth Bass. This article provides anglers such as me (who do not know a great deal about fishing in Michigan) with the information needed to pick strategies and species that will give the greatest chances of having a great day on the water. A huge part of what I appreciate about this article from the perspective of someone who does not know much about the Michigan fishery is the chart with various species and their bites throughout the year. This is so huge in the sense that it gives you the ability to get a grasp of what you should be targeting if you go to Michigan during a certain time of year. Moreover, this knowledge, combined with the expertise of the Fishbox app gives an even better chance of finding success on the water. On a different note, if you have read any of my work before reading this article, you will know that I greatly appreciate it when people take the time to respect the regulations and seasons in a particular area so that we can better preserve the fishery we have been given. This being said, I love the fact that this article gives the readers some of the important seasons for different species of fish—that way anglers are better prepared not just for catching the fish, but what they can do with them once caught. It also summarizes all the costs and different licenses that are available to the public so that you can fish legally. I can tell you from personal experience that it is never worth risking it without a license in a different state. Yes, I know it costs money and in certain states, it can be a TON of money to buy a license. But I can assure you it is far better to purchase a license and help conservation efforts than to not buy a license and potentially get caught and receive a ticket or fine for breaking the law. All in all, the article does a great job completely preparing anglers to tackle Michigan from all aspects whether it be legality to actual fishability and the availability of certain species at different points in the year. In all seriousness, if you are reading this commentary, I would utilize these articles to their fullest potential. They provide information and knowledge essential to success in a new area or body of water. However, do not stop learning with just the article. It is gonna take some fieldwork and getting to know locals and spending time on the water to get very good in an unfamiliar environment. Good luck and tight lines!”

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Spring Fishing in Michigan

March Fishing in Michigan 

The first few weeks of March in Michigan are still on the cold side, with a lot of the freshwater across the state still frozen over. However, never assume that ice is thick enough to fish on, especially if you’re new to the area or unfamiliar with a body of water. If the ice is safe to fish on, expect some excellent Perch, Pike, Trout, and Walleye ice fishing.

At the end of March, warm waters in rivers will increase, and fish like Steelhead will begin to make their spring runs. And if you’re brave enough to tackle the cold, you’ll be in for quite a fight.

April Fishing in Michigan

Spring is well and truly rolling by the time April arrives in Michigan, and along with it, the Steelhead will be making their long runs down Michigan’s many river systems. The first runs typically take place on the White River and the Pere Marquette, with other rivers like the Manistee and Muskegon coming online pretty quickly after.

If you fancy chasing some Walleye, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t, the April Michigan Walleye bite is in full swing. At the start of the Walleye run, you can expect fewer fish but bigger specimens, and later in the run, the size will drop, but your catch rate will increase. The Detroit River is a great place to fish in April, along with Saginaw River once it reopens later in April.

May Fishing in Michigan

If you’re planning a charter fishing trip in Michigan, most chartering operations are in full swing in May, offering trips on the four Great Lakes. In the middle of May, it’s Lake Michigan for Trout, Coho Salmon, and Bass. If you try your luck in Lake Superior, you’ll be fishing for Cisco, early-season Chinook Salmon and Coho, and the reliable Brown Trout.

Read also: Wisconsin Fishing Seasons: Your Comprehensive Guide

If you’re chasing big Walleye, try the Western Basin of Lake Erie or the Tittabawassee River. However, if it’s panfish or filling a cooler that gets your motor running, then try Union Lake for some big Bluegill or Crappie.

Summer Fishing in Michigan

June Fishing in Michigan

June signals the start of the Great Lakes fishing high season. You can target Steelhead and Lake Trout on Lake Michigan, and also a few Coho and even the occasional Chinook Salmon. There’s also a lot of Trout and Salmon action on Lake Superior, but the hottest Walleye bite can be found on Lake Erie.

However, if it’s a diverse variety of different species you’re looking to target, then Lake Huron should be your go-to choice. There’s hot Walley action, Lake Trout, Coho, Rainbow Trout, and even Atlantic Salmon.

Another thing we can’t forget to mention is the June hex hatch, which signals that it’s time to get your fly gear and waders out. Try fly fishing in the Grand River, Manistee, Au Sable, or Pere Marquette.

July Fishing in Michigan

It’s hard to believe, but the fishing in Michigan just keeps getting better in July. Lake Michigan and Lake Superior offer the opportunity to test your skills against the famous Chinook Salmon. Also known as King Salmon, these mighty fish are pound-for-pound some of the best fighters in the lakes, particularly on light tackle. 

But it’s not just Salmon available, so don’t worry if you bag out on your limit. Lake Trout and Brown Trout are plentiful, and there are even a few straggling Coho Salmon to be caught if you’re lucky before they drop off.

Lake Erie is a hot spot for Walleye, and Smallmouth Bass are plentiful in Lake St. Clair. If you fancy a challenge, the ‘fish of a thousand casts,’ the Muskie, are always lurking.

August Fishing in Michigan

King Fishing is firing on all cylinders as we sweep in August, and Lake Michigan is a great spot to try your luck. Local access points include Traverse City and surrounding towns, with plenty of excellent accommodations, charters, and boat launches.

The Walleye bite in Lake Erie is still going strong, and most anglers can reach their limits. It’s not a surprise to anyone who’s ever fished there before, though, as it’s one of the best Walleye fisheries in the world.

Toward the end of August, the Chinook Salmon will be biting in most Michigan rivers, and Walleye, Perch, and Bass can be found near river mouths.

Read also: King Mackerel Fishing: Tips and Tricks to Catch More and Bigger Kingfish

Fall Fishing in Michigan

September Fishing in Michigan

Don’t worry. The King Salmon are still on the bite in the first half of September as they prepare themselves for their spawning run upstream. Your best chance of catching one is close to the lake shores as they stage up, ready for their final run. There’s also Coho Salmon fishing on Lake Huron, Lake Superior, and Lake Michigan.

There’s some good Walleye fishing to be had in Lake Erie, but September marks the start of the Michigan Fall Perch Season. It’s a good time to double up on Walleye and Perch.

Smallmouth Bass are biting in the smaller lakes such as Lake St. Clair, and Trout can be caught in almost any of Michigan’s smaller rivers.

October Fishing in Michigan

The Muskellunge bite will be hitting its peak on Lake St. Clair as water temperatures drop down to around the 40-degree Fahrenheit mark. Towards the end of October is one of your best chances of landing a big trophy, Musky.

Late October in Michigan also signals the return of Steelhead. The Fall fishing season in Michigan is an excellent time for Steelhead enthusiasts, with these giant fish to be found in rivers such as the Au Sable, Muskegon, Manistee, and Pere Marquette. It’s also one of the last opportunities to take advantage of the local charter boats and captains before they put their boats away for the cold and icy Winter months.

November Fishing in Michigan

Steelhead fishing is still going strong despite the plummeting water temperatures across Michigan. Whitefish will start to move more in November, and there’s still a lot of Smallmouth Bass to be caught.

If you fancy chasing Northern Pike, Walleye, or Brown Trout, it’s probably your last chance of the year to get on board with a local charter.

Winter Fishing in Michigan

December Fishing in Michigan 

The bigger rivers in Michigan, such as the Manistee, Pere Marquette, and Muskegon, run no risk of freezing despite the plummeting Winter temperatures across Michigan. With fewer anglers out and about, you’ll have more water to yourself if you’re targeting Trout or Steelhead.

However, many of the smaller lakes will start to ice up. Before you rush out onto any lake in Michigan you’re not familiar with, be sure to check with the locals in the area about the thickness of the ice.

Ice fishing for Walleye, Perch, Bluegill, Trout, and Northern Pike is all extremely popular as Winter rolls in. 

January Fishing in Michigan

If you’re heading out fishing in January in Michigan, you better be wrapped up, as many of the state’s waters will be completely frozen over. However, this means that it’s time to hit the ice and get your ice fishing equipment out!

Almost all of the smaller lakes, and many of the big ones, will be completely frozen over, but ice fishing alone for the first time isn’t a great idea. Ice fishing requires quite a lot of local knowledge and experience if you’re hoping to be successful. 

If you’ve never been ice fishing, going out with a guide, friend, or family member with experience will help to ensure you’re not just sitting out on the ice in the cold all night! 

February Fishing in Michigan

Large rivers such as the Muskegon and Manistee will still have flowing water and there’s plenty of Steelhead, Trout, and Rainbow Trout to be caught if you’re keen enough to get out in the cold weather.

Ice fishing conditions are similar to January, with Saginaw Bay delivering a decent Perch and Walleye bite on bait and Lake Gogebic delivering a hot Perch bite.

Michigan Fishing Season Dates

Below, we’ll do a breakdown of the main fishing seasons in Michigan, including when they start and finish. It’s important to remember before you fish to check with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources before casting a line to ensure that there have been no changes to the season and that you have the correct licenses. 

  • Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass – The season is open year-round for catch and release, but there are catch and possession limits in place for Lake St. Clair and St. Clair Rivers, as well as Detroit Rivers.
  • Muskellunge (Musky) – Catch and release is open year-round for Muskies. However, there is a possession limit on all Great Lakes and inland waters between June 3rd and March 15th and a possession limit on Lake St. Clair and St. Clair Rivers and Detroit Rivers between June 3rd and December 31st.
  • Northern Pike and Walleye – Open for the entire year, but possession season in place on Lower Peninsula Great Lakes, Lake St. Clair & St. Clair & Detroit rivers, possession season on Lower Peninsula inland waters between April 29th and March 15th, and Possession season on Upper Peninsula Great Lakes, inland waters & St. Mary’s River between May 15th and March 15th
  • Channel Catfish, Flathead Catfish, Cisco, Lake Whitefish, Round Whitefish, Smelt, Sunfishes, White Bass, Yellow Perch & Other Species – Open all year round. 
  • Salmon and Trout – Open year-round on Great Lakes, along with Type 3 and 4 Streams, and Type B, C, E, and F Lakes. Possession and fishing seasons are in place on Inland Type 1 and 2 streams, April 29th – September 30th.

To get an exact breakdown of all fish species, along with possession limits, open and closed seasons, size limits, and catch methods, please download the Michigan Fishing Guide

Regulations and Conservation Efforts

You can purchase your Michigan Fishing license online here.

A $1 surcharge is included in most licenses (Indicated by an *), and revenue from this surcharge is utilized by the MDNR to educate the public about the benefits of hunting, trapping, and fishing in the state of Michigan.

Item TypeFee
DNR Sportcard$1
Resident Annual $26*
Nonresident Annual$76*
Senior Annual (Residents over the age of 65 or legally blind)$11*
Daily Fish (Resident or Nonresident)$10/Day
Underwater Spearfishing (Resident or Nonresident)Free (DNR Sportcard may be required)
Voluntary Youth (16 and under)$2*

If we want our children and our children’s children to enjoy the same fantastic fishing opportunities in Michigan, regardless of the fishing season, it’s crucial that we all contribute to maintaining and improving fishing habitat, fish preservation, and fishing access. 

Part of that is simply leaving the fishing environment how we found it after we’ve done fishing for the day. Be sure to remove any fishing tackle, tangled lines, nets, ropes, or trash after you’ve finished fishing for the day.

If you plan on visiting multiple waterways throughout Michigan, be careful about transporting bait, fish, or waste, which could carry disease from one area to another.

If we all contribute to greater education, research, and study efforts, we’re contributing to ensuring that the generations who follow us will have the same fantastic fishing opportunities in Michigan in 100 years that we enjoy today.

The dedicated fisheries biologists, technicians, and management teams of the MDNR are constantly making decisions on how best to manage Michigan’s fisheries. Scientific, research-based decisions on rearing and stocking fish, regulations for fishing the Great Lakes, inland lakes, and streams, and managing invasive species are some of the critical elements Fisheries staff are doing daily.

Their hard work results in a flourishing fishing industry that enables you to enjoy all that Michigan’s waters have to offer.

Some of Michigan’s conservation and education programs include:

Michigan Fishing Seasons: Your Comprehensive Guide – Conclusion

There you go, everything you need to know about the Michigan fishing seasons; in our complete and comprehensive guide to Michigan fishing seasons will help you plan your next destination fishing trip to one of the best freshwater fisheries in the United States. Be sure to check out the calendar we created above to choose the best month or season to target your favorite freshwater fish species.

Before you cast a line or drop a hook in Michigan, be sure to check out the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website for a complete and detailed list of fishing regulations and licensing requirements in Michigan. Fishing regulations are often changed due to fish numbers or environmental conditions, so it’s important to check back regularly in order to ensure you don’t miss any important announcements.

If you only have the time or budget for one fishing trip this year, Michigan is a first-class fishing state to visit, and it’s packed full of freshwater fishing opportunities. 

By using the Fishbox App, you’ll be able to track weather conditions accurately and predict the best times to hit the water before you go fishing in Michigan. It combines predictive fish behavior with weather, lunar, and tidal conditions to deliver directly to you the optimal fishing opportunities in Michigan.

The Fishbox App was developed in collaboration with accurate weather data and expert fish behavioral analysis. These advanced forecasts will significantly increase your catch rate while reducing your time on the water. Take your fishing to the next level thanks to the expert advice from the Fishbox App team.

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If you’re an experienced Michigan angler and want to share tips and tricks with other anglers, comment below! We’d love to hear from you. Your tips or hotspot information could help us determine the difference between a good and bad day on the water in Michigan, and you could just be helping to educate our future young anglers. However, any day spent fishing on the beautiful waters of Michigan is a good day, regardless of whether or not you catch your limit.

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