Great Lakes Fishing Reports

Please remember to practice social distancing when fishing, including remaining six feet away from other anglers. If you arrive at a fishing area that is congested, please consider finding another area to fish.

*READ: Tips on best trolling practices*

Lake Superior

Lake trout are the premiere fish to catch in Lake Superior, and these beauties can be readily caught during late spring and early summer. As water temperatures warm, these fish will be moving out of nearshore waters to offshore thermoclines. Anglers with fish finders should look for schools of baitfish and troll the mid-water depths where the baitfish are found. Flashy blue-silver spoons or stick baits will often work well to entice lake trout to bite.

<< Photo of a lake trout caught in Lake Superior.

The nearshore spring brown trout fishery around Keweenaw Bay and the Keweenaw Peninsula should be hot and anglers can catch browns out of most every port from Ontonagon to Copper Harbor to Baraga/L'Anse. Additionally, experimental regulations in some rivers to protect coaster brook trout may result in increased catches adjacent to some rivers between the Keweenaw peninsula and Big Bay. Look for a spring fishery of Coho salmon off the river mouths with destinations including Anna River, Sucker River, Two Hearted River, and Pendills Creek. This fishery is easily accessed with smaller boats and when there is a south wind and calm water nearshore.

Lake Michigan

Late spring and early summer are times of transition for most parts of Lake Michigan. Some species are done spawning while others, like baitfish and yellow perch, are just starting to spawn. The coho and Chinook salmon start to move further north so ports like Ludington, Manistee, and Frankfort start to see more action. Down riggers or dipsey divers with flashers and a fly can work well for these salmon as well as lake trout.

Southern ports will see the salmon fishery winding down while lake trout become more consistent this time of year. The ports of St. Joseph, South Haven, and Holland typically see more yellow perch activity as the water warms. Try using minnows or ice flies and wax worms around the piers or out to 70 feet of water to find yellow perch. The area between Charlevoix down through Grand Traverse Bay should have good cisco, lake trout, and smallmouth bass action. Bays de Noc’s shallow water tends to warm quickly increasing walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, and northern pike action. Piers can be hit or miss and really depends on the water temperature. If cooler waters are close to shore, these areas can be great for steelhead, Chinook salmon, and lake trout. If the water is warm, yellow perch, freshwater drum, smallmouth bass and walleye are often available.

UPDATE: As of their April meeting, the Michigan Natural Resources commission approved a change in lake trout regulation: "In the Lake Michigan lake trout management unit MM-4, the daily possession limit is two fish (up from a one-fish limit last year)."

Lake Huron

Early spring and summer are excellent times to be out on Lake Huron. The walleye spawn has concluded, and large schools of fish will be out roaming Saginaw Bay. Use crawler harnesses or crankbaits behind planer boards to cover large amounts of water and locate these schools of hungry fish.

Steelhead have also finished spawning and can be found along with coho and Atlantic salmon by trolling spoons and flies near Lexington, Port Sanilac, and Thunder Bay. In addition, Atlantic salmon will begin showing up near DeTour in June and be available to anglers throughout the summer.

Nearshore opportunities are available at this time of year as well. Smallmouth bass will be at various stages of their spawning season and fish can be caught around rock piles and other shallow structures all along Lake Huron’s coast. Early summer provides a wide range of sportfish species to target in Lake Huron so get outside and take advantage of these unique fisheries!

UPDATE: As of their April meeting, the Michigan Natural Resources commission approved a change in lake trout regulation: "In the northern Lake Huron lake trout management unit MH-1, the daily possession limit is now three fish (up from a two-fish limit in 2019). This regulation now applies to all Lake Huron waters."

Photo of an Atlantic Salmon caught in southern Lake Huron >>

Lake St. Clair

Muskellunge, smallmouth bass, and largemouth bass possession seasons begin in June for the St. Clair-Detroit River system, kicking off a popular tournament season and opportunities to harvest these species from the world class fishery found in the system. Walleye fishing is at its peak during May and June in Lake St. Clair as well as the St. Clair River. June also has previously been found to be the better month for targeting Atlantic salmon in the St. Clair River. As the waters warm, bowfishing for species like common carp and longnose gar improves as well.

Smallmouth bass can be found across the lake, particularly in Anchor Bay, embayments in the St. Clair River delta, and along the “Mile Roads” area of St. Clair shores. Anglers should target transitional areas between different habitat types, including changes in bottom composition (sand and rocks) and open areas in emerging aquatic plant beds. Try fishing across different depths until you find fish.

Largemouth bass and panfish are easily captured in shallow nearshore areas near canals, marinas, and docks as well as around changes in habitat like emergent aquatic plants. Lake St. Clair offers many opportunities for largemouth bass and panfish fishing in areas that are protected from the wind and easily accessible from public boating access sites.

Walleye fishing in the entire lake and nearby St. Clair and Detroit rivers is excellent. Anglers should try vertical jigging in the rivers or main channels of the St. Clair River delta, as well as drifting or trolling in the deeper waters of the main lake. Success can also be found fishing the transitional depths along the shipping channel that bisects the lake, extending from the South Channel of the St. Clair River to the entrance of the Detroit River.

Brought to you by the Michigan DNR

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Lake Erie

Early summer months will provide incredible fishing opportunities on Lake Erie. This year’s walleye population is projected to surpass 100 million fish two years old and older! As the spawning season wraps up in early May, fish start leaving the western basin reefs and rivers. Anglers in the western basin will encounter high catch rates in all the traditional fishing hot spots, including the waters around West Sister Island and north of the Camp Perry firing range, around the Bass Islands and Kelleys Island, and in the central basin nearshore waters from Huron to Cleveland as some of the walleye start migrating east when the water warms.

Both trolling and casting are favorite methods to catch your limit of walleye, which is six walleye per angler per day with a 15-inch minimum size limit. Walleye can be caught by casting and counting down weight forward spinners or mayfly rigs. When you figure out what count is getting down to the depth of actively feeding walleye, limits can fill the cooler quickly. Trolling is also proven to be an extremely efficient method to catch walleye, as harvest rates in the best months have been above one fish per hour per angler! Many trolling presentations can be effective, including crankbaits, worm harnesses, and spoons. The most effective anglers use planer boards to spread their lines away from their boats and fish multiple rods per person, while also varying their lures’ depths in the water column to determine where the most active fish are located. Ohio’s fishing regulations now allow up to three rods per angler while fishing in the Lake Erie sport fishing district (Lake Erie and connected bays and tributaries to the first barrier).

Fishing for smallmouth bass and largemouth bass is also tremendous in the early summer. Smallmouth bass can be found on rocky island shorelines and reef areas as the water starts to warm and provide good catch rates with the potential for a real trophy. Anglers traditionally cast soft plastic tubes, crankbaits, or soft plastic goby imitations on drop shot rigs to target shallow water bass.

>> From May 1 through June 26, 2020, there is an early season daily limit of one bass per angler with a minimum size of 18 inches.
>> Starting on June 27, 2020 the daily limit returns to 5 bass per angler with a minimum size limit of 14 inches.

Anglers seeking largemouth bass will find high catch rates in nearshore waters and harbors of the western basin. Traditional largemouth fishing techniques are very successful in the shallow warm waters wherever good structure is found.

Brought to you by the ODNR.

                                  Find updated Lake Erie fishing reports at

Lake Ontario

Spring fishing for brown trout is off to a great start with good numbers being reported by the local fisherman. A few steelhead are being caught along with a King Salmon or two. From the mouth of the Niagara river to as far as Rochester, troll from about 8 to 25 foot of water with troll spoons or medium size stick baits.

If you find muddy water, run your baits in and out of that section of water where the fish are waiting. Try to find the clean water, slightly above the rest of that area—that’s where they will be. You can also try running baits out to the side and back 50 to 100 feet; maybe some offshore inline planer boards will be the ticket.

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This report was written for the Launch Issue (May/Jun) 2020 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.

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