Home Outdoors Best Salmon & Steelhead Fishing in Michigan (Rivers & Lakes)

Best Salmon & Steelhead Fishing in Michigan (Rivers & Lakes)

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If you are looking to catch some of the best salmon and steelhead fishing in Michigan this year, you’ve come to the right place. Michigan is well-known for its incredible steelhead and salmon fishing opportunities. Of course, there are a lot of great places to fish in Michigan, but we have selected a few we think are worth checking out.

Since salmon and steelhead are the same fish, they are often confused with one another. Steelhead are the salmon’s larger cousins that grow to about 3.5 pounds in size. You’ll find them in river systems throughout the state of Michigan. Steelhead are able to make it up large rivers when they spawn in the spring, and then travel down to the lakes to spawn in the summer and fall.

(Photo courtesy of Big River Outfitters (Grand Rapids) & Fishing Booker).Michigan is known for its excellent fishing conditions due to its weather cycles and geographic location. There are plenty of fish and opportunities to catch them during the warm and cold seasons. Michigan has over 10,000 lakes to fish in, as well as numerous streams and rivers. The most famous bodies of water, however, are the large lakes on which it borders.

Lakes Erie, Guron, Michigan and Superior border Michigan and offer many opportunities for salmon fishing. The Great Lakes are a strange ecosystem compared to other lakes because of their size, but they differ from the ocean in that they are an inland body of water. Although it is not a sea, the salmon use it as a sea and reproduce there, just as salmon do in salt water. That’s why it’s so important to know the seasons when fishing here.

Recommended Salmon Charters (Michigan)


River fish

River Trek Guide Service (Grand Rapids) Manistee River Fishing Company (Brethren) Fishing The Detroit River Big River Outfitters (Grand Rapids)

Fishing on Grand Lake

Maykin Baykin Charters (South Haven)Reel-N-Time Charters (Sault Sainte Marie)Getaway Fishing Charters (Whitehall)Rod Hog Charters (St. Joseph)Powderhorn Sportfishing (Holland)Fish-X-TC (Traverse City)Prime Time Fishing Charters (Williamsburg)Powderhorn Sportfishing (Holland)Prime Time Fishing Charters (Traverse City Powderhorn Sportfishing (Holland)Fish-X-TC (Traverse City)Prime Time Fishing Charters (Williamsburg)Powderhorn Sportfishing (Holland)Fish-X-TC (Traverse City)Prime Time Fishing Charters (Williamsburg)Danel Sportfishing (Grand Haven)Whitecap Charters – Little Traverse BayElsie K Charters (Manistee)Balls Deep Charters (North Muskegon)

How does Michigan’s salmon fishery differ from those in other states?

The coastal states of the ocean naturally have differences in the environment in which the fish live, and the salmon species themselves have different biology. The other states are very different because they generally don’t have large bodies of water. Michigan is also located fairly high in the Northern Hemisphere, resulting in cooler temperatures in the winter.

This temperature difference is an important factor for salmon in general. Some say winter fishing is best when Michigan has the coldest weather of the year. If you are fishing in Michigan from the southern United States, keep in mind that the water you are fishing in is colder and the fish are used to it. In the heat, the fish go deeper, so keep in mind that you may need to fish deeper in the summer. The further you get into the water column, the warmer the water is in winter and the colder it is in summer.

Michigan rivers can be different from most other rivers. Michigan can be very lush, especially near nutrient-rich streams and rivers. This vegetation sometimes makes it very difficult to access the fishing area. In mid-summer, try scouring the overhanging vegetation above streams and rivers for salmon and other species. They cool off in these areas, but beware of the vegetation. These areas are critical for salmon. Potholes and deep bends are great places to fish.

Best places to catch salmon in Michigan

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Because there are so many lakes and rivers in Michigan, it can be hard to find the best ones, but we’ve compiled a list of the best places to fish. Michigan offers good salmon fishing in the winter, so we will include a few winter options.

Pere Marquette

On the west coast of Michigan, near the shore of Lake Michigan, is the Pere Marquette River and Lake Michigan. During spawning season, this river comes alive and becomes one of the best places to fish for salmon in the state. As is true for most spawning seasons, you can expect to have to travel between August and October to catch salmon when they are most active.

There are also many amenities in the area, from lodging to outfitters. Chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead are the most common migrating salmon that use this river to spawn and they can be very active in the early morning hours as they migrate inland. If the fish are more active upstream, find an area where the river is narrower and use that as an advantage for casting and better detection.

The salmon runs are hectic and what you consider a normal fishing mentality changes completely. Check with your local stores and see what they recommend for bait and tools. You may be surprised at some of the suggestions, but don’t dismiss them, they work well.

Clinton River

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The Clinton River stretches and winds through the heart of North Detroit, where the fishing is great despite its suburban location. This river also branches out in several places, creating new fish ladders and an overflow channel leading out of the harbor. Salmon species found in the river are similar to those found in other rivers and include king salmon, Atlantic salmon, steelhead salmon, coho salmon, and Chinook salmon.

In the fall season, salmon migrate inland on this river, and its proximity to town makes it a good place to fish. The current is stronger in this river due to the light vegetation as it is an urban river, but trolling with lures should work well. If you head north of town, you can visit other fishing spots outside of town, such as Stony Creek Lake. The best seasons for the Clinton River are fall for salmon fishing, but spring is also acceptable. Many charterers are busier in the spring than in the fall due to the warmer weather, something to consider before fishing in the area.

Great Manistee River

Another river on the west coast of Michigan is the Big Manistee River. Like other rivers in the western part of the state, there is a small lake before the river enters. This is generally a gathering place for outfitters and guides who fish on the big lake itself.

At the southern end of the river, about 400 metres inland, is a state nature reserve from which wildlife can be seen across the river. Salmon can be fished year-round, but like other rivers in the region, spawning is from August to October. Fish species such as Chinook, Coho and Steelhead can be caught anywhere in the river during the spawning season.

There are guides, lodging and shops in town, but there is also a campground upstream, which can be reached by taking Highway 55 east from Manistee. This river flows far inland to the Tippy Dam pond. If you are brave and want to go the long way, you can catch salmon either downstream of this dam or in the pond itself. There is also good access to fishing grounds and a recreational area.

Grand River

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The Grand River has many different islands, and the channel is a bit more dramatic than other rivers in Michigan. This river is ideal because the best fishing is not too far from the port and you can fish for several days. This river is fished from August to October, but can also be fished later in October, making it a good choice for those staying here to fish.

A short trip inland along the river shows that the current is chaotic, but more importantly that the river is shallower. Try to get away from the main river and fish some smaller areas. Salmon are often found in these areas, and most people don’t want to bother visiting these places because they focus on the main river itself. The city of Grand Haven is the starting point of the river that leads east to Grand Rapids.

When you go fishing, it’s always good to be a few minutes away from sights and activities. Most of your fishing routes and destinations will be on Highway 45, which you can also use to get to Grand Rapids. Salmon species like Chinook, King, Steelhead and Coho are found in the main river during spawning season, but you should also visit the smaller areas. This can lead to good fishing without the presence of spectators.

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan itself is a great body of water for fishing, and many charters and guides will be happy to take you fishing. Salmon spawning is always best in the fall for river fishing, but salmon can be caught year-round in open water. Traverse City is an excellent place to access the northern part of the lake, with several islands within easy reach.

This town offers easy access to the main lake, but is also surrounded by many small lakes and bodies of water. The salmon species in Lake Michigan are pink, Atlantic, chinook, coho and steelhead. Mainstream fishing is a great way to cast your rod out in a variety of bodies of water. Fishing in Lake Michigan will likely include deep sea fishing and jigging. However, many charter companies provide the necessary equipment.

In the northern part of the state, there are many state parks and access points from the coast. Many islands have accommodation, such as. B. Campsites, so if you brought your boat, you can stop and spend the night without interrupting your fishing trip to return to port. The downside is that you can take this equipment with you if you get lost.

Saginaw Bay


Located in eastern Michigan, Saginaw Bay offers exceptional fishing opportunities that many do not seek out. There are fewer good entry points in this bay than in other bays in the region. Midland, Saginaw and Bay City will be the central points of your fishing trip in this bay, but the launch itself will be from Bay City or a smaller coastal town.

The area is home to salmon species such as Chinook, coho, pink, lake trout, Atlantic trout and several large lake trout. As with the open water on the other side of Michigan, the fishing here will likely be in deeper water and trolling, but check the fishing reports in nearby towns to see what the locals are doing. (Photo courtesy of Elsie K Charters (Manistee) and Fishing Booker).

Total of Michigan’s two major salmon fisheries

1. Manistee River

The Manistee River is the best on this list, not only because of its meandering nature and availability in the middle of the river, but also because it connects to a larger body of water. It is an ideal place to go fishing in groups, as there are picnic and rest areas at the dam and ponds. This meandering, winding river is home to salmon species such as king salmon, coho, chinook and steelhead.

The river itself offers beautiful views of the countryside and there is also a wildlife refuge. Choose this river bait that the locals use. Usually it’s a larger plug or a turn signal. J-caps also occur with many species. Steelhead are often caught using pieces of fish and eggs as bait.

2. Saginaw Bay

img source: fishingbooker.com

Saginaw Bay offers excellent fishing and easily comes in second. It is a popular spot for recreational and trolling anglers. There are three towns on the south side of the bay that offer amenities, but it is very difficult to get in and out. Instead, try to visit a small town on either side of the bay. Atlantic salmon, Chinook salmon, Coho salmon and Steelhead salmon are abundant in this bay.

This is a good opportunity to troll with crankbaits or in deep water with natural baits. Scan the shoreline for good results, keep an eye on other boaters and see how they fish. There are many places to fish for salmon in Michigan, and they all offer different benefits. Do your research and find the right place for your trip and plan ahead.

Michigan fishing regulations

Fishing in Michigan can be difficult on paper due to the complexity of the fishing system and the high demand for fishing in this area. The open waters of the Great Lakes are accessible year-round to annual permit holders, but inland rivers and streams fall into other categories. These categories determine what season you can fish in, what you can keep, and what other special species are allowed.

Michigan rivers and streams generally stay open year-round, but some close on the 30th. August or 31. October. Keep that in mind when you go fishing in Michigan during the spawning season. Adult residents pay $27.00 and non-residents $77.00 for an annual permit. If you fish one day, you will pay $10.00 per day for residents and non-residents, plus a $1.00 DNR conservation fee.

Steelhead Fishing in Michigan

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Steelhead is one of the most sought after species in the state. It is essentially a rainbow trout found in the Great Lakes around Michigan. Steelhead are sometimes confused with other species, so it is important to accurately identify your catch. Rainbow trout go inland to lay their eggs and once hatched, they stay on land until they reach a length of about 20 cm.

As soon as they are large enough, they enter the freshwater sea, i.e. the great lakes, and grow. Adult steelhead typically remain in the Great Lakes until they spawn. They often feed on juveniles of other fish species, invertebrates and other small prey. They are sought after by trolling anglers on the Great Lakes and are very strong fighters, especially during the spawning season.

Michigan has multiple seasons each year and you can also do some good steelhead fishing outside of the fall months. The Michigan steelhead spawning season runs from October to April each year. Most of the best places to catch steelhead are on this list, but here are a few places that aren’t. These are good spots for spring steelfish and are popular with traveling anglers.

Best places to catch steelhead in Michigan

White River

The White River offers excellent fishing for steelhead from September through October and has many meandering channels for this species. This river stretches for many miles northeast of Hesperia and offers all the fishing you need.

This river rises in the city of Whitehall on the west coast of Michigan. There are amenities here that will be useful during your trip upriver, such as B. Lodging and meals.

River of Two Hearts

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This river is located in the northernmost tip of Michigan and is just south of the Canadian border on Lake Superior. This area offers excellent fishing for steelhead and other species in the spring and fall. Accommodation in the area is represented by a lodge and a campsite.

The river itself stays fairly close to the main water body and runs slightly inland. Other streams and rivers also flow inland to the north, making it easy to explore. Michigan has beautiful waters where you can catch huge salmon and create memories. A trip to Michigan is an experience you will enjoy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best type of salmon to eat?

The best type of salmon to eat is the one that best suits your taste. “Salmon” is commonly used to describe nearly all types of Pacific salmon “sashimi” and “canned” salmon, although some species of salmon are not actually related to the Atlantic salmon species that is commonly seen being farmed in the United States, such as the keta and chinook salmon.

There are many different types of salmon, but we’re going to focus on the best type of salmon to eat. The best salmon is wild-caught salmon, which is a species of Atlantic salmon. The best salmon to eat is sockeye salmon, which is native to the Pacific Coast. Sockeye salmon has a pinkish-orange flesh that is very juicy and delicious. Sockeye salmon is a popular salmon to eat, and it is the best type of salmon you’ll find.

What is the healthiest salmon to buy?

The state of Michigan is home to many lakes and rivers that are perfect for fishing. This great state is home to many species of salmon and steelhead, which are both scientifically known as Pacific salmon. The main differences between the two are that steelhead are more common in the Great Lakes region of the state, while salmon are more widespread throughout the state.

Whether you prefer to catch your own fresh-caught salmon or buy it from your local fish markets, you may want to know the healthiest salmon to buy. This is not a difficult question, but there are some myths spread around by the salmon fishing industry that you should know before purchasing your very first piece of wild salmon.

Is sockeye salmon better than Atlantic salmon?

A lot of people still think that sockeye salmon is the best kind of salmon – and that’s wrong. Here at BTL London we’ve come up with the best and the most popular salmon and steelhead fishing in Michigan – and we’ve put together a complete salmon & steelhead fishing guide for all of our visitors.

If you’re looking for the best sockeye salmon fishing in Michigan, then the answer is simple: you need to fish for salmon in the middle of the winter and catch the best salmon in the world. As the only wild salmon species in North America, sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) were once a desirable, highly sought-after product. Now sockeye can be found in local fish markets, where it is sold for a lower price than Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and purchased for its milder taste and easier cooking.

But is the price difference all that it appears? Are sockeye salmon better than their grander Atlantic cousin?