The Allure of Fishing in West Michigan

📷: Graham Smith

Fishing is one of Michigan’s favorite outdoor activities, passed down for generations since well before the state was organized in 1837. And, with 11,000-plus inland lakes, more than 36,000 miles of rivers and streams (including over 20,000 miles of classified cold water trout streams, about 850 miles of which are also considered “Blue Ribbon” trout streams), the four season opportunities are endless to cast a line here in the Great Lakes State. 

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Nearly 150 different species of fish, among them the trout – which was named Michigan’s official state fish in 1965 (it wasn’t specified as the brook trout until 1988) – are found in Michigan waterways. Did you know Trout Unlimited was even founded on the banks of the Au Sable River in 1959?

One of the state’s most noted anglers was Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author Ernest Hemingway, who spent the first 20 summers of his life at his family’s cottage on Walloon Lake. From an early age, he was known to gravitate to the water’s edge searching for bass, perch, trout, and salmon, shaping his future as an avid outdoorsman. Today, Hotel Walloon operates a 32-room boutique inn along the shores of this historic lake for those who want to explore Hemingway country firsthand.

The Pere Marquette River Lodge in Baldwin is nestled on the banks of the world-famous Pere Marquette River and in the heart of the North Country National Scenic Trail. Five rustic and charming cabins, dating back to the area’s logging era, are within walking distance of the river. The majestic year-round Lodge can accommodate up to 34 people in 10 rooms. Two additional houses – The Pine Hollow House and The River House (seasonal, March through November) – provide additional options. This Platinum Level Orvis Fly Shop Dealer, and 2015 Orvis Endorsed Outfitter of the Year finalist, also carries all the gear and apparel you need for a quality day out on the river. 

Red Moose Lodge is also found along the banks of the Pere Marquette River in Baldwin, with rustic lodge rooms and cabins. You can literally walk from your room to the headwaters of the fly-only section of the river. 

For more than 60 years, Alper’s Blue Lake Resort  in Fountain boasts more than a dozen lakefront cottages with access to a private beach and plenty of fishing options, including the use of their rowboat.

Crystal Adventures Lodging in Thompsonville features seven modern one-room cabins and five cottages outfitted with rustic log furniture with all the amenities of home. Located in the heart of Benzie County, countless fishing options can be found both on the rivers as well as nearby Lake Michigan.

Several lodging options – from campsites to cabins to furnished campers and more – are available at Insta-Launch Campground and Marina in Manistee. And the full-service marina means fishing is easy, whether you bring your own boat or rent one on-site.

Located midway between Grand Rapids and Grand Haven, Conestoga Grand River Campground in Coopersville is located along the banks of the Grand River with a boat launch and docks. It’s also just a short drive from the deep waters of Lake Michigan. A mixture of 30 and 50-amp sites can be found along with a general store, swimming pool, modern restrooms with showers, laundry facilities and more.

Lake Michigan provides unparalleled opportunities for catching everything from coho and king salmon, to lake trout and steelhead. Charter fishing operations along the Lake Michigan shoreline offer half and full day excursions like Big Lake Outfitters of Saugatuck and Nelson Charters in Grand Haven.

One of southwest Michigan’s longest-running resorts, Acker’s Point Resort in Delton, opened in 1891 along the CKS (Chicago-Kalamazoo-Saginaw) Railroad. With 14 cottages on the spring-fed Long Lake, fishing remains one of the favorite activities here where bass, panfish, pike, and catfish can be found.

Twice a year, locals and visitors alike are invited to take part in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Free Fishing Weekend (February 13-14 and June 12-13 in 2021) at which time all fishing licenses are waived and a Recreation Passport is not required for entry into state parks and boating access sites.  

And don’t forget, fishing isn’t just a warm-weather activity in Michigan. Ice fishing in the winter months provides a totally unique experience around the state, most notably in Houghton Lake where the annual Tip Up Town festival has been held since 1951. 

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Article courtesy of Promote Michigan